Walking is often overlooked in our fast-paced world dominated by high-intensity exercise. However, this simple and accessible activity offers a multitude of physical, mental, and emotional benefits. From improving cardiovascular health to reducing stress, walking has the power to transform your health. In this blog, we'll explore the numerous benefits of walking and how you can increase your daily step count with a simple 31-day program.
Benefits of Walking
1. Improves Cardiovascular Health
Walking at a brisk pace increases your heart rate and strengthens your heart, reducing the risk of heart disease.(1)
2. Strengthens Muscles
While it may not build muscles as effectively as weightlifting, walking does engage various muscle groups, toning your legs, glutes, and core.
3. Enhances Endurance
Over time, walking can improve your stamina and endurance, making everyday activities easier.
4. Reduces Stress
5. Improved Memory
Regular physical activity, like walking, has been linked to improved memory and cognitive function.(3)
Walking is easy on the joints and carries a lower risk of injury.
Walking is an exercise that almost everyone can do, regardless of age or fitness level. You do not need any special equipment or gym memberships to go for a walk!
8. Longer Lifespan
Research suggests that people who walk regularly tend to live longer and have a lower risk of chronic disease.(4)
What a list! Honestly, I could go on and on about walking benefits, but let’s stroll over to our Walktober program so you can start to experience these benefits firsthand.
Walktober: 31 Days to Increase Your Daily Steps
Ok, first let’s address the 10,000-step conundrum. Yes, the rumors are true, the 10,000 step rule was not backed up by science when first created. It was actually a marketing ploy for a Japanese pedometer company whose name translated into “10,000 step meter.” However, there have now been many researchers who have done the hard work for us and found the following conclusions
- A greater number of daily steps was associated with lower mortality rates.(5)
- In as few as 4,400 steps a day, benefits of lower mortality rates were observed in comparison to those who hit under 3,000 steps a day.(6)
- In one study that focused on older women, the increase in longevity appeared to level off at 7,500 steps a day, but walking for longer caused no harm.(6)
According to the Mayo Clinic, the average American walks 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day (roughly 1.5 miles), which is under the longevity goal of at least 4,400 steps. So, even though the 10,000-step goal may be made up– there are still benefits to adding to your daily step count. Why not make it a goal?!(7)
The Walktober program is simple. Day one we start with a goal of 1,000 steps which equates to about 0.4 -0.5 mile, depending on stride length. This is low compared to the average step count, but as an all-levels program, it’s important to start off at a manageable goal and build from there gradually. Each day you will add 300 steps, which equates to about 0.13-0.15 miles or 2-4 minutes of walking depending on speed. Each week you are adding about a mile to your distance.
Below is a calendar for October. Use this to track your progress and keep you motivated! If you miss a day or feel like you need a rest day – don’t worry, just try to hit the step count of whichever day you are on when you resume.
If you are an advanced walker and already hit close to 10,000 steps a day, you can use the same calendar to challenge yourself to add a few extra steps each day! Consider adding 100 steps a day and achieve an overall goal of 13,000 steps.
Now that we have our step goal – how can we add more steps to each day?
Easy Ways to Add to Your Daily Step Count
1. Park Further Away
Most of our daily travel now happens in a seated position (i.e., car, train, bus). However, you can add 300 steps to your daily count in no time by parking a block or two away from your destination. The trip to and from your car will easily get you the steps you need!
2. Pace While Brushing Your Teeth
I love habit-stacking, and as the daughter of a dentist, I feel it is my daughter-duty to help with your mouth hygiene as well! Since you are already brushing your teeth twice a day, you can add extra steps by pacing or marching in place while you brush. Healthy gums and a healthy heart, win-win!
3. Wake Up and Walk
Starting your day with a short walk around the block not only helps you reach your step count but will also help reduce joint stiffness and aid digestion by encouraging you to drink water first thing in the morning.
4. Walk and Talk
Have a good friend at work? Need to catch up with mom? Go for a walk while talking – not only does it make the exercise go by faster, but it helps us connect with others. We are social beings, and connecting with loved ones gives us a sense of belonging and purpose, contributing to increased longevity.
5. Tidy Up
You can get up to 125 steps in a minute of household cleaning(8) – who’s ready for a fall closet reset?!
6. Active Hobbies
Adding exercise can feel like a job, but that’s because of the common misconception that exercise only happens at a gym, studio class, or following intense trainers on TV. These are all great options, but we often forget that many of the hobbies we love can also add to our step count. Mini-golf, bowling, frisbee, and roller skating are some of my favorite active hobbies – what are yours?
7. Love Your Pet
Whether it’s a walk, a game of fetch, or creating TikTok content with your pet – it all counts as physical activity! Don’t have a pet? Playing games with your kids, or a group of friends works too.
Need a little extra motivation? Sunny Health and Fitness is here for you!
Steps with Sunny
Download the SunnyFit® App
Get access to FREE guided walks and workouts. Yes, FREE!
Join the Nightmare on Sunny Street – Halloween Challenge
Follow along with our coaches in these spooky-fun treadmill workouts where the goal is to escape the zombie apocalypse! Or maybe, you are a zombie? Stay tuned to find out!
Check Out Our Treadmills and Mini-Steppers
This under-the-desk treadpad is perfect for a small office or at-home space – get your steps in while on those hour-long conference calls!
The mini-steppers is an amazing, space-saving piece of cardio equipment. Follow workouts on the SunnyFit® App for extra motivation or step for a few minutes a day to add your daily 300 steps!
One Final Step
Walking is a simple yet powerful way to improve your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It's a low-impact, accessible exercise that can be easily incorporated into your daily routine. Whether you prefer solitary walks in nature or lively strolls with friends, the benefits of walking are undeniable. So, lace up your sneakers, step outside, and start experiencing the transformative power of this underrated exercise. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
1. Paul T. Williams and Paul D. Thompson. Walking Versus Running for Hypertension, Cholesterol, and Diabetes Mellitus Risk Reduction. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, April 4 2013 DOI: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.112.300878. Accessed 28 September 2023
2. University of Michigan Health System. (2014, September 23). Walking off depression and beating stress outdoors? Nature group walks linked to improved mental health. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2023 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140923121413.htm. Accessed 28 September 2023
3. University of Maryland. (2023, May 25). Study finds brain connectivity, memory improves in older adults after walking. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2023 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/05/230525135932.htm. Accessed 28 September 2023
4. University of Utah Health Sciences. (2015, April 30). Walking an extra two minutes each hour may offset hazards of sitting too long. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2023 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150430170715.htm. Accessed 28 September 2023
5. Saint-Maurice, P. F., Troiano R. P., Bassett, D. R., et al. (2020) Association of Daily Step Count and Step Intensity With Mortality Among US Adults. JAMA. 323(12), 1151–1160. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.1382. Accessed 28 September 2023
6. Lee, I. M., Shiroma, E. J., Kamada, M., Bassett, D. R., Matthews, C. E., & Buring, J. E. (2019). Association of Step Volume and Intensity With All-Cause Mortality in Older Women. JAMA internal medicine, 179(8), 1105–1112. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.0899. Accessed 28 September 2023
7. Mayo Clinic (n.d.) (2023, March) 10,000 steps a day: Too low? Too high? https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/10000-steps/art-20317391#:~:text=The%20average%20American%20walks%203%2C000,a%20day%20every%20two%20weeks. Accessed 28 September 2023
8. Choi, B., Pak, A., Choi, J., & Choi, E. (2007). Daily Step Goal of 10,000 Steps: A Literature Review. Clin Invest Med. 30 (3), e146-e151. https://cimonline.ca/index.php/cim/article/view/1083/931. Accessed 28 September 2023