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Walking for Health, Fitness, and Anti-Aging Benefits

Linda Crampton is a biology teacher who loves to walk. She enjoys exploring places on foot and appreciates the health benefits of walking.

A walk along the Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver is always enjoyable.

A walk along the Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver is always enjoyable.

Benefits of Walking

Walking is an enjoyable activity with great health and anti-aging benefits. It helps us to stay fit and strong, reduces the risk of disease, and can improve our mental outlook on life. Walking is a versatile exercise that can be a gentle, moderate, or intense activity. It's also a very convenient form of exercise for many people.

Regular walking helps us to stay lean, improves the health of our immune system, and decreases the risk of several diseases that are more common in older people than in younger people. Examples of these diseases include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.

Walking can also help us build and maintain bone strength as we grow older, reducing the risk of osteoporosis. It improves stamina and mobility and decreases the risk of falling. In addition, it has been shown to improve cognition in older people and reduce stress. All of these factors are important for an anti-aging program.

Walkers in the Vancouver Sun Run, a 10km run or walk that can be either competitive or non-competitive, depending on a person's goals.

Walkers in the Vancouver Sun Run, a 10km run or walk that can be either competitive or non-competitive, depending on a person's goals.

Components of an Anti-Aging Program

The goals of an anti-aging program are to enable us to stay healthy and fit as well as physically and mentally active as the years pass. By reducing disease we can also give ourselves a better chance of living longer. We can't stop chronological aging. We can control our body's reaction to the passage of time, to a greater or lesser extent, based on our specific situation.

Exercising regularly is an excellent strategy to slow aging. It's helpful to include strength training and stretching in a fitness program as well as aerobic exercise. It's also helpful to follow the additional anti-aging strategies listed below.

  • Follow a healthy and nutritious diet
  • Deal with stress effectively
  • Get enough sleep
  • Perform stimulating mental activities to maintain memory and learning ability
  • Avoid unhealthy habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
  • Monitor and treat pre-existing health conditions as necessary

Even without performing these extra steps, simply going for a regular, moderately brisk walk can be very worthwhile for health.

A walk with a view is always pleasant.

A walk with a view is always pleasant.

Exercise Recommendations from WHO

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), adults should meet the following exercise requirements in order to be healthy and fit.

  • Complete at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking) per week OR complete at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week OR complete an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous exercise.
  • Exercise for at least ten minutes in each session.
  • Perform muscle-strengthening exercises for the major muscle groups on at least two days in a week. Some styles of walking can accomplish this task. Alternatively, supplementary exercises can be performed during walks or at home.

People with mobility problems or health disorders that prevent them from reaching the above goals should adjust their exercise type, intensity, and amount as appropriate. This precaution also applies to people who haven't exercised for a long time. Any walking (or other type of exercise) has benefits for health and anti-aging compared to being sedentary.

Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.

— Steven Wright

An Ideal Anti-Aging and Fitness Activity

For many people, walking is a very accessible and convenient exercise. All that's needed are some comfortable shoes and appropriate clothing for the weather, which are things that people normally own even if they don't walk for exercise. Walking workouts can be done during other necessary activities, such as getting to work, going to an appointment, shopping, or walking a dog.

Walking around the block or in a shopping mall is a good way to begin exercising for someone who hasn't done so for a long time. For someone with mobility or health problems, even a slow walk may offer some benefits. Brisk walking is generally more beneficial, however. It's important to increase the speed and intensity of a walking workout gradually. Walking is less likely to cause injuries than many other forms of exercise, but as the workout intensity increases the chance of injuries increases as well.

A walking walkout can be even more intense than a brisk walk. Walking up a steep hill, stair climbing, hiking, power walking with bent arms, race walking, and Nordic walking with poles all have the potential to turn walking into a vigorous workout. Race walkers often move faster than moderately-paced joggers. Walking in deep water can be a good aerobic workout, too. It's also easy on the joints and builds leg muscles.

Potential Health Benefits of Walking

Walking and Mental Health

Walking is valuable for stress reduction and mental health. Travelling through a pleasant or interesting environment can be relaxing and can improve mood. Some people find that a brisk walk makes them feel happier. Others use slow, mindful walking as a type of meditation. Walking can also boost creativity, as I've discovered for myself.

Walking adds interest to life because it enables a person to explore new areas. (Safety should always be considered when choosing a location for a walk.) It can also enable a person to socialize with friends or meet new people. In some areas it's possible to join a walking group, which helps to build friendships.

Travelling a specific distance or moving at a certain speed can provide a goal to strive for, especially if a person registers for a community walking event or competition. Working towards a challenging but realistic goal can boost confidence.

All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Nature walks are very enjoyable for me. There's always something new to discover.

Nature walks are very enjoyable for me. There's always something new to discover.

Decreasing the Risk of Disease

A lot of evidence suggests that walking reduces the risk of various diseases, enabling us to live longer. Here are some discoveries made by researchers.

