Health Benefits of Walking

By: Julia Westbrook, Associate Nutrition Editor  |  May 2019  |  Step Up Your Health

Walking can do more than get you from point A to point B. This classic activity can improve your heart health, blood sugar and more.


It's convenient. It's free. And it comes with a wealth of benefits. Don't underestimate the power of America's favorite physical activity—walking! All you have to do is lace up and head out the door. No gym or fancy equipment necessary. Witness some of the latest evidence for these benefits of walking.

Must Read: Can Walking Really Help You Lose Weight?

Improve Blood Sugar

A short jaunt around the block after you eat could help keep your blood sugar steady, especially if you have type 2 diabetes, according to research published in the journal Diabetologia. When adults with the condition walked for 10 minutes following every meal, they lowered their blood sugar 12 percent more, on average, than when they took a single 30-­minute stroll each day. "Walking uses large muscles in your legs and torso—which require a lot of energy," explains Andrew ­Reynolds, Ph.D., lead study author and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Otago in New Zealand. "To get that energy, those muscles remove sugar from circulation and your blood sugar goes down." He adds that after-meal walks may also help prevent diabetes in the first place. (Get more lifestyle and diet tips to help lower blood sugar with 12 ways to lower blood sugar.)

Help Your Heart

You don't need crazy-hard cardio to strengthen your heart. A review of data from more than 130,000 women, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that those who walked at least 30 minutes a day significantly lowered their risk of heart failure. Other research has found that exercisers—and most of them were walkers—reduced systolic blood pressure (the top number) by an average of nearly 9 mmHg, an improvement similar to that from medication, according to a meta-analysis in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking, each week is the benchmark for heart benefits, according to the American Heart Association.

Improve Fertility

For couples trying to get pregnant, here's a reason to hoof it: researchers from the UMass Amherst found that overweight and obese women who regularly walked for at least 10 minutes at a time were nearly twice as likely to conceive as those who didn't go for a stroll. The researchers say that being at an unhealthy weight—which applies to nearly three-quarters of us­—is linked to higher levels of chronic inflammation, which can affect fertility. But walking reduces that inflammation and also may lower stress levels, both benefits that improve your odds of welcoming that bundle of joy.

Sit less, move more

Spending too much time on your tush can lead to numerous health woes. But here's an easy fix: After an hour of sitting, walk around for two minutes. It could reduce your risk of early death by 33 percent, according to a study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Walking on a Crosswalk

Photo: Shutterstock

Read on!

How One Woman Lost 75 Pounds with Small Changes, Walking and a Support System
5 Ways to Walk More
How Stretching Can Help You Stay Healthy