Benefits of Walking: How 10,000 Daily Steps Leads to Lifetime Health
One of the biggest tools for success also happens to be one of the simplest ones.
Walking each and every day.
You do not need to run marathons or triathlons to get a significant health improvement. Instead you get a lot of fitness and emotional gains from a small amount of daily walking.
In today’s post, I will cover the many benefits of walking. You'll see how it can improve your mental, physical and emotional health.
Plus you'll discover a few ideas on how to motivate yourself to walk each and every day.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So let's take the first one...
The Benefits of Walking Daily
Walking is something most people can do, regardless of their individual level of fitness.
Regardless of whether someone has an active and physical lifestyle or whether the normal physical activity is a short trip from the couch to the refrigerator, increasing the amount of daily walking has significant benefits for both short and long term.
Here are just a few of the benefits of daily walking:
- Low impact way to get in shape and lose weight. Walking between 7500 and 10000 steps a day is one of the keys of fitness.
- Improves sleep
- Decreases hypertension, reducing risks for heart attacks and strokes. Walking daily has been shown to increase good cholesterol (HDL) and decrease bad cholesterol (LDL).
- Reduces stress
- Increases balance and endurance
- Increases sexual desire and satisfaction
- Slows mental decline
- Improves the mood and battles the effects of depression
- Gives you time to think. Daily walking can act as a form of meditation. It gives you time to mull over ideas. If you have problems at work or at home, a nice walk could help you to come up with solutions.
- Reduces fatigue
- Once you form the habit, it is easy to turn it into a lifestyle change. Of all the forms of fitness and exercise routines, walking has the highest compliance rate.
- It can make you smarter. Daily walking can make you sharper and smarter and reduces the chances for long term mental disease because it helps to increase blood flow through the brain.
11 Steps to a Daily Walking Habit:
1. Set a daily target.
8,000 to 10,000 steps a day is a decent goal for daily walking. “Walk more” is not specific enough! The power of small wins where you can make a “difficult” but “achievable” goal, such as 10,000 steps a day, means that you constantly challenge yourself.
This will help to make walking an ingrained habit. You get positive reinforcement each and every single day when you reach your goal.
2. Make it a 30 Day Habit Challenge (30DHC).
One thing I preach about here on the Develop Good Habits (DGH) website is the simple process of the 30 day challenge. If you force yourself to do something each and every day for 30 days, it begins to become an ingrained habit.
For 30 days force yourself to walk each and every day. No excuses. You will find that you feel the positive effects and it becomes a habit in this short periods of time.
3. Keep a daily log.
You can use a notebook, spreadsheet, digital app, website or write it on the wall. How you keep track of your daily walking does not matter.
All that is important is that you keep track each and every single day. Set daily and weekly goals. Track your results and see how you improve over time.
4. Set reminders to walk.
Making a goal of 10,000 steps a day does not mean you need to set aside a block of 2 ½ hours for a walk. Set reminders on your one of your electronic devices (computer, cell, etc.) to buzz you and let you know to take a break and a quick walk.
A simple 5 minute walk each hour throughout your working day will put you on the path to reaching the daily walking goal, as well as making you feel better throughout the day (and likely increasing your productivity).
5. Buy a Pedometer.
It is important to get an idea of how much your walk each and every day. It is also important to all of those logs you will be keeping. There are quite a few pedometers on the market: simple pedometers, pedometers that will do the log-keeping for you, and even ones that make a “game” out of your daily walking. A Pedometer is a simple tool, but an important one.
Check out this article on the Best Pedometers, where I discuss 4 different types of pedometers and you can see the best pedometers for Cheapskates, Techies, Multi-taskers and Gamers/Social Addicts.
6. Increase incidental walking.
Incidental walking is the walking you do each and every day, just to get from Point A to Point B. It is actually quite easy to increase chances of reaching your 10,000 step goal by increasing your incidental walking.
Do not search for the closet parking spot, park far away and walk to the stores. If you need to pick something up at the grocery store, don’t drive ¼ of a mile - walk it.
