6 Reasons Why Walking for Exercise is Super Underrated

walking for exercise

illustration by @jadepurplebrown

People often discount walking as a serious exercise because of a perceived lack of intensity. But then its hardcore cousin power walking got a lot of flack in the 90s for looking spastic and being favored among the type A set. Clearly, walking for exercise needs a better PR team, which is why I’m here to pitch in.

Walking has been the biggest boon for my fitness to-date, and it’s served as a gateway into some of the more strenuous workouts I enjoy these days, as well. I’m not the only one hype on walking as a great way to get moving – there’s a bunch of recent research backing me up. So let’s dive into what makes walking the most underrated exercise and why you need to make a date with your sneakers for a stroll around the block (and beyond!) asap.

1. It’s easy.

It’s difficult to motivate yourself to workout knowing there will be eminent soreness later. So what if you’re not the most masochistic gym rat out there? No worries, try walking for exercise instead.

You don’t need an expensive gym membership, classes, or special equipment. All you need is a pair of athletic shoes. Just lace ‘em up, grab your keys, and go – no other gear or planning required. You can literally wear your work clothes and do it on your lunch break. Not to mention, it’s free. Everything in life should be so easy.

2. You can do it (basically) anywhere.

Lazy bods beware, there’s no denying this super accessible physical activity. You can walk in all of the following situations:

  • Indoors or outside
  • When you travel (it’s ideal for sightseeing, though make sure you remember how to get back)
  • At the office (a great way to get to and fro, depending on how far away you live)
  • Alone or with others
  • IN A FREAKING SHOPPING MALL!!!!! (mall walkers of the world, I admire your gusto)

3. It burns calories.

Healthy bodies come in all different shapes and sizes, and walking is a wonderful, inclusive exercise for people across the spectrum. Whether you’re walking for weight loss, to maintain current weight, or just keep your other biomarkers in tip-top shape — hitting the treadmill or sidewalk will help you achieve those goals.

If you want to get into the math, walking one mile burns approximately 100 calories. That’s not too shabby for 15 to 20 minutes of physical activity. When I was a teenager, I struggled with binge eating and definitely went through phases where I wasn’t psyched about my physique. However, as an adult, I walk more than any other exercise and I’ve never felt better about my body. Now if there’s a big, fancy dinner on my calendar, I like to get a long walk in beforehand to offset the indulgence, thereby making it guilt-free.

4. It keeps your mind sharp.

According to a recent study, one hour of walking for exercise, three times a week improves cognition and has the potential to stave off dementia. I’ll admit, as a thirtysomething I’m not too worried about Alzheimer’s yet, but what’s not to love about a longer attention span and faster problem-solving skills? This is also a mindful reason to invite your mom to go walking for exercise.

5. It helps you live longer.

If you read enough of my writing, it will quickly become apparent that I am obsessed with aging – or how to halt it, rather. When you look at the science, moving – even for just a couple minutes at a time – strongly influences longevity. It turns out little things, like taking the stairs in lieu of the elevator, can add up to an increased lifespan. I’ll take it!

6. It makes you happy.

The endorphins would tell you this themselves if they could talk, but walking is a proven mood booster.

Research has shown that a mere 12 minutes of walking leads to an upswing in cheerfulness, sociability, and self-confidence.

I know from my own experience, getting some steps always helps when I’m feeling anxious or down. In my humble opinion, this is the best reason to lace up your sneakers even when you don’t feel like it… Happiness is only a short walk away.