Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
7 Jan

17 Reasons to Walk More This Year

FootprintsEven though some of you may be tired of me saying this, it needs saying. I say this a lot because it’s important: you need to walk more. In fact, if there’s one New Year’s resolution I think everyone should make, it would be to walk more. Many of you made this the centerpiece for your 2014 plans, many did not, figuring you already do enough. Nope. No one really walks as much as they should, though. That small subset of my readers who do walk enough should still read this post if only to fortify their resolve.

Why do I hammer home this point so often, anyway?

There are a few main reasons why I’m so fond of walking, also known as moving frequently at a slow pace. First, it’s all-inclusive. Absent debilitating injury or infirmity, everyone can walk. No excuses (unless you have one).

Second, the necessary equipment is right down there. See those bizarre appendages underneath you? That’s what you walk with. See that horizontal surface stretching into the horizon? That’s what you walk on.

Third, it’s the foundation for good health and makes life better. It’s this last point that brings me to the meat of today’s post: all the ways in which walking enhances our life.

Let’s go:

It keeps your buttocks engaged with the world.

A wise man once said that excessive sitting causes glute inactivation and atrophy. This is true, but it’s not like simply standing is enough to keep them strong and engaged. You have to walk, and walk often. To make sure the way you walk is actually activating your glutes, place your hands on each glute. You should feel your glute tense up a bit with each footfall as it accepts the load, and that same glute should tense up even more when you push off to take another step so that your hand gets a little “pushback.” Gallivant around like this, making sure each glute is working. Those buttocks! Ne’er-do-wells, the lot of ‘em if you give ‘em half a chance!

It modestly reduces body fat.

Walking isn’t going to get you shredded, ripped, cut, or yoked. It might not be as brutally and mechanistically effective on a minute for minute basis as other forms of exercise, but frequent walking will help anyone with two functioning legs and hip and knee joints that allow movement who would otherwise meld into the couch lose some body fat. That’s pretty cool, I think.

It improves glycemic control, especially after meals.

Just 15 minutes of walking after eating improved the blood glucose control in older people with poor glucose tolerance. Try to keep the walk as close to the meal as possible to aid in weight loss.

It improves triglyceride levels and lowers blood pressure, especially after meals.

Whether short (ten 3-minute bouts of brisk walking) or longer (one 30-minute bout of brisk walking), briskly walking after a meal lowers postprandial blood pressure and triglyceride levels.

It might help you live longer if you do it briskly (or at least presages a longer life, if not causes it).

A recent study of over 7000 male and 31000 female recreational walkers found that walking intensity predicted mortality risk. Those who walked the fastest tended to die the least. It’s important to note that this wasn’t an interventional study where walkers were coached to walk faster; this was just looking at the relationship between natural walking speed and mortality risk, so naturally slow walkers who resolve to increase their speed may not see the same relationship – but it certainly can’t hurt!

It’s well tolerated by people with arthritis (and could even improve their condition).

Arthritis patients have it tough on the exercise front. They won’t get any better avoiding exercise, but exercise tends to hurt. What to do? Walk. Walking is gentle, particularly if you perform it with proper form. And one study even found that walking (and weight lifting) improves balance in older adults with osteoarthritis.

It’s good for your brain.

Walking does much more than work the area underneath your neck. It also has extensive cognitive benefitsimproving memory in seniorscognitive control and academic performance in preadolescents (especially those who need it most), and (when done outdoors) boosting creativity in the young and healthy. The farther an older person can walk in six minutes, the better he or she performs on memory and logic tests; folks who perform poorly on the walking test tend to have reduced grey matter volume in certain sections of their brains. Aristotle’s famed tendency to walk as he taught students suddenly makes sense.

It reduces stress.

What do I do when I need to get away from a particularly stressful day in “civilization”? Go for a walk, preferably in a natural setting. For me, it’s the beach or the Malibu hills. For others, it might be the woods or even a park. Sure enough, going for a walk in the woods is a surefire way to lower cortisol.

It reduces stress even when it doesn’t.

