What Walking for Just 20 Minutes Does to Your Body, Says Science
It's the simplest workout you can do, but that doesn't make it any less effective. Heading out for a daily walk—even if it's as short as 20 minutes—offers a range of benefits that impact your mind, your heart, your muscles, and ultimately your lifespan. After all, as Robert Sallis, M.D., a physician and sports medicine doctor with Kaiser Permanente, explained to Consumer Reports: "Walking is the most studied form of exercise, and multiple studies have proven that it's the best thing we can do to improve our overall health, and increase our longevity and functional years."
Not sold yet? Read on, because here are just some of the things that happen to your body when you choose to take a 20-minute stroll every day. (Remember: To maximize the health benefits, make it a brisk walk.) And for more knowledge to help you get the most out of your walk, make sure you're avoiding the Major Mistakes You Shouldn't Make While Walking, Say Experts.
Your body will burn up to 110 calories.
A brisk 20-minute walk should take you roughly one mile and require you to walk somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 steps, resulting in a calorie burn of roughly 90 to 110 calories. (Every walk, know that you're essentially burning the equivalent of a bag of Lay's potato chips!) By making sure that you'll walking briskly, your heart will kick into gear to increase your blood flow to your muscles, and you'll maximize your calorie burn. Over time, the resulting benefits will include better cardiovascular health, better cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and less inflammation. And for more reasons why you should walk more every day, make sure you're aware of the One Major Side Effect of Sitting on the Couch Too Much, Says New Study.
You'll instantly reduce your risk of death.
A big study published in 2015 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a brisk 20-minute walk every day could reduce your risk of death by upwards of 30%. Among the participants of the study, those who lived otherwise sedentary lives and simply adopted a short daily walk experienced the most dramatic benefit of all of the groups studied. "The greatest reductions in all-cause mortality risk were observed between the inactive and the moderately inactive groups across levels of general and abdominal adiposity," conclude the researchers, "which suggests that efforts to encourage even small increases in activity in inactive individuals may be of public health benefit."
In other words, simply getting off the couch for a short walk has a major impact on your lifespan. And don't forget to sign up for our newsletter to get the latest wellness news delivered straight to your inbox!
You'll get boost of energy
According to research by the University of Georgia and published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, going for a 20-minute walk for just three days a week for six weeks can result in 20% more energy levels and less feelings of fatigue.
You'll feel more creative and imaginative.
A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports says you should walk for the sake of enhanced creativity. What's more, the more you walk, the more creative you'll be. "The most active of the volunteers proved to be also the most creative, especially if they often walked or otherwise exercised moderately," explained The New York Times. Bonus: The study also noted that the more active you are, the more likely it is you'll be a happier person overall. Win-win!
You'll Sleep Better
"A brisk walk, bike ride, or a few rounds of bodyweight exercises can do the trick [enhancing your sleep], as long as you're doing it for at least 20 to 25 minutes a day," Dana Santas, C.S.C.S., E-RYT, a top trainer, professional sports mind-body coach, and health contributor for CNN, recently told the network.
You'll shut off your weight-promoting genes.
You'll have to go farther on foot to reap the full benefits of this one, but according to a major study from 2011 of 7,740 women and 4,564 men, a research team led by the Department of Nutrition at Harvard's School of Public Health found that "a brisk one-hour daily walk" can actually reduce your body's genetic "influence toward obesity."
The study found that sitting and watching TV for up to two hours every day actually exacerbated the effects of your obesity-relevant genes by up to a quarter. One hour on foot, meanwhile, provide to be the equivalent of turning those genes off. And for more great fitness advice, make sure you know The Single Most Effective Way to Work Out Every Day, Say Psychologists.