Walking is an underrated exercise that can have many benefits for those who do it regularly. Even walking shorter periods of time can help everyone who can schedule into their life on a consistent schedule.
Walking a mile a day will benefit you in these ten ways:
- Walking a mile can give you 12 minutes of exercise
- Walking a mile gives you vitamin D for a healthy body
- Walking a mile can create healthier feet
- Walking a mile helps with weight control
- Walking a mile helps you feel better
- Walking a mile improves your digestive process
- Walking a mile can help you relax
- Walking a mile provides pain relief
- Walking a mile changes your heart
- Walking a mile changes your brain
If you’re on the fence about whether to do exercise or not, walking is a great way to start getting some of the benefits of exercise without some of the mental effort that going to the gym may cause for some.
Is One Mile Enough to Benefit Your Health?
Each person is at a different level of physical fitness, but we all can benefit from the power of a brisk walk.
While a mile might not seem like much to some, it can be very beneficial, especially for those getting back into the habit of exercise.
Doctors all seem to agree on one thing… activity is so much more healthy than no activity at all. And that’s exactly what a mile a day can do.
10 Benefits of Walking a Mile Each Day
What are the most important benefits of walking a mile each day? There are so many, but here are some of the top benefits walking a mile can help with.
1. You Get 12 Minutes of Exercise
Does walking count as exercise? Maybe. The goal of exercise is to get the heart pumping a least a bit more than normal.
So, walking a mile for the average person will take 12-15 minutes. But is it exercise?
If you run, that is usually considered vigorous exercise.
On the other hand, walking is a form of light exercise that gets your blood pumping through your body better than just sitting.
How intense your walking exercise depends on your level of fitness and how fast you are walking.
Walking faster so your heart pumps more than average can count as moderate exercise.
You’ll know if it’s moderate exercise when your breathing gets harder. You can “talk but not sing” because you are “puffing slightly.” (https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/)
The American Heart Association recommends that we get “at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity…” (Heart.org)
That’s 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days a week or about 21-22 minutes of exercise if you walk every day.
That means you would need to walk over a mile a day at a quicker pace to reach 150 minutes of exercise each week.
That means if you normally walk 3 mph, you may need to speed it up to 4 mph to get moderate exercise.
At 4 mph, a mile will take 15 minutes. So, if you want to get the recommended 150 minutes of exercise each week, you’ll need a brisk walk of about 1.4-1.46 miles each day.
How Long to Walk Goal Chart
|Minutes of Brisk Walking a Day|
|Number of Miles||Minutes Per Week Walked|
|10 Min.||.66 miles||70 Minutes|
|20 Min.||1.33 miles||140 Minutes|
|21-22 Minutes||1.4-1.46 Miles||150 Minutes|
|30 Min.||2 miles||210 Minutes|
2. You Get Vitamin D for a Healthy Body
Vitamin D is essential for several body functions (video). One of the best reasons to get some sun each day is for an increase in vitamin D.
If you’re eating a healthy diet and or taking supplements, you’re probably getting enough vitamin D in your diet, but “vitamin D deficiencies are shockingly common in the United States.” (health.harvard.edu)
People are wearing more sunscreen and staying inside, which is great because it prevents skin cancer. And while using sunscreen is important, but it does block vitamin D production.
Doctors may sometimes have mixed messages about vitamin D because each person’s situation is so different. So, what’s the solution to getting vitamin D? Moderation.
It’s good to get a few minutes of sunlight each day but avoid too much. Try to avoid walking between 10 am-2 pm and wear protective clothing. (health.harvard.edu)
You may get enough sunlight just by exposing your hands to the sun for about 5-10 minutes while you walk outside each day.
If you walk a mile, you’ll be outside longer than 10 minutes and should have plenty of opportunities to get vitamin D. Just remember to put on sunscreen and wear protective clothing, especially on your head.
An added benefit is that vitamin D can help prevent disease. “The sunshine vitamin may protect against a host of diseases, including osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancers of the breast, prostate, and colon” (health.usnews.com)
3. You Get Healthier Feet
The feet are the foundation of your body. Developing healthy feet will help the rest of your bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles function better.
If you have flat feet or your feet are out of alignment, this may place stress on your feet, knees, hips, and back.
Some people may need a physical therapist to outline a program for stronger feet (article link) before they go walking every day. We don’t want to reinforce negative tendencies our feet may have developed.
