Stroll your way to better physical and mental health.

When it comes to exercise, most of us think that we have to put on workout gear or break a sweat to count toward our cardio goals. Luckily, for the fitness-averse, research is proving that Lizzy Bennet had it right all along: All we really need is to go for a walk.

Walking a Mile a Day Can Help You Live Longer

Extensive research proves that walking puts off heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes. It can even help you live longer! A University College London meta-analysis found that walking reduced the chance of dying during the study period by 32 percent and the risk of cardiovascular events by 31 percent.

Think you need to power walk to get these results? Not quite. The positive results affected participants who walked as few as five and a half miles per week at a pace of about two miles per hour (that’s thirty minutes per mile!). So even your casual strolls can do good for your heart.

It Strengthens Joints and Muscles

Consistent walking prevents joint pain and your likelihood of getting painful arthritis and osteoporosis. An American College of Rheumatology study found that most adults with arthritis walk less than 1,500 steps a day (under one mile). Tripling this amount to 4,500 steps a day protected the participants from developing arthritic limitations. These daily step goals are so doable that they can easily fit into your usual schedule.

It Lightens Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

There’s a reason why “walking it off” is advised—and works—when you’re stressed. Walking reduces your stress hormones, and various studies, including research published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, have found that it also eases depression. In this study, women with mild to moderate depression who walked for two hundred minutes a week (about half an hour a day) experienced improved mental health, physical functioning, energy, and social skills. Even if you don’t suffer from clinical depression or anxiety, walking can help lighten your worries and your mood.

It Promotes a Healthy Weight

Any form of exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight, but walking is an easy way to keep it in check. Researchers at Stanford University found that the amount of daily walking activity is strongly tied to obesity levels around the world. Cities where people have healthy walking habits (4,600-6,000 average daily steps) also have lower obesity levels.

5 Simple Tips to Maximize Your Time on Foot

  1. Track your steps. Not sure how much walking you actually do? Use a fitness tracker with a step counter to see how you measure up against the recommended amount, and set goals to improve your distance and time.
  2. Maintain good posture. For the best results, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons suggests swinging your arms, lifting up your head, straightening your back, and pulling in your belly button. Your toes should be pointed straight forward, and you should take long strides but without overexerting.
  3. Stretch it out. Make it a habit to stretch, even for just a few minutes, in the morning and evening. Todd Feinkind, Director of Rehabilitation at Complete Wellness, tells Verily, “Light stretching of your calves and hips can minimize stress to your body and improve your walking ability.”
  4. Take brisk strides. If walking is your only form of daily exercise, you might as well give it your all. Pick up your pace, vary it, and opt for uphill routes or stairs. You’ll burn more calories and get more muscle tone. “Try brisk intervals, like one block fast, two blocks slow,” advises Julia Valentour of the American Council on Exercise.
  5. Find your motivation. Whether it is walking with or to a friend’s home, listening to an audiobook from our summer reading list, or preparing a treat upon returning home, save it for your stroll so that it becomes a habit you look forward to each day.

On wishing to see her sister Jane, Lizzy tells her father, “I do not wish to avoid the walk. The distance is nothing when one has a motive; only three miles. I shall be back by dinner.” We should all take such a casual attitude toward a stroll—so walk with purpose to a healthier and happier you.

Photo Credit: YouTube