The benefits of walking

Siski Green / 05 January 2016

Walking is free and it’s easy, and it can help you live longer and healthier.

Weight loss

Walking may not feel as effective as a calorie-burning exercise as, say, an hour-long aerobics class but while it’s true that you’ll burn more calories by doing more vigorous exercise, walking is something you can do at any time of day, anywhere, on your own, with or without a gym membership and without any special clothing or equipment.

If you do it with friends or a pet, it’s also arguably more enjoyable too. For these reasons, you’re far more likely to stick to a walking workout regime and so a weight-loss plan that includes plenty of regular walking is more likely to be effective and long-lasting too. 

Related: How to get a flatter stomach

Stronger bones

If you’re likely to suffer with osteoporosis walking can help. One study, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, USA, found that 30 minutes of walking every day reduced the risk of hip fracture by up to 40%. 

Related: How to prevent osteoporosis

Gene changes

Losing excess fat isn’t as simple as eating less or exercising more, there’s lots of evidence showing that how you exercise has a big part to play too. For example, one study from Harvard University, USA, found that walking every day transforms obesity-promoting genes so that the negative impact they have on your weight is halved. 

Related: Which exercise is best?

Diet control

Walking is a great distractor from stress and it seems that this aspect of it also helps prevent cravings for sweet treats and chocolate.

Research from the University of Exeter found that study participants who went for a 15-minute walk whenever they felt the need for chocolate reported greater self-control than those who didn’t. They were able to turn down the chocolate where before they might have succumbed. They also found the effects lasted beyond the walking period – participants reported that their cravings were reduced afterwards too. 

Related: Which diets are best for losing weight?


All exercise helps boost your body’s ability to fight off colds and flu, as well as other illnesses, and walking is no exception.

One study from the Appalachian State University, USA, found that if you walk between 30 and 45 minutes daily, the number of immune cells in your body will actually increase, making your body far better equipped to fight off any viruses. 

Related:10 ways to improve your immune system

More creative thinking

If you’re mulling over a task or need to solve a complicated problem there’s nothing better than walking to help focus your mind, but in a creative way. That’s why so many businesses are now asking their staff to hold meetings while walking – Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Steve Jobs of Apple have both utilised ‘walking meetings’ to help boost creative thinking while trying to problem solve. 

Walking also helps prevent cognitive deterioration. Research from the University of California, USA, found that people who walked more (2.5 miles per day) had sharper memories than those who walked less than half a mile per week. 

Related: How to keep your brain young

Stress relief

A simple ten-minute walk puts you at lower risk of depression and stress, especially if you do it with others.  A study from the University of Michigan, USA, found that group walks significantly lowered depression, lowered perceived stress levels and enhanced mental health.

Related: Stress: what it does to your health

Better sleep

While you sleep your body re-energises, rebuilds cells and generally prepares you health-wise for the following day, so if you can’t sleep well your health suffers in many ways. The good news is that walking improves sleep. Research from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, USA, found that a one-hour walk in the morning helped relieve insomnia for study participants.

Related: Sleep strategies for a better night's rest

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