  • Regular brisk walking helps to lower the blood cholesterol level and decrease high blood pressure. It also reduces the risk of heart disease. In addition, it decreases the risk of an ischemic stroke (caused by a blood clot) and of a hemorrhagic stroke (caused by a ruptured blood vessel).
  • One research project published by the American Heart Association and referenced below made an interesting discovery. The researchers found that the amount of time spent walking correlated with a lower incidence of strokes in men. (Women weren't tested in this particular experiment.) The longer the walks, the lower the stroke risk. Walking pace had a very low correlation with reduced stroke risk.
  • Being overweight or inactive increases the risk of some types of cancer. Walking regularly decreases this risk.
  • Walking decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes by regulating weight. It also reduces insulin resistance in obese people. Insulin is a hormone that binds to the surface of cells, enabling glucose to leave the blood and enter the cells. In insulin resistance, the cells no longer respond to the presence of insulin.
  • Walking enhances the activity of the immune system and can boost energy and stamina.
  • Walking can also reduce the risk of falls in older people. It may help them to live independently for a longer period of time or perhaps for the rest of their lives.

Walking is man's best exercise.

— Hippocrates

Reducing the Risk of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition in which bone loses mass and becomes more fragile. We have an increased chance of developing osteoporosis as we get older.

Weight and load bearing exercise build bone strength. Walking briskly on a flat surface has lots of health benefits, but it isn't a great way to strengthen the bones in the lower body. However, walking against gravity is.

Hiking and stair climbing are much better at building bone than walking on a flat surface. If you decide to climb stairs, get used to the exercise gradually and don't do it excessively, since it can be hard on the knees. Adding jogging, skipping, or jumping intervals to a walk will improve lower body bone strength too. These higher impact forms of exercise need to be done with suitable shoes and on a suitable surface, since they are more likely to cause injuries.

Step aerobics and dancing are other good ways to build bone, providing the dancing includes steps that involve lifting the feet off the ground, such as hopping, jumping, and stamping movements. If you don't want to dance in public, dancing at home to music can be very enjoyable. Don't dance on a very hard surface like concrete, though.

Walking paths are nice places to exercise.

Walking paths are nice places to exercise.

Useful Additions to a Walking Workout

Any type of walking has anti-aging benefits. For maximum health benefits, though, there is one area that might need to be supplemented to improve the anti-aging ability of walking. Most styles of walking don't do much to develop upper body strength.

Certain types of walking—such as Nordic or pole walking—do help to build upper body strength. Taking a stretchy exercise or resistance band on a walk to do a few upper body exercises is also a good way to improve strength. Doing push-up type exercises in the middle of a walk will help as well.

Resistance bands or weights can also be used to develop strength at home. If you don't like the idea of doing separate strength-building exercise sessions, try fitting the exercises into other activities, such as during television advertisements, while watching a television show, or during breaks when you're working. Just be sure that you use good form during strength exercises and don't rush through them.

Muscle loss does tend to occur as we grow older. Resistance or strength training can not only halt this loss but also build new muscle. This enables our bodies to function well in our daily lives. In addition, building stronger muscles can stimulate more bone to form when the muscles act on the bones.

Looking at interesting architecture on a city walk can be fun.

Looking at interesting architecture on a city walk can be fun.

Walk for Health and Fitness

We can't stop the passage of time, but we can certainly help ourselves to remain fit, energetic, and mentally active as time passes. As long as you don't have a health problem that makes it dangerous to exercise without a doctor's advice and as long as you have supportive shoes, you could head out of the door right now to take a walk. Choosing a safe route or safe time of day is important, though. Extra factors like increasing walking speed, doing different types of walking, and doing resistance training can be added later. If you are a beginner or haven't exercised for a while, the most important thing for health and anti-aging is to begin the walking habit as soon as possible.

Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.

— Thomas Jefferson

References

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Linda Crampton

Comments

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 19, 2018:

Thank you very much, Darleen. I think it's great that walking can provide us with so many benefits.

Darleen Barnard from Henderson, NV on June 19, 2018:

Great list of benefits! Walking is one of the best exercises we can do and we don't need a gym membership! Thank you for sharing.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 22, 2015:

Hi, renee21. Thank you very much for the comment and the vote. It's nice to meet another walking enthusiast!

Tori Leumas on July 22, 2015:

I love walking! Especially with my sister and our dogs. Great hub! Voted up.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on March 30, 2014:

Thanks for the comment, Dania. Walking is a valuable exercise. It's often easy to incorporate walking into our daily lives, as you say.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on March 30, 2014:

Hi, Chuck. Thank you for the comment. Walking is certainly less stressful on the body than running. It can be combined with short intervals of running, as you say, to provide the benefits of both types of exercise.

