You might already be walking regularly, even daily, but are you actually moving enough? Movement expert Katy Bowman points out that even if you exercise for an hour per day, that’s still only just over 4% of your day spent moving — not great if the rest of your time is spent sedentary (shifting from an office chair to the couch post-workout). Bowman’s prescription? Move more.
And that’s where walking comes in. Adding walking to your day — in traditional and unexpected ways — can help improve your cardio and running, too. Below, you’ll find seven reasons why you need to walk more.
1. Lower Your Body Fat
The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology Journal recently published a study that surveyed commuters who walked or biked versus drove and found — no surprise here — that adults who commute via human power (walking or riding) have a lower body-fat percentage and body mass index. If you’ve struggled with lowering that number on the scale with your daily run, adding some walking may actually help shift the numbers in the right direction. A little extra walking means you’ll burn calories without much need for repair — and you don’t need a recovery shake after a mile-long walk!
2. Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease
Even active people can be at risk for heart disease, but regular walking can help ease that. Regular walks will keep you much healthier than sitting on the couch whether you’re recovering from an injury, trying to lose weight to get to a point where you can run or just taking an extended recovery period after a hard season of running. Researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University recently studied a large group of older Americans. Their research showed that as these participants aged, those with a higher rate of regular moderate physical activity like walking (especially brisk-paced walking) had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
3. Lower Your Blood Pressure
It’s not exactly news that walking can help lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, but it is surprising that a brisk walk can do just as much good as running, according to findings reported in the American Heart Association journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology. In the study, researchers analyzed 33,060 runners in the National Runners’ Health Study and 15,045 walkers in the National Walkers’ Health Study. The results showed that over six years, there were similar reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes in both groups. So even if you have to skip a run for a few days, try to add extra blocks of walking to keep the same health benefits, if not the caloric burn.
4. Negate Air Pollution
According to a recent study led by researchers from the Centre for Diet and Activity Research and the University of Cambridge, the health benefits of walking easily outweigh the negative effects on health of air pollution. So the rationalization that you shouldn’t walk in a busy city for fear of breathing in polluted air is pretty weak. Plus, by walking more and driving less, you’re helping the environment and reducing your carbon footprint.
5. Save Money
Similarly, if you walk errands, you’re saving money on gas for your car, while also spending time in nature — and possibly time with friends if you find neighbors to walk with, says Bowman. This could also save money because as you try to convert errands from driving to walking, you quickly begin to pare down what you actually need. For example: Instead of impulse buying at the grocery store, you’re limited by how much you can carry. (Pro tip: Carrying groceries adds a bonus strength-training element to your walk!)
6. Make Life Hard Again
Even if you’re walking to the grocery store and not into the forest to forage for dinner (though that’s certainly an awesome option!), Bowman writes in her most recent book “Movement Matters,” that we should strive to make life more challenging. We have it too easy: fast food, grocery delivery, cars and even strollers — all make life a lot less physically taxing, and a lot less healthy. She recommends that people try to build as much movement as possible into their day: Walking to buy groceries to make dinner, carrying kids instead of putting them in the stroller for the whole walk, and generally adding more physical challenge to your day. You’ll be stronger, healthier and happier for it.
7. Ease Depression and Boost Mood
Getting outside in nature boosts our mood. As runners, we certainly know this already. But studies have backed this up, and even added that a walk in nature might be enough to help cure or ease some of the effects of major depression. Marc Berman, a post-doctoral fellow at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, with partners from the University of Michigan and Stanford University, led a massive study now published in the Journal of Affective Disorders that showed walking in nature, compared with walking in a busy urban environment, actually improved memory performance for study participants suffering from clinical depression. While it’s not a miracle cure, if you can ease the stress of a bad day by taking a quick walk in the park, that’s pretty great news — and an easy, healthy fix.