Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth nutrition, fitness and adventure courses, and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+..
You’ve probably heard it a lot lately: We’re all sitting too much. We know that we need to get moving—one of the worst things you can do to your body is sit too much—but how much activity is enough?
The good news is, you don’t need to be an ultrarunner in order to have a healthy dose of cardio daily (although, that would do the trick). A simple 30-minute walk is all it takes to reap the many benefits of movement—like living longer. A 2018 study conducted at the University of Sydney found that walking at a mild, average pace reduced all-cause mortality by 20 percent. That same study found that walking a brisk or fast pace reduced all-cause mortality by 24 percent. And those benefits only increased the older the participant in the study was.
“Especially in situations when walking more isn’t possible due to time pressures or a less walking-friendly environment, walking faster may be a good option to get the heart rate up—one that most people can easily incorporate into their lives,” said professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, lead author of the study.
Cardio, of course, is great for your heart and your cardiovascular health, but there are a few more benefits in going on a short walk every day—especially for runners.
Benefits of Walking 30 Minutes a Day
“Walking helps to improve circulation by strengthening our second heart. The second heart is a group of muscles, veins, and valves located in our calf and foot,” explains Dr. Luis Navarro, Founder of The Vein Treatment Center. “With every step that we take, we push blood back up to our heart.”
Those steps help improve our circulation and promote healthy blood flow from our heart to our limbs, brain, and everywhere in between. This is why short walk breaks are stressed for those who sit for long periods of time (especially long car rides or plane rides), so that blood keeps circulating and blood clots do not form. Some people are more at risk for blood clots than others.
“The body doesn’t like static postures continually,” says Kermit Davis, a researcher with the University of Cincinnati who studies the physical demands of the average workplace. If you can, try and take walking meetings or walk around the room while on the phone. Or, if you have a pet, commit to taking them for a walk at the same time every day so you have something else to hold you accountable.
When we think of boosting metabolism and burning fat, it is easy to think of super sweaty high intensity workouts. But that isn’t always the case. Walking regularly can actually help do the trick.
“Walking helps to promote a healthy heart and circulation, and also increases our metabolism which will help to bring down weight,” shares Dr. Navarro. “Since it strengthens that second heart to promote healthy blood flow, when our circulation and metabolism are active, weight comes down. This healthy blood flow can also help to decrease aches and swelling in the legs.”
Boosting your metabolism can improve sleep, circulation, and regulate appetite to make you a holistically healthier person. The daily ritual can also help to promote a healthier lifestyle.
Loosens Stiff Joints
Stiff joints and muscles can lead to problems down the road such as arthritis and more, so walking daily can help minimize your risk in the future.
“A 30-minute walk per day is an excellent way to promote healthy, flexible joints by stimulating synovial fluid to bring nutrients to the joints,” notes Dr. Armin Tehrany, Founder of Manhattan Orthopedic Care. “In addition, the gentle, natural weight-bearing process of walking can create better muscle strength and balance around the joints as well. This can diminish the likelihood and progression of osteoarthritis.”
These benefits are not unique to those who are starting from square one; even if you are following a training plan or regularly run or hit the gym, you should still be taking advantage of the many benefits of walking. Try incorporating a longer walk into your cooldown as a way to fit even more activity into your day.
Walking is also an excellent rest day activity or something to do if you’re feeling burnt out physically or mentally. “Walking for runners on their rest days is not only acceptable, I encourage it,” notes Dr. Tehrany. In fact, walking, along with stretching, is one thing that coach Erika Canales at Outright Fitness recommends for athletes who are experiencing muscle soreness.
From Women’s Running