Chuck Bluestein from Morristown, AZ, USA on March 30, 2014:

Our ancient ancestors walked for hours. It was their main method of transportation. But they would only run for 1 or 2 minutes like to escape or catch an animal. Many have died doing long distance runs. Recently a 20 year old died in a run. She had no health problems. While doing a walk, one can run for a minute or 2 and then go back to walking.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 24, 2013:

Hi, jaydene. Yes, walking can be a great form of exercise for both our physical and our mental health. Thanks for the visit!

jaydene from Alberta, Canada on June 24, 2013:

Yes I believe that walking is the best natural exercise for the whole body and mind:)

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 24, 2013:

Thank you so much, Audrey! I appreciate the lovely comment, as well as all the votes and the share! I'm very glad that walking helps your arthritis.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on June 24, 2013:

Hi Alicia - I voted up, useful, awesome, interesting and will share this wonderful hub with others.

I walk each day and notice a difference with arthritis pain. Walking really does help. I enjoyed the videos and links you provided here.

Thanks for all of the information you've given. I like this hub very much! ~ Audrey

Foyjur Razzak from Dhaka on May 12, 2013:

As a way to remain fit and strong, you must make exercise part of your way of life while you become older. Because they get older, people often leave the playing field for that bleachers, preferring to view sports instead of take part in them. This is actually the main source of muscle loss in aging people. A simple strategy to stay active and care for your health is to include walks, take a stroll, or perhaps have playtime with grandchildren or pets each day.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 24, 2013:

Power walking ten miles a day must be wonderful exercise, James! Thank you for the visit and the comment.

James Nanninga from DeFuniak Springs, Florida on February 24, 2013:

I enjoyed your article. I strongly believe in walking is a giant step in the quest to live to 100. I power walk 10 miles a day since early retirement and I'm 65 and I'm going on 40 according to my doctor. Your hub confirms it. Thank you.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 08, 2012:

Thank you very much for the comment, jaydene. Walking can be great exercise, and it's fun too!

jaydene from Alberta, Canada on November 08, 2012:

Yes this is excellent , walking is great for the whole body and mind. great article, glad i stopped in to read this.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 25, 2012:

Thanks for commenting and for the vote, Jenna. Walking on a treadmill is a good idea, especially when it's not appropriate to walk outside!

Jenna Pope from Southern California on August 25, 2012:

I walk on a treadmill daily and have a lot more energy afterwards. Voted up.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 25, 2012:

Thank you very much for the comment, ignugent17! I'm planning to go on an exploration walk this afternoon - there's a park that I want to visit. I hope that you enjoy your walks, too!

ignugent17 on August 25, 2012:

I agree with you totally on walking. It really helps and I will be glad to share this hub to all my friends. Have a good day of walking!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 25, 2012:

Thanks for the comment and the vote, Mama Kim 8. Yes, walking is easy, unless someone has a disability that makes it difficult. It's a great form of exercise, especially since it can be turned into a harder workout if desired!

Sasha Kim on August 25, 2012:

Walking is so easy, it's sad people are too lazy to actually do it. I should go and steal everyone's tv remote... that way they have to get up and walk in order to change the channel ^_^ Very nice hub, a lot of great information. I love the tips for boosting a walking exercise. voted up!!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 23, 2012:

Thanks for the visit and the vote, Martie. I appreciate the comment! Walking is the best exercise for me to do, especially since my dog needs frequent exercise. I enjoy walking, too - I like to explore new places.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on August 23, 2012:

Oh, I love walking but just don't get the time to do it. Thank you for impressing the importance of walking exercises on me, Alicia. I MUST make walking part of my daily routine.

Voted up, important and well-stressed!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 22, 2012:

Hi, Tom. It's great that you walk a few hours every day! That must be fun, and it's excellent exercise too. Thanks for the comment and vote.

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on August 22, 2012:

Hi my friend all great and useful information within this well written hub. I walk in early morning when it is cooler and spend a few hours doing that each day.

Vote up and more !!!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 22, 2012:

Hi, drbj. Even though I enjoy walking, I don't like doing it on a very hot day either. I go for a walk early in the morning during hot weather. Walking in an air conditioned mall sounds like a very good idea, though (as long as I can resist going into the stores)! Thanks for the visit.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on August 22, 2012:

Hi, Alicia. Since walking outdoors is brutal in the summer heat of south Florida, I do much of my walking indoors ... in malls. Only problem is the strain . . . on my wallet!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 21, 2012:

Thank you, teaches. I agree - walking is a simple exercise, but it's so valuable for health! It can be very enjoyable, too. I love walking. It serves many different functions in my life.

Dianna Mendez on August 21, 2012:

You did a great job on this topic, Alicia. I think walking is such a simple exercise that adds years to life. As we age, it is even more important to keep this as a daily habit.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 21, 2012:

Thank you very much, pringooals! I appreciate your visit and comment, as well as the vote.

Karina from Edinburgh on August 21, 2012:

Fantastic hub! A lot of very interesting medical information. I would imagine walking was healthy but I wasn't aware of the direct impact on described conditions. I really enjoyed it. Voted up!

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