7. Make it fun.
One of the good things about walking it that it CAN be enjoyable. Bring your iPod. Vary your location. Take a walk on the beach one day, a walk through the city the next and a walk in the forest the day after that. You can take pictures, meet people and have a good time. Walking does not need to be a chore. Remember it is a positive lifestyle change, and it can become a habit that's quite enjoyable.
8. Buy a good pair of sneakers.
If you are going to walk a lot, make sure you have comfortable and well cushioned walking shoes. Your legs and feet will thank you, and the lack of pain and discomfort will make the process go smoothly.
9. Socialize and walk.
If you are able to find some friends or family to walk with. This is a good idea for two reasons. The first is that others will help you to stick to your plan. The second is that walking with others can be simply more fun. A nice stroll on with a friend or family member will seem more enjoyable than trying to reach an arbitrary goal.
Walk with someone and the walk will be over before you know it. Even if no family and friends are interested, you could join a local “walking club” and find others who will be interested in walking and socializing.
10. Drink more water.
It is important to drink water before and after your walk (for long walks: during the walk). Staying hydrated helps to keep you feeling great and increases the be positive effects of your walking.
11. Reward yourself.
If you have been good about reaching your walking goals, reward yourself. Buy that new dress, go out to the movies or do something to “reward” your efforts. (Sidebar: grabbing a “Big Mac” might be counterproductive here)
Walk your way to Fitness and Mental Health
Many people have grand ideas of fitness and exercise, only to fall short over a long period of time. Walking has the highest “success ratio” of any new exercise and fitness regime. It is an easy lifestyle change, which brings about huge benefits.
When people begin to walk more frequently they often find it a fun and enjoyable part of their routine. They look forward to each and every day, rather than being something they “have to do” to stay fit and healthy.
Over time the intensity and duration of the walks can be increased. Remember that for calorie burning purposes, you burn just as many calories walking a mile as you do running it. (The run just gets it done quicker).
There are quite a few benefits of walking you will enjoy from making a minimum of walking 10,000 steps part of your regime.
It is an essential part of your physical and mental health. Daily walking will make you feel better and become more productive and happy.
15 Health Benefits of Walking Every Day
We could all benefit from being a little healthier, but many of us aren’t quite sure where to begin. Fortunately, something as simple as walking every day can greatly improve your health, help you lose weight, and get you feeling more confident about yourself and your body.
There are dozens of reasons how walking every day can help you improve your lifestyle, but we’ve compiled this list of the 15 major benefits to every day walking.
1. Increase Your Lifespan
Staying healthy is a crucial part to living a long and happy life, but you don’t need to be running marathons into your seventies to reap the benefits of staying active. A new study has shown that frequent walking can add up to 7.2 years onto the life of an individual.
According to the study, the amount of walking the individual does will influence the number of years added to the individual’s life. Even just 75 minutes a week, less than 11 minutes of walking a day, can add almost 2 years onto an individual's life. The American Heart Association recommends that individuals get about 150 minutes of walking a week, which comes to just over 20 minutes a day.
For most people, getting 20 minutes of walking is easy. Taking a pet for a walk or just strolling around the block for some relaxation is a great way to get the exercise you need to live longer.
2. Manage Your Weight
You don't need to go on extreme diets or exercise rigorously to begin losing weight. Just walking can be enough to see a few pounds drop away. When you walk for extended periods of time, you can actually find that walking helps jump start your weight loss program and may even help you walk off an entire pants size in just a few weeks.
If you're looking to use walking to help you lose weight, you may need to engage in a stronger program than just walking from Point A to Point B. Adding interval walking, keeping a certain pace, and walking with exercise bands are all great ways to help promote weight loss as you walk.
3. Burns Fat
When we're looking to lose weight or just feel better in our own skin, burning fat is one of the biggest priorities we may have. Many of us who suffer with excess body fat got that way because of a lack of exercise and movement. Luckily, it isn't difficult to begin losing weight, it just takes a few days of brisk walking.