A recent study examined the effect of forest walking on stress in young adults, finding that although chromogranin A (a biomarker of stress) increased, the subjects reported reductions in subjective perceptions of stress (which, remember, may matter more than “objective” markers). 

It boosts immune function.

Several lines of evidence point to the benefits of walking on the immune system. First, a “mere” 30 minute walk increases killer T-cells and other markers of immune function. Second, among free-living Japanese elderly, higher daily step counts correlate with improved mucosal immunity. Finally, among postmenopausal women involved in a walking training program, the normally deleterious immune effects associated with menopause were ameliorated.

It prevents falls in the elderly.

Walking on uneven, natural ground like hiking trails, improves balance and reduces falls in the elderly. “Walking programs,” which usually have elderly patients walking indoors or on treadmills as briskly as they can handle do not appear to work very well. Slow, unsteady, and meandering walks appear to be better. Don’t wait until you’re already at risk of falling, though. The earlier you start habitually walking, the better your ability to navigate the land without falling will be.

It gives you a chance to think.

When we walk, we think. And because walking is a low-difficulty endeavor, we can direct our executive functioning to more internal matters. We work through problems, come up with ideas, replay conversations, scheme, ruminate, and discover solutions. Or maybe we just think about that funny dog we saw on the way to work the other day. That’s a worthy subject, too.

It can be a kind of meditation.

Meditation is a foreign concept for many Westerners; we know about it, but we don’t know it. Even when we want to try it, having read about the benefits, we can’t quite muster the will to sit still for twenty, thirty minutes at a time. Enter the walking meditation. Do it formally, or just go for a walk and let your mind tune out from all the chatter. You’ll feel better either way.

It improves meetings.

Regular old seated meetings can be tedious, yawn-inducing beasts, even when the people and subject matter involved are interesting. Walking meetings, which are exactly what it sounds like, are growing more commonplace in the business world, and I couldn’t be happier. Seth Roberts found that replacing his seated student/teacher meetings with walking meetings was refreshing and invigorating.

It’s in your blood.

Your distant ancestors didn’t develop horribly calloused knuckles and brave savannah predators just so you could sit at the computer and devolve into an immobile blob. You come from a long and storied line of walkers. Keep the tradition alive!

It’s in your genes.

This one sounds similar to the last one, but it’s different. What I mean by “it’s in your genes” is your genes “expect” you to move around a lot at a slow pace, and walking affects how your genes are expressed. Walking has been shown, for example, to positively affect the genes responsible for fat and carbohydrate metabolism in skeletal muscle, to reduce inflammatory gene expression in adipose tissue, and to lower oxidative and inflammatory gene expression pathways in older adults.

It enables recognition of the felt presence of immediate experience.

When you drive, you can’t really focus on all the interesting stuff occurring in the world around you. Outside of what’s happening on the road, you shouldn’t focus on what’s occurring around you when you drive. Even riding a bike you tend to get tunnel vision. Walking on the other hand offers infinite chances for engagement with the outside world. See a rose? When you’re walking, you can stop and smell it. See a little path on the side of the trail heading somewhere cool? If you were driving, you’d have whizzed right past it. We all need a little more presence in our lives, and walking enables it.

As you can see from the bulk of the evidence I’ve just presented, walking can have a powerful effect on your health – and it doesn’t take very much of it. Most studies showing the benefits have people walk for ten, fifteen, thirty minutes at a time. That’s a lunch break. That’s parking in the last lot. That’s taking a quick jaunt around the block. That’s stealing a few moments away from your desk. It’s doable, people. You just have to do it.

That’s it for today, guys. Now it’s your turn. Do you walk every day? Do you walk “enough”? Do you plan on walking more this year? Tell me why, tell me why not, or just tell me how walking has enriched your life. Thanks for reading!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I think I walk enough. I work at a skilled nursing facility and I’m a Physical Therapist Assistant. I run (sometimes literally) up and down the halls all day, and make all my patients walk, if they can, as much as they can on and as many different surfaces as they can. I’ve had patients say, “You’re walking my butt off!” To which I say, “You’re welcome, it’s the most functional thing we can do in PT.” After doing that 8-9 hours per day, I go home and either walk or run sprints. I live right across the street from an 8 acre city park and in a highly walkable neighborhood, so I take full advantage. I even do this in the summer when it’s 115 here near Phoenix. In the winter months when it’s gorgeous outside, I hike/trail run 7-10 miles once a week on top of the rest of the walking. The only days I don’t get outside and walk are the 3 days per year it rains here!

