Whether you work hard to get 10,000 steps a day or just like a daily stroll with your dog, walking is a near-perfect exercise. It's good for your body and your mind and you can do it just about anywhere with no fancy equipment.
From strengthening bones to shedding pounds, researchers keep finding more and more health benefits from this simple activity. Need a reason to hit the trail or wander the pavement? Here are just a few impressive benefits of walking.
1. It helps you maintain a healthy weight. It may seem like a no-brainer, but regular walking can lead to weight loss because exercise burns calories. But with walking, the calories you burn depend more the distance you cover rather than your pace, according to Harvard Health. During a 15-year study, researchers found that people who walked gained significantly less weight than those who didn't and the more people walked, the less weight they gained.
2. It saves your brain. Walking keeps your mind sharp. In a University of California at San Francisco study, researchers measured the cognitive abilities of nearly 6,000 women age 65 and older. They tracked their physical activity for several years and found that age-related memory decline was lowest in the women who walked the most.
Another study published in the December 2018 issue of Neurology shows that older adults who never exercise and already show signs of cognitive concerns can reverse cognitive decline (i.e. decision-making skills) in as little as six months just by walking.
3. It can help you live longer. Several studies have linked regular walking to longevity. A 2018 study found that walking can lower your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Another study in 2018 found that walking at a brisk pace seems to cut the risk of dying by 24 percent, while walking at an average pace reduces the risk by 20 percent. A study by the American Cancer Society found that even low levels of walking are linked with lower mortality.
4. Walking strengthens bones and muscles. All those steps can keep your bones strong and ward off bone loss, fractures and osteoporosis. That back-and-forth movement also tones the muscles in your legs and abs. If you swing your arms when you walk, you can strengthen those arm muscles, too.
5. It eases joint pain. Walking protects your joints by lubricating them and strengthening the surrounding muscles that support them. Several studies also have shown that walking eases arthritis-related pain and if you walk enough, it might prevent arthritis from forming in the first place, says Harvard.
6. It boosts your mood. The more people walk each day, the more energetic they feel and the better their mood, according to a California State University study. Walking releases endorphins, which are chemicals that trigger positive feelings in the body.
7. It can reduce your breast cancer risk. An American Cancer Society study found that women who walked seven or more hours a week had a 14 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer per week.
8. Walking can help you sleep. An hour of walking and stretching, especially in the morning, can help you fall asleep and stay asleep, reports WebMD.
9. It can reduce your risk of diabetes. Walking can help prevent diabetes or reduce its severity. Findings from the Harvard Nurses' Health Study suggest that walking briskly for 30 minutes daily reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 30 percent.
10. It helps your heart. Walking does wonders for your heart and circulation, according to the Arthritis Foundation. It lowers your blood pressure, strengthens your heart, cuts your risk of stroke and wards off heart disease.
Editor's note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in October 2018.