Have you decided to be more active? It’s a good choice! This is an excellent first step to begin improving your health.
If you aren’t sure exactly what to do to get active, one easy thing is to try walking an hour a day. Don’t assume that walking isn’t good exercise! It’s one of the best cardiovascular exercises you can do for various reasons, which we’ll go into below.
By the end of this article, you’ll know why taking an hour-long walk every day is beneficial, plus you’ll also have a walking plan and many ways to help you stay on track.
Let’s get into it!
10 Reasons Why You Should Start Walking
Here’s what you can look forward to when walking an hour every day! Keep in mind that these health benefits grow over time – so the key is consistency!
1. Improved Cardiovascular Health
Cardiovascular disease is the main cause of death in the USA, but walking an hour a day can significantly lower your risk of developing it.
Research shows that adults who walk often have lower risks for cardiovascular disease versus those who don’t walk much. Other studies indicate that sedentary individuals have a 7x higher chance of having a stroke versus those who are active.
Moderate to brisk walking is also shown to lower blood pressure, which reduces the risk of having a stroke by 10 to 20 percent and the risk of heart disease by around 17 percent.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, so if you’re walking an hour a day, you’re getting more than enough!
2. Reduced Stress
Walking itself causes endorphins to be released in the brain and body, which help to reduce stress and even alleviate pain. However, research shows that walking in nature can amplify this effect!
Mindful walking in nature can have a significant positive effect on stress reduction, rather than simply walking through nature but thinking about the things that stress you out!
It’s important to note that even if you can’t get out in nature for your walk, it still has stress reduction benefits! So if you’re just walking around the block, you still benefit.
If you walk on the treadmill, you may want to put a video on to walk to, which simulates being in a natural environment. It won’t have quite the same effect, but it will help!
3. Improved Joint Health
One of the best things about walking is that it’s a low-impact form of exercise, which means you can get a good workout without increased strain on your joints.
Research shows that those with arthritis may have less pain in their joints when they include walks in their weekly activity.
The study also showed that walkers have less medial joint space narrowing when the cartilage wears away and the space between the two bones gets smaller.
4. Increased Strength and Flexibility
If you’ve moved from a sedentary lifestyle to walking for 60 minutes per day, you can expect some muscle gains! No, you won’t turn into Arnie. But the muscles involved in walking will naturally strengthen as you use them more and more often.
You probably won’t see an increase in muscle size, but you should notice that your muscles don’t fatigue as early in your walk. When you’re often walking, your joints also move through a fuller range of motion than when you’re sedentary.
This extra movement can have a positive effect on your flexibility. You may notice that your range of motion when you’re doing everyday things has increased. This means there will be fewer injury risks as you go about doing everyday tasks.
5. Increased Metabolism
Metabolism refers to how your body uses nutrients to produce energy. When you exercise regularly, your metabolism increases. This doesn’t just mean that the food you eat gets absorbed faster—it also means that your body uses its own fat stores more readily for energy.
As well as burning fat more readily on the same day as exercising, your body’s mechanism for fat burning also improves, so it has long-term effects!
6. Improved Mental Health
Research has shown that “leisure walking” can provide significant mental health benefits in older adults. While leisure walking may differ slightly from walking for exercise, the same effects occur for both.
If you walk with mindfulness, for a purpose, and with a goal in mind, these effects may even be amplified! There’s also likely to be a correlation between increased physical health and better mental health in walkers.
7. Increased Bone Density
There’s ample evidence to show that regular exercise—in particular, walking—can significantly improve bone mineral density in premenopausal women. It’s also been shown to reduce bone loss in osteoporotic individuals.
The better your bone density as you age, the longer you’re able to stay active and mobile without the risk of injury.
8. Improved Blood Sugar Levels
There’s also research to show that walking can lower blood sugar levels. Diabetic or pre-diabetic patients can include walking daily to help manage their blood glucose levels.
Walking within a few minutes after a meal especially can have positive effects, and prevent that spike in blood glucose.
9. Improved Blood Circulation
Walking increases your heart rate, which means that blood flows more easily as the heart pumps it faster through the body.
Improved circulation has numerous benefits, including healthier skin, faster healing, and a boost in cardiovascular health.
10. Improved Sleep
More physical activity equals improved sleep quality! There’s research to show that walking can lead to better sleep, even if you don’t get more sleep.
Sleep is when the body and brain go through multiple processes for everything from memory consolidation to physical healing. Improved sleep, therefore, means improved health!
Can Walking Help You Lose Weight?
It can… If you pair it with a healthy diet. The biggest thing with losing weight is burning more calories than you’re eating because that leaves your body with no choice but to use its own fat stores for energy.
Fill your diet with whole, unprocessed foods, and you should find it easier to burn more calories than you eat while still feeling full.
How Much Weight Can You Lose From Walking 1 Hour a Day?
There’s no simple answer to this question. It depends on the length of time you measure it over and how many calories you burn during each workout. The general consensus is that a deficit of 3,500 calories equals a pound of fat loss.
For example, if you’re burning 300 calories more than you’re eating, you can lose a pound in about 12 days to 2 weeks.
Keep in mind that this is just a general estimate—it depends on a lot of things, like how well-rested you are, if you’re bloated or inflamed due to your food choices, or if you’re retaining water.