    I just want to add, Happy New Year to you and your great staff! I wish your New Year’s resolution was to publish my success story, I was told in October 2013 it was going to be put on the site but I haven’t seen it yet! :)

    Jen wrote on January 7th, 2014
    • My bad, it was October 2012!

      Jen wrote on January 7th, 2014
  2. I walk half an hour to and from work most days. Great way to unwind by the time I get home.

    Lyn wrote on January 7th, 2014
  3. Mark, this is such amazing timing !!!!

    Have been trying to pysch myself into just getting out a regular basis but was thinking that I’d be better off trying to run or jog. After reading your list I think I’m waaaaaay more likely to just get out and walk and I’m going to be happier doing it….

    thank you :)

    longtallsally wrote on January 7th, 2014
  4. haha. I like the idea of walking around with my hands on my butt so I can feel my glutes engaging :)

    I didn’t know that tip about walking immediately after a meal… definitely something I want to try out in the next few weeks

    Camille wrote on January 7th, 2014
  5. I walk 15-20 miles per week, but you are right…it only has a modest effect on body fat. So I started walking with a weight vest. I’m at 42 pounds right now. I highly recommend it.

    Jenny wrote on January 7th, 2014
  6. Nice beach pic. A shovel and will have to do for now, for me. Unless I want to snowshoe on over to walmart and climb the snow mountain.

    j wrote on January 7th, 2014
  7. I live with my 89 year old, ridiculously healthy grandmother, and she walks all the time. It’s definitely not her diet keeping her healthy, she subsists on low fat, fake sugar microwave dinners and canned soup. But she is incredibly positive and happy and walks all the time. She had a physical today and her doc told her she was “too healthy.”

    Ginger wrote on January 7th, 2014
  8. Nice beach pic. Shoveling will do for now. Sometimes I want to climb the snow pile at Wal-Mart… :)

    j wrote on January 7th, 2014
    • Oops… It did post.

      j wrote on January 7th, 2014
      • lol.. sometimes I do!

        Animanarchy wrote on January 11th, 2014
  9. I usually walk every day, about 1h30 outdoor all in all (not counting indoor sporadic walking). I sometimes mix it with a short run just for the fun or when I am late (not that I feel very much stressed by being late, I have a reputation for it which is well accepted). So yeah, I do my share of walking. I don’t own a car so that helps as well :)

    La Frite wrote on January 8th, 2014
  10. Those of us who live near a Wegmans store can pick up a Wegmans Passport. Each contains a set of hiking trail maps for the local town or region. Each trail has a marker – rub the marker with a pencil on the appropriate page in your Passport. Bring the Passport in to the town hall, get a Wegmans coupon and sometimes a prize like a water bottle.

    I did four towns last year, over 31 trails. Discovered some lovely trails (and some not so lovely), and some spots to come back to for wild blackberries and milkweed.

    It may not be Ingress, but it’s fun in its own way, and motivation to hike new trails.

    framistat wrote on January 8th, 2014
  11. Walking more is indeed one of my New Years Resolutions. Like many people that commented I’m not one for cold weather walking, however I have a new dog and have been forcing myself to do it. I try to get about 3 miles a day. Having said that however I have not been walking in a few days as it very beyond freezing out. I’m just glad it seems to be getting back to “normal” cold here in Kentucky. One guy around me actually broke out of prison on Sunday, and then turned himself in to the police the next day to get out of the cold. HA.

    David Birney wrote on January 8th, 2014
  12. Great article! I’ve often wondered if it would be fun and primal to take a 15-20 minute walk BEFORE each meal – a way to kind of simulate the effort we used to have to expend in order to hunt/gather food. Plus it might help differentiate the ‘munchies’ from true hunger, i.e. “are you hungry enough to go for a 20 minute walk in order to eat?’ However, I like the studies you mentioned about a 15 minute walk after in reference to blood glucose so maybe I’ll try that instead.

    jenny wrote on January 8th, 2014
  13. If you have a hard time keeping yourself motivated, here’s a tip: get a paper-route!