Like discussed in point #2, walking is usually used more as a boost to a more intense workout plan. While walking can help you to lose excess fat, you probably aren't going to get the body of your dreams from walking alone. That being said, brisk walking can help you prevent belly fat from growing or from gaining fat.
4. Helps Overweight People Get into Shape
Similar to points #2 and #3, frequent walking is a great exercise for anyone looking to jump start a weight loss plan or workout regimen, particularly those who are currently overweight. Walking is an easy way for individuals who are overweight to get the movement and exercise they need. As walking gets easier, they can begin jogging or running to further promote weight loss and getting in shape.
5. Reduces Stress
Walking can actually reduce stress in a number of ways, including setting your mind into a meditative state, boost endorphins, and give you more energy. The stress-reducing benefits of walking increase even more if you walk outside or bring a friend along.
When you walk, you are getting exercise while still taking the time to appreciate your surroundings, which can allow you to forget about your stresses and worries, catch up with a friend in a non-stressful environment, and get the benefits of a good exercise.
6. Reduces Dementia
The way that walking helps manage stress is very similar to the way it can help prevent dementia. A recent study showed that just a 20 minute walk a day actually reduced the susceptibility to dementia by 40%. Researchers on the study believe that walking can reduce the risk of dementia by opening up the window of the mind. Walking keeps the brain stress-free, releases endorphins, and allows the blood to flow more freely and fluidly through the brain.
The best way walking can reduce the risk of dementia is through preventative measures, but it can also reduce some of the symptoms if patients of dementia begin walking regularly.
7. Easy on the Joints
Walking has a very low impact on the joints, so it is a great form of exercise for individuals with problems or pain in their joints. Walking is also a great exercise for individuals with joint pain because it is low cost and can be done anywhere, unlike other forms of exercise that may require a certain location, like a pool, or special equipment. Additionally, walking is also one of the top low-impact exercises that can help you lose weight and burn calories.
Walking can also be a great way for athletes who have been injured to continue getting exercise they need. As something that is easy on the joints, going for frequent walks can allow them to stay mobile while they are recovering from their injury without needing to worry about compromising their condition.
8. Lowers Blood Pressure
Exercise in general can help you to keep your blood pressure at normal, lower rates. Luckily, walking is included in that spectrum and you don't even need to walk for long distance. If you are having trouble finding or making the time to get an adequate exercise in, walking for just three separate times a day can help you keep your blood pressure low. Taking a short, brisk walk in the morning, mid-day, and in the evening can be just as beneficial as getting 30 minutes of intense exercise when it comes to your blood pressure.
Having high blood pressure can be extremely damaging to the body and the heart and can lead to serious health conditions like stroke or heart disease. Those who have a family history of such diseases or high blood pressure should seriously consider adding a walking routine into their daily lives and habits.
9. Strengthens Your Heart
Your heart health is incredibly important to your overall health, which means you need to pay attention to all diseases and illness that can harm your heart. Luckily, frequent walks can keep many of those diseases and conditions at bay, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Frequent walking is one of the best things you can do for your heart and preventing heart disease from developing.
Getting the recommended 20 minutes a day is a great start for ensuring your heart stays healthy and disease-free.
10. Strengthens Your Bones and Reduces Your Risk of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a serious condition that causes the bones to weaken and become brittle. While there is no cure for osteoporosis, there are a number of things you can do to strengthen your bones, including walking.
Walking is considered a weight-bearing exercise, which means it puts weight on the bones. When doing a weight-bearing exercise, you're fighting against gravity to put pressure on the bones, which forces the bones to work more and gain strength. Staying still can be very harmful if you have osteoporosis, but it can also be difficult to find exercises that are not too risky for the condition. This makes walking one of the best exercises for individuals with osteoporosis. As we already mentioned, walking is easy on the joints, so while individuals with osteoporosis do not need to worry about further damaging their bones, they can still burn calories and get the exercise everyone needs.
