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One Secret Side Effect of Walking You Never Knew, Says Study

If you walk with purpose—and commute by foot—you’ll go faster and feel so much better about your life.
FACT CHECKED BY Alex Daniel
Businesswoman is walking to work in the city. She is holding a coffee cup and is talking on the phone.

If you believe in Occam's Razor, you'll agree that the simplest explanation is usually the best one. If you apply its logic to finding the right exercise routine for a healthier, longer life, the answer isn't necessarily doing complex training sets, ramping up your speed training drills, trying your hand at cryotherapy, or performing hundreds of hours of total-body HIIT circuits every single week. (Though we're sure all of those are terrific.) It's likely just walking more.

After all, walking more every day is the single easiest way you can burn more calories, bolster your heart health, and add years to your life. Further benefits include building more self-esteem, allowing yourself to let go of toxic thoughts, enhancing your sleep, and becoming a better, more creative, and healthier decision maker. (For more on the incredible things that happen when you walk more, see here.)

But for all we know about walking, there's always new research emerging, and one recent study delving into the benefits of walking more caught our eye. So read on for yet another benefit to walking more that you've likely never heard before. And if you love nothing more than to walk, make sure you're aware of The Secret Cult Walk Shoe That Walkers Everywhere Are Obsessed With.

1

Studying the Effects of Walking for Different Reasons

Young woman listening to music and walking in the park

A study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University's Knowlton School of Architecture and published in the Journal of Transport and Health looked at the link between "walking for different reasons" and how those who walked for different reasons perceived their own health.

"Positive effects of walking on health has led to a growing number of studies in public health and transportation planning fields," notes to the study. "[And] these studies reveal the associations between socio-economic factors, built environment, and health outcomes. However, the effects of walking for various trip purposes on health have often been glossed over. We explore the effects of various trip purposes on individuals' self-assessed health status with a focus on walking trips."

The study focused on data provided by the 2017 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS), which provides information on more than 125,000 adults, all between the ages of 18 and 64. The researchers focused on these reasons for walking: walking to and from work, for shopping, for recreation, and other "home-based and non-home-based trips." And for more great walking advice, see here for The Secrets to Walking Your Way to a Longer Life, Say Experts.

2

If You Walk With Purpose, You'll Walk Faster

Business man using mobile phone walking in city street commuting to work with blazer and messenger bag texting on smartphone. Young businessman urban lifestyle.

If you're walking with a clear purpose in mind—"especially walking to get to work"—you'll actually walk faster. "We found that walking for utilitarian purposes significantly improves your health, and that those types of walking trips are easier to bring into your daily routine," said Gulsah Akar, an associate professor of city and regional planning in The Ohio State University Knowlton School of Architecture.

According to their data, those who commuted by foot walked at an average of 2.7 miles-per-hour, while those who walked for "recreational purposes"—such as "an after-dinner stroll"—walked at 2.55mph.

As we've reported at ETNT Mind+Body, walking faster—and making your walks brisk—is the single most important way to walk yourself to better health. "Fast walkers can live up to 20 years longer," Tom Yates, Ph.D., MSc, BSc, a professor at the UK's University of Leicester, told The Daily Mail recently. "It improves cardiovascular fitness, which is a measure of how efficient your heart is, and your ability to utilize oxygen, which is an indicator of fitness."

According to a study conducted by researchers at The University of Sydney and published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine, the faster a person walks on average, the lower their risk of both all-cause mortality and death linked to heart disease. And for some great ways to get more out of your daily walks, see here for 4 Amazing Ways to Lose Weight While Walking for Just 20 Minutes, According to a Top Trainer.

3

If You Walk With Purpose, You Feel Healthier, Too

woman walking to work in london

The study conducted by researchers at Ohio State relied on self-reported health-assessments, and it also found that those who walked with purpose on their commute were also far likely to view their physical fitness and health in a more positive light.

The researchers "found that an additional 10 minutes of walking per trip from home for work-based trips—say, from a person's house to the bus stop 10 minutes away—increased that person's odds of having a higher health score by 6 percent compared with people who walk for other reasons," explains the study's release. "People who walked from home for reasons not connected to work, shopping or recreation were 3 percent more likely to have a higher health score."

4

It's a Win-Win for Walkers

Portrait of lovely brunette walking up the stair, view from above
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In short: If you commute—at least partially (like, say going to a bus or subway stop)—you'll walk faster, get a nice workout, and you'll feel better about your health. "That means going to a gym or a recreation center aren't the only ways to exercise," Akar notes. "It's an opportunity to put active minutes into our daily schedules in an easy way." And if losing weight is your goal, don't miss The Secret to Walking Your Way to a Lean Body, Say Experts.

William Mayle
William Mayle is a UK-based writer who specializes in science, health, fitness, and other lifestyle topics. Read more
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