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An exercise without a downside

The back-to-basics approach

This article was last updated on June 7, 2022. 

Walking may not be the latest, greatest exercise trend. It's not considered trendy, cool, "sporty" or impressive. In fact, it's considered quite ordinary. That hasn't stopped walking from being the most popular aerobic physical activity External Site. About 6 in 10 adults reported walking for at least 10 minutes in the previous week. And, more than 145 million adults now include walking as part of a physically active lifestyle.

It's for a good reason, too. Walking has an impressive list of health benefits. In fact, a recent study states that if almost all of U.S. adults would add just an extra ten minutes of walking per day, we could prevent a collective 110,000 deaths External Site. In addition, a different study of older adults states that walking boosts brain health External Site

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The walking advantage

Greek physician Hippocrates said it best, "Walking is man's best medicine." Only this medicine doesn't cost a thing.

The list of health benefits attributed to walking keeps growing, as research uncovers more scientific evidence about its benefits. Regular, brisk walking helps you:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Keep energy levels up
  • Elevate your spirits
  • Strengthen memory
  • Improve balance and coordination
  • Prevent and manage various chronic conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
  • Strengthen bones
  • Decrease the risk of some cancers

The faster, farther and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefits.

According to the American Heart Association External Site, it's best to walk vigorously for 30 to 60 minutes three to four times a week. This doesn't have to be all at once. Breaking activity up into smaller intermittent bursts has the same impact as continuous exercise.

You don't have to be speedy to enjoy the health benefits of walking either. Low-to moderate-intensity walking is also beneficial. Even walking for 20 minutes a day at a moderate pace of three miles per hour (a 20-minute mile) has health benefits.

Do's and don'ts of walking

Go outdoors

Nature improves your mood, plus you'll get a more effective workout than if you are indoors on a treadmill. Sidewalks, roads, sand, grass and dirt are never completely level, so your muscles get a better workout. Plus, even the smallest incline or gust of wind increases resistance, which burns more calories. If you must workout indoors, dial up the incline on your treadmill or add bursts of faster movement.

Use a pedometer

Keeping track of your steps increases your physical activity External Site by about 27 percent. That's an extra mile of walking each day. 

Get the right shoe

Visit a reputable running shoe store and have a foot and gait analysis. You'll want lightweight walking sneaks that bend and flex with the rolling actions of a walk. Running shoes tend to be too stiff for walking. Some shoes labeled for "walking" are actually designed for workplace comfort rather than fitness walking. Your best bet is to talk to an expert about what's best for your walking needs.

Leave the weights at home

Walking with weights can be more harmful than helpful. Even light weights are heavy enough that they increase your risk of shoulder injury during a walk.

The three levels of walking

20-minute mile: Walking for your health

Take a stroll. This is a low-intensity but physical exercise. The pace is about three miles per hour, or a 20-minute mile. For a person of average height, this is about 120 steps per minute.

15-minute mile: Walking for weight loss

Brisk walking is generally about a 15-minute mile, the pace of most exercise walkers. You'll be traveling four miles per hour, or about 135 steps per minute for a person of average height. At this rate, you should be breathing noticeably but able to carry on a conversation in full sentences.

12-minute mile: For the advanced walking

For a greater level of aerobic fitness, and to burn more calories, try walking faster. Aerobic walking is typically about a 12-minute mile, or 150 steps per minute.

Looking for more ways to up your activity levels? Whether you're an experienced athlete or just starting to get moving, you're sure to find something for you in the fitness section of Blue.

Blue365® is a discount program available to members who have medical coverage with Wellmark. This is NOT insurance.

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