If your feet seem fairly in alignment and you are not experiencing joint and muscle pain from walking, then a regular routine of walking can strengthen your feet.
You’ll develop stronger bones and improved balance as you walk consistently each day. Your muscles will start to gain more endurance and strength when walking.
It’s important to find a good walking shoe. What type of shoe depends on your needs.
For general healthy feet, I would recommend a regular walking shoe if you’re just starting to walk regularly. But, I would recommend transitioning slowly to a wide-toe box zero-drop shoe if you have been walking for 3 months already. This type of shoe can help the foot walk more naturally.
Switch the regular walking shoes for the more natural biomechanical movement shoes about 1 time a week. Go slow, but if your foot feels ready, you can add one more day with your more natural foot movement shoes each week or every other week.
After 7-14 weeks, you may have transitioned to your more natural shoes. Remember that walking too much in a more natural shoe at the beginning may stress your foot if it’s not strong enough. So take it slow, when strengthening your feet.
4. Walking a Mile Helps With Weight Control
People who are trying to control their weight know that exercise and keeping active are important to keep weight under control.
It’s not that walking burns calories. According to Verywellfit.com, people who walk a mile burn “100 calories… for a 180-pound person and 65 calories… for a 120-pound person.”
Walking doesn’t do much to burn calories, but it does help you lose weight by helping in other ways.
Walking helps you lose weight by:
- Keeping your mind busy with exercise
- Reducing your desire to eat food with moderate exercise walking
- Increasing or stopping the reduction of muscle mass so you burn more calories
- It makes you thirsty, so you drink more water, which reduces hunger
- Reduces stress, which reduces stress eating
- Over time, walking helps you sleep better (article link). No late-night eating.
- Helps relieve joint stiffness and pain, encouraging more activity during the day
Each time we are active and take time to prepare to fill, but healthy meals, we are increasing our chances of maintaining a healthy weight and losing unwanted pounds.
Little by little is how most people see benefits from year to year.
Can Walking a Mile Get You Thinner Faster Than the Gym?
Your body will burn fast differently as you do different exercises. The National Health Services website nhs.uk says that a 30-minute walk can be better than going to the gym.
We also need to take into consideration all of the reasons behind this before we start deciding to walk for weight loss.
Things to consider when walking for weight loss:
- You need to walk briskly for about 30 minutes. That’s more than a mile for most.
- You need to walk at least 5 day a week.
- It’s going to take time because you might only lose a little each week.
- This study (nhs.uk – article retired) found that it worked best for 50+ year-old women and men.
5. Walking a Mile Helps You Feel Better
Sometimes I will go for a walk, especially when in nature, and just feel better. I tend to focus on the present, listening and seeing all the things around me.
It gives me time a forget about troubles or at least distance them from me. I can gain some perspective on what’s important, what’s best to do, and how I want to handle different situations as I relax into my walk.
Walking helps to release the endorphins so you can feel better(webmd.com). When it seems inconvenient to go on a walk is probably the best time for me to take one. I can refocus and feel better able to handle stressful situations.
A steady release of the beneficial chemicals can occur as you walk a mile each day. According to healthline.com, “Physical activity also stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.”
In my own life, I have noticed that walking has made a difference in my mood.
So if feeling down, I start to feel an improvement in my mood and motivation. Brain changes occur over months and years, so you can’t expect any miracles in a few days.
Although, walking did have some immediate effects on me when I started walking 30 minutes a day. After the walk, I just felt better. I might not have noticed it if I was already felling good, but on those more low days, I definitely felt different, better.
6. Walking a Mile Improves Your Digestive Process
After you’re done eating, you may feel like taking a nap but walking is better. Walking helps move the food through your stomach and can give you relief from gas pain, constipation, and indigestion.
You may see improved sugar level regulation, less heartburn, and less acid reflux. According to Time.com, “blood glucose levels will rise very high” just sitting around, but walking uses “glucose as energy… reducing how much” is in your body.
This is good for diabetics who need to regulate their blood sugar. And it’s healthy for the rest of us to prevent diabetes from becoming an issue.
So when should you go for a walk? It’s best to walk after dinner because our body is most helped during that time. (Time.com)
7. Walking a Mile Helps You Relax
Not only might you feel better, but you can also find yourself relaxing better. One way to do this is using your mind to focus on relaxing things while walking. I often listen to folk music that I find relaxing as I walk. If you can be in the moment, and not focus on yourself, you may find you naturally relax
Another way you might try is to work on relaxing breathing as you walk. Health.harvard.edu says that doing deep breathing can help you feel less stress and “mimic relaxation” which helps you feel relaxed.