11. Reduces Depression and Improves Your Mood
As we already pointed out, walking can reduce your stress level. Having a high level of stress can cause you to be irritable and may even result in mental conditions like depression. In a recent study, researchers looked at how walking effected those suffering from depression. By having some of the group walk for 25 minutes in different areas of a city, they examined how walking in certain environments influenced the individual's moods.
According to the study, those who spent their time walking in green areas had better moods and felt more engaged when they left their walking environment. This suggests that frequent walking in green, natural areas can reduce feelings of depression and make you feel happier. Whether you're suffering from depression or just need to clear your head, taking about a half hour walk through a park can get you feeling better.
12. Boosts Your Memory
When we are physically fit and take the time to take care of our bodies, we usually experience higher levels of cognitive function. This means we can think more clearly, have an easier time remembering things, and are less likely to experience things like dementia when we grow older.
In a recent study that looked at women, their physical activity, and their level of cognitive decline as they aged, it found that the more physical an individual is, the less likely they are to experience high levels of mental decline. By completing the 20 minutes of walking suggested each day, we can improve our memory and ward off cognitive diseases that can drastically decrease our quality of living.
13. Improves Your Sleep
There are a number of ways that walking can help you to improve your sleep. Exercise in general helps our body deal with stress, work off excess energy, and better prepare for sleep. As we've addressed in previous points, walking is a great way to deal with our stresses and help to manage our moods, which can frequently result in us staying up all night worrying about things like relationships, work, or finances.
Frequent walking can help individuals who have trouble sleeping both by helping them fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. In a study with chronic insomnia sufferers, which includes individuals who cannot fall asleep easily as well as individuals who have trouble staying asleep through the night, they found that a moderate-intensity exercise helped reduce the symptoms associated with chronic insomnia. That same study found that other forms of exercise, like running or lifting weights, did not help individuals sleep.
This allows us to believe that even if you are an avid runner or weight lifter, you should still consider adding walking into your routine, especially if you find yourself having trouble staying asleep or falling asleep.
14. Tones Up Your Legs, Butt, and Stomach
We already addressed the many ways that walking can help you to lose weight and drop fat, but did you know it can also help you tone up? When you switch up your walking routine by adding new elements and locations, you can start to see the benefits you may have only believed came with intense workout plans.
There are number of things you can do to tone your legs, butt, and stomach as you walk. One of the biggest suggestions is walking up hill, which can engage many muscles in your body and allow you to see results. If you don't have hills to walk up, find a place that requires you to walk up stairs, which can provide a similar effect. Other ways to increase your muscle movement and engagement when walking is to tighten your muscles as you walk. This gives them a similar experience to being naturally engaged, only they are experiencing manual engagement, causing them to work hard.
Additional ways to tone up from walking include picking up your speed. If you're looking to get more benefit from your walking, consider walking faster or for longer periods of time. It is recommended to walk somewhere that you enjoy the scenery, which can increase the amount of time you're willing to walk.
15. Boosts Your Vitamin D
Vitamin D is crucial to our health and happiness, and the best way to get enough of the necessary vitamin is through spending time in the sun. Being deficient in Vitamin D can lead to an increase of developing cardiovascular disease, and cause asthma in children, and may even cause cancer. It is also known to cause things like bone pain and muscle weakness.
Taking frequent walks outside, particularly in the middle of the day when the sun is at its brightest, can boost your levels of Vitamin D and get you feeling better. Mid-day walking is also crucial in the winter, when the days are shorter and it can be harder for individuals to get the amount of time in the sun that they need.
Did you enjoy this list?
We hope that you found some useful information!
If you're looking to get a little healthier, don't let yourself believe it is too difficult. Adopting just 20 minutes a day of brisk walking can give you all the above benefits and get you feeling better, more confident, and happier. Walking is a great exercise when used alone, but when used in conjunction with more rigorous exercises and physical exertions, adding walking to your routine can give you the health you've always dreamed of.
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