It’s important that you don’t undereat to lose more body weight! This calculator will give you an accurate idea of how many calories you should eat for healthy fat loss, so don’t overdo it or you’ll run into health troubles.
How Many Calories Do You Burn?
This depends on your current weight, exercise routine, and your level of intensity. According to Harvard Health, here’s a rough idea of what you can expect when walking for an hour at a pace of 3.5 mph, considered low-intensity, based on your weight:
- 125 pounds: 214 calories per hour
- 135 pounds: 266 calories per hour
- 185 pounds: 308 calories per hour
The exact number will change depending on your weight and how intensely you walk. But this is a good starting point to work from!
How to Get Started Walking an Hour a Day
Follow these tips, and you’ll find walking an hour a day becomes easier every time you do it!
Set Realistic Goals
Consider your fitness level when setting your weight loss goals. You don’t need to power-walk for an hour! You can take it slow—if you only manage a mile or two, that’s perfectly okay. You’ll build up stamina and endurance over time.
If it works better for you, you can split your hour into two 30-minute sessions—one in the morning and one in the evening. While your main goal is one hour of walking, you don’t need to set pace or distance goals initially.
Once you know how far you can walk in an hour—or 30 minutes, depending on your structure—you can start setting distance goals. Aim to increase by around 5 percent every week!
Plan Your Route
Deciding on a set route is a good idea for a few reasons. One, you know any potential hazards along the way, so you can avoid them. Two, you can prepare yourself properly—for example, road vs. trail running shoes, taking water with you vs. stopping at a water fountain on the way, and so on.
Lastly, knowing exactly where you’re going means there’s no decision-making along the way, so you can relax and do what you must!
Walk With a Friend or Family Member
Walking with a friend could be your best bet if you struggle to stay motivated. Not only does it mean something more than just exercise—a chance to chat, catch up, etc—but it also keeps you accountable. You can’t skip your walk if you’re doing it with someone else!
Get Your Walking Gear Together
Ensure you’ve got everything you need for a comfortable walk. This should include:
Comfortable Walking Shoes
Your shoes should support your feet. You should get stability shoes if you’re an overpronator—your feet roll inwards when you step. Otherwise, you can get almost any pair of walking or running shoes as long as they have a good amount of cushioning and feel comfortable.
The walking clothes you wear should be moisture-wicking. Avoid cotton because it holds onto moisture. Instead, choose synthetic fabrics that draw the sweat away from the skin and bring it to the surface to evaporate.
Don’t forget to take water with you on every walk. Staying hydrated is important—you should take sips every few minutes, so you don’t feel thirsty. If you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already dehydrated!
A running belt is a fantastic accessory. You can carry a phone, keys, and even an energy bar in your belt to walk hands-free and comfortably.
Track Your Walks and Progress
Tracking your walks can help you to see progress more easily. You can use a running journal, an app, or a plain notebook. Jot down your distance, the time it took you, and anything else you think may be important.
This could be things like the weather, which shoes you wore, what outfit you wore—important for taking note of when you get blisters or chafing, not just fashion!—and if you have any niggling aches and pains.
There’s no need to go all out when you start. Walk at a comfortable pace initially—there’s no need to set records for pace here! Comfort is key when you start. Once you’re comfortable, you can consider increasing the intensity a little!
Increase Your Pace
Once your walk feels a little too easy, you can gradually increase to a moderate pace. Do this until you’re comfortable to begin walking at a brisk pace. If you have a smartwatch, fitness tracker, or app that tracks your pace, you can monitor this and make sure you’re walking faster than before.
If you don’t, you’ll have to use perceived exertion. Can you hold a conversation while walking? Up the pace to the point where it becomes difficult to get more than a sentence or two out without stopping for breath.
Find Ways to Make It Fun
Some days, motivation can be hard to come by. The key to staying motivated and preventing boredom from sneaking up on you is to make each walk fun!
There are several ways you can do this. Walking with someone else can help. We highly recommend putting together a playlist of some of your favorite songs that motivate you and listening to it while you’re walking. Try bone conduction headphones for the utmost safety and sound quality!
You can also gamify your walks to add to the fun. Give yourself points for each distance you walk and record them in your running journal, with rewards for certain milestones.
Or, play a game while you’re walking by allocating points to different things you might see on the way: 5 points for a green car, 10 points for a husky, 10 points for a woman pushing a stroller, and so on. Extra fun with a friend!
Toast the Small Victories
No milestone is too small to celebrate! Whether you walked further than yesterday, cut a few seconds off your time, or walked for a certain number of days in a row, celebrate your victories.
Celebrate in a healthy way, though! Perhaps you want to treat yourself to a healthy treat, watch an episode of your favorite show, or maybe you want to set yourself specific rewards for each milestone.
Pay Attention to Your Diet
You’ll benefit from walking an hour a day even if you don’t change your diet. But if you want to transform your health, fitness, and body, then you need to make a change in what you consume.
The first step is to eliminate processed foods from your diet. Fill your menu with whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. It may take some time, but this is the best way to supercharge your health and supplement your walking routine.
Make sure you’re eating fewer calories than you’re burning, and you’ll lose weight. You can use apps to keep track of how much you’re eating. Pro tip: use a kitchen scale to measure exact amounts of food rather than measuring spoons!