One last way you might want to try stretching. Stretching can really help me feel relaxed. In the evening, after dinner, you can walk and get your leg muscles warmed up. In addition, with a little more energy, you can pump your arm while walking to get them warm too.
Finally, you can begin stretching while your muscles are warm. That way, you can get your body relaxed for a good night’s sleep. Walking ensures you have warm muscles to help prevent stretching injuries and may help you feel in a more relaxed mood.
TIP: Try not to eat any food and or caffeinated/sugary beverages so you can get restful sleep.
8. Walking a Mile Gives You Pain Relief
Many people suffer from various conditions that can be improved by walking.
It’s always a good idea to see a doctor if you have joint pain or feel you have an injury. Your pain may be caused by something you weren’t suspecting, like the chair you sit in.
Depending on what is causing pain, walking usually can help relieve pain or at least help on the road to recovery.
The right type of exercise is to keep getting healthier. Consulting a doctor or physical therapist can help you figure out what’s wrong and how best to go about reducing pain and start relieving the conditions that are causing it.
For those suffering from chronic pain, it can be debilitating, but walking might help.
“Those living with the condition usually think moving could only make the pain worse. But researchers said doing a gentle exercise like brisk walking could help alleviate pain by reducing stress, increasing natural opioids in the body, and providing stable joints…” (medicaldaily.com)
For a more in-depth discussion of back pain and how walking can help, see this video. You may also want to read this article from the Mayoclinic about how exercise like walking can help with arthritis pain and get your joints to feel less stiff.
9. Walking a Mile Changes Your Heart
Athletes know that the more they train, the better they get, both in their physical ability and their capacity to exercise for longer periods. This endurance is partly because they have changed their heart into a stronger, more effective muscle.
Your health is always changing slowly from day to day. Over time your body gets stronger or weaker, depending on activity levels.
After a month of walking, you may feel no different but your body has changed… for the better.
Your heart is one of the things that you have changed with little improvements over time. If you walk each day, one day, you’ll notice you really do see a change; it just took time to see it.
Your cardiovascular health will improve over time with moderate-level walks. Some of the improvements that you will see as your heart health improves are:
- longer life
- lower blood pressure
- less risk of cardiovascular disease
- stronger heart
- reduction of stiff arteries
- better blood circulation
- Improvement in diabetic issues
Three Ph.D. authors helped review studies that show, “Evidence from epidemiological studies suggest that even small improvements in the amount of daily walking are better than no walking…” (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
As your heart changes over time, you will see some improvements and be in better health.
10. Walking a Mile Changes Your Brain
Walking a mile a day at a brisk pace can help your brain to undergo changes on the physical level.
According to scientificamerican.com, “Exercise also promotes brain plasticity by stimulating the growth of new connections between cells in many important cortical areas of the brain.”
Anything we persist in doing over and over tends to create the neural pathways that make that behavior easier to do in the future.
That’s why the power of habit is so important in exercise. It may not always be easy at first, but when I’ve exercised consistently over time, it has become much easier to do.
When I started going to the gym, it wasn’t always easy to be consistent about going. I went for years inconsistently.
But then things changed. I made a commitment to go, even if it was for 5 minutes.
I knew I had to make a change if I wanted to go to the gym more often.
“The more often you perform an action or behave a certain way, the more it gets physically wired into your brain.” (Medium.com)
Although it seems like a waste of time to go to the gym, get dressed, and not really exercise, for me it wasn’t.
It was just the thing I needed to start exercising regularly. It was the right decision for me because it helped me to get into the habit of exercise, so it felt easier to do.
When I regularly attend the gym I feel the benefits of the habit I have created. My brain makes exercise easier to do over time.
If you are on the fence and not sure you’re ready to walk each day, try once a week and make it a habit. Then you can add more if you want.
It’s easy not to exercise and say I’ll do it when I feel better or when I am not tired, but sometimes we just need to make it a part of our daily life, so we can’t make an excuse.
Then we will start feeling, sometimes after 2-3 months, a lot of benefits from this healthy habit. I’m happy for you whenever you’ve chosen to make walking a priority in your life because you’ll just feel better over time.
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