Updated: May 24
While fitness trends seem to come and go, one movement that people do every day, often without much thought, is walking and it's really underrated in my book!
According to an annual report from Strava I read last that struck me was the number of outdoor walks doubled year-over-year from 2020 to 2021.
Walking is also having social media moment, too, including the viral 12-3-30 https://www.today.com/health/what-12-3-30-workout-expert-weighs-viral-workout-t203158the famous TikTok famous walking pad https://www.bustle.com/life/walkingpad-review-tiktok-viral-wfh for people who work from home.
And the benefits fall right in step. (Pun intended) Walking is easy to recover from, requires no training, and can be pretty easy to fit in into our daily lifestyle. While walking might not be the first thing to come to mind when we think of the latest or most exciting trends in the health and fitness space, but it is a tried and true form of physical activity. Not only is it easy, its free! It’s how I started my recovery from my last heart surgery.
Keep reading to learn exactly how and why walking can us all step up our longevity.
The Benefits of Walking for Longevity
It reduces risk for disease.
I was sold long ago learning that a daily walk can reduce the risk of stroke and the number of days spent in the hospital each year. I have spent way to much time in hospitals and anything I can do to avoid the hospital bed not a problem. Plus my grandmother passed away from a stroke.
Besides all of these benefits, we all seem underestimate the power of less-intense physical activity because it isn’t as sexy. But just like other cardiovascular activity, walking increases your heart rate, improves blood flow and oxygen delivery, and adds to your daily caloric burn. All of this can or reduce the risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes just to name a few.
A little bit goes a long way.
People who exercise more than the minimum recommended level are associated with living a longer life. Walking is an easy way to exceed minimum recommended movement guidelines, which are not met by 70-80%.
It’s an easy habit to stick to.
Walking is one type of exercise people actually stick to over time, meaning it's more likely to become a habit. One reason people enjoy walking and can stick with it is because it can be lower-impact than something like running, but I wouldn’t confuse that for being less impactful because its not.
It boosts immunity, mood, and more.
Besides movement, some other benefits of walking might not be that obvious. Walking can also help boost your immune system, improve your mood, and help wiyth digestion. Many of us have less than optimal in levels vitamin D. It is such an important and critical vitamin, with a ton of benefits. It can positively influence longevity by preventing the accumulation of toxic proteins linked to many age-related diseases.
Another less-obvious benefit of walking is stress relief. The endorphins we release from walking can lead to a better mood. I think that happier people tend to live longer and healthier lives. No research backing that, just what my heart tells me. How to Step Up Your Steps
1. Swap out your car, elevator, or anything that's walkable instead.
If you're already walking instead of driving, you're on the right track. We should try not to underestimate any attempts to walk more, such as parking farther away, taking the stairs, or going for a quick walk around the block. My wife can tell you how far away I park any time e go to the grocery store. You don't have to spend hours on a treadmill to see benefits !
2. Make it a priority to do what’s enjoyable and fun.
Anything that helps you walk more is worth doing. The best way to get the most out of walking for exercise is to do it in ways you find enjoyable. This might include walking outside in nature, listening to a podcast on a treadmill, walking with a friend, or exploring a new neighborhood. Walking can be a great way to get moving, and the exercise you enjoy is the one you're most likely to do!
3. Build walks into your work day.
One of the reasons why the walking pad I put in the link up top is so popular is because it makes it easy to get some steps in during the work day, without leaving your computer. I personally have a trampoline I use in the back of the shop when I need a break. Even without this extra tech, you can add movement into your work day by taking walking breaks or walking meetings. Have a brainstorm call or catch-up with your co-worker while walking. Suggest a walking meeting where you can get together outside or remotely with a good pair of headphones or via FaceTime.
4. A added challenge.
If you're walking specifically for exercise, try changing your walking speed or intensity for brief intervals. I personally have a weighted vest I like to strap on which is inexpensive and can add an extra challenge. Incorporating inclines, hills, or stairs to your walk can speed up calorie burn. iThe same goes if you're outside. Try to choose routes with hills or find a place with sand or different terrain.
5. Think in baby steps
By walking versus driving or taking a different type of transportation that doesn't require physical movement, when compounded over time, can be very beneficial. In fact, a 2021 study found that just 11 extra minutes of movement per day can make a difference in your lifespan. So, if you're already going for a walk, tack on 11 more minutes for benefits that will go the extra mile. (Almost Literally)
So How Many Steps Is Enough?
Are you ready to step it up? If you’re setting a goal on your fitness tracker, you may have heard 10,000 steps is optimal, but that's not really a magic number.
Before choosing a step count goal, remember that fewer than 4,000 steps a day is considered a low level of physical activity. And to meet the CDC’s numbers for physical activity of 150 to 300 minutes of activity each week, a study I read found that you would need to take 7,000 to 9,000 steps each day. Other studies have found that around 8,200 steps per day is linked to a lower chance of developing chronic diseases.
The most important thing to remember is that more is more when it comes to walking for your health. Another study found that women who took at least 4,400 steps per day had a lower mortality rate than those who took only 2,700. Any more steps taken after 4,400 and up until 7,500 resulted in greater health benefits before women hit a plateau. I would say that more steps are always better than less. And there are study’s that show that the more steps people took, the greater the health benefits.
Bottom line: More steps are always a good idea, so don't stress if you can't hit that 10,000 number. My wife and I have a ongoing step challege every day. Won’t tell you who wins that, but next time your in the shop show me your steps and we can set up a step challenge as well. Thanks for reading that was a long one, and remember to love your life. Its the only one we have so make it count and get to stepping!