    I get up each morning at 5:30, walk out the door, pick up my papers (delivered to the front porch), and get to work. By 7:00 I’m back home: alert and ready for breakfast. I suppose I could pay money each month for a gym membership, but why should I pay for the opportunity to exercise when there are companies willing to pay ME to do it? The few hundred extra dollars I earn each month is just a nice added bonus to all the benefits of walking.

    90 minutes of walking each morning, 6 days a week, with NO excuses!

    nlp wrote on January 8th, 2014
  14. Thanks for your list, Mark! Just the motivation I need at this point in my Primal journey.

    The hardest part for me is just getting out the door. I have to remind myself of how much better I’ll feel afterward. Once I have my jeans and Nikes on I’m good to go.

    Right now I walk down to the beach (20 mins.) most evenings to watch the sunsets but know I need to increase my efforts.

    Thanks again & Happy New Year! :)

    Darlene, San Francisco, CA wrote on January 8th, 2014
  15. Thank u Mark for this article, during my LCHF journey these last 2 yrs I have been educating myself on the best exercise program. Needless to say walking was not a high point from what I read. In 2012 we were gearing up for a trip to AU & we knew there would b a lot of walking so we started a few months ahead in addition to swimming everyday. Needless to say on our 2nd day there we walked from the Rocks to the Opera House then thru the botanical garden into the city & back to the Rocks! To my surprise I didn’t die right then & there & my daughter was so surprised we could do it! Aussies walk a ton especially in the city. So we continued our new habit when we got home. Too bad my habit didn’t stick to b more religious. This article will motivate me to get out more! But at least I know I can do it…

    Missymonypenny wrote on January 8th, 2014
  16. It amazes me how many people have a 13.1 or 26.2 sticker on their car. There is a reason why the original marathoner, Pheidippides, died after he delivered the victory message.

    One of my med school classmates, a very petite Pakistani girl, completely smashed the knee cartilage in both of her knees after running almost daily for a couple of years. Not to mention endurance sports give you cardiomyopathy, can cause arrhythmias and even heart block.

    Walking is so human, we were meant for it. Born to run? Nope. Born to sprint, and short distances for sure.

    paleocrush wrote on January 8th, 2014
  17. I have another one, Mark! I read about a year ago that in a study of the super old (people older than 110), the one thing researchers could find that they had in common was a daily walk. Some had smoked, drank, and ate a lot, while some were abstemious. The walk seemed to be the unifying factor.

    Jane wrote on January 8th, 2014
  18. Would this work if I have a treadmill at work? Instead of sitting at my desk, I can take an iPad as I can work off it rather than my notebook and walk while attending to emails and stuff. Doable? I also need to make rounds around the production facility so that’s more walking.

    I read in the PB Fitness part that we have to walk 3 to 5 hours (?) a day with the exception of sprint days, is this set in stone? I mean, if I do this much on a treadmill, I can get my quota for the day? I’m thinking this is the only way I can get this much walking in a day.

    I appreciate thoughts and comments any of you have. Thanks.

    Randy wrote on January 8th, 2014
    • Randy,

      PBF says 3-5 hours a week of moving frequently at a slow pace, not per day. Hopefully that’s a huge relief to you! :)

      Jered wrote on January 26th, 2014
  19. I am currently walking the entire length if the Trans Canadian highway. Started at st johns, Newfoundland and am currently at Seal Bay, Newfoundland.
    Jawbone Up measures my distance so I don’t have to.
    Just a virtual game but I enjoy plotting where I am on google maps and it motivates me to walk more…am even getting my boss in on my after lunch walks…

    Gary wrote on January 8th, 2014
  20. I’ve been walking to an from work (total round trip of 8 Km) the last 4 days so this was a very encouraging article that I’m doing a good thing.

    Adam Collings wrote on January 9th, 2014
  21. A number of years ago in my thirties I began to walk with the goal being to lