Skip to content

Secret Side Effects of Walking Just 15 Minutes a Day, Says Science

Impressed?

You can do a lot with just 15 minutes. You can make breakfast, watch most of a sitcom episode (with commercials), and yes, even improve your health. How do you do the latter, you ask? By taking a walk, of course.

Walking, ICYMI, has been linked to all kinds of health benefits, like better heart health, improved brain function and mood, and more. It's a trainer favorite for a reason. "[Walking is] a great form of cardio fitness that is easier on joints than say running, or anything that you pound on the ground with, like high-intensity exercises," Lisa Herrington, an ACSM-certified personal trainer and founder of FIT House Davis, previously told ETNT.

But while many people fixate on the 10,000 steps a day benchmark (which, by the way, is kind of a myth), you can still reap many of those benefits for your health with a much shorter walk. A 15-minute walk, to be precise. Don't believe me? Here are some of the perks you can expect from taking just a short stroll around the block. And for more time-effective fitness intel, don't miss: Secret Side Effects of Exercising 10 Minutes a Day, Says Science.

1

It can improve your mood

Smiling young man carrying woman on his back and laughing outdoors
Shutterstock

Bad day at work? Reset with a short walk. An older study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that walking for 10 to 15 minutes helps people become calmer and more relaxed. A more recent 2016 study from the journal Emotion found that as little as 10 to 12 minutes of walking helped improve people's moods. This was true even when study participants didn't expect to enjoy the activity after the walk—in this case, writing a two-page essay about what they'd seen on their walk. With that in mind, consider taking a walk before a dreaded meeting with your manager, rather than after. Read more: Secret Side Effects of Walking After Dinner, Says Science.

2

You'll be more creative

author at home writing in journal
Shutterstock

Walking really does boost your creative juices, so to speak. A 2014 study from Stanford University published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology had people walk or sit in different conditions (like walking outside on a treadmill or sitting inside facing a blank wall) for five to 16 minutes at a time. After these sessions, participants would be judged on their creative output through different kinds of tests. The researchers found that walking (indoors or outdoors) improved "the generation of novel yet appropriate ideas" (aka creative thinking) better than sitting did.

"This isn't to say that every task at work should be done while simultaneously walking, but those that require a fresh perspective or new ideas would benefit from it," co-author Marily Oppezzo, PhD, said in a press release. Want more walking intel? Check out: Secret Side Effects of Walking on the Beach, Says Science.

3

You'll live longer

older mature happy couple at table eating drinking
Shutterstock

A 15-minute walk might not seem like it can do much of anything, but those minutes may add up to a longer life. A 2017 study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people who walked just two hours per week (which is slightly more than 15 minutes per day) had a lower risk of death than people who didn't get any movement at all. It just goes to show that every little bit of exercise counts.

4

You'll sneak in some extra steps

walking
Shutterstock

Again, 15 minutes of walking can really add up to your step goals. If you're walking at an average of 100 steps per minute (an ideal pace for health, according to the New York Times), a 15-minute walk will add up to 1500 steps. For more vigorous walkers, that'll be more like 1950 steps—not shabby at all. If you're aiming for a research-backed 7,500 to 8,000 steps a day, a short 15-minute jaunt can help you get there.

A short, vigorous walk can also burn extra calories. Per Harvard Health, a 155-pound person going 3.5 mph will burn about 67 calories in 15 minutes. Make your walk go uphill and you'll use even more. Read more: The Secret Fitness Trick for Walking Better Starting Now, Say Experts.

Jessie Van Amburg
Jessie Van Amburg is a freelance writer and editor who has covered health, nutrition, and lifestyle topics for top media outlets including Women's Health Magazine, TIME.com, and Well+Good. Read more
Filed Under