Is Walking Enough to Stay Healthy?

Is Walking Enough to Stay Healthy?

When it comes to exercise, there’s the common perception that more is better. That harder is better. Or that if you’re not gasping for air at the end, you might as well have never started.

But there is one exercise that doesn’t push you to misery-inducing heights, or cost a steep monthly fee. And it might be just as healthy as those trendy HIIT classes all your friends are taking.

It’s walking.

A Walk A Day

Hoofing it daily — via regular bursts throughout the day if you can — has been linked to all kinds of health benefits, including lower blood pressure and a decreased risk for heart disease as well as many more chronic diseases. It’s free; you can do it nearly anywhere and at any time. There’s no training needed to get started.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden hailed the power of walking in a 2012 press conference on the rising number of Americans taking regular walks.

“There really is no single drug that can do anything like what regular physical activity does and that’s why [walking] really is a wonder drug,” he said. “It makes you healthier and happier. Even if you don’t lose any weight, getting regular exercise will decrease your risk of getting sick, getting diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and many other conditions.”

These benefits aside, many people aren’t sure how much walking is enough, or if, as a solo pursuit, it’s sufficient exercise.

The answer really depends on who you ask.

On the one hand, if your choice is between walking and staying sedentary, walking can be truly amazing for your health. As for how much to do, there are some reported benefits around the 10,000 steps per day mark.

woman walking gym shoe pavement

Rick Richey, master instructor with the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), as well as many other experts, say 30 minutes a day is another great benchmark to shoot for.

“Thirty minutes a day is where we see great health benefits,” he told The Washington Post.

This amount can also make an excellent “active recovery” workout, helping athletes move sore muscles gently without overtaxing the body.

What your Fitness Program Needs

A well-rounded fitness program encompasses more than just steady-state cardio, such as walking. It also involves strength or resistance training, as well as balance and flexibility. An ideal fitness plan involves elements in all these areas, such as 30 minutes of walking every day, plus twice weekly weight lifting sessions and one yoga class. (The exact combination that works for you can be determined by your time and resources, your doctor and a knowledgeable fitness instructor.)

To get started down this path (pun intended), Freiden had this advice, reports Time:

“Do something you enjoy, or do something you need to do like walking to work or walk to the store. You have to make it part of your routine,” he said. “We see this as a great beginning with even more progress in the future as more people pick up walking and those who already walk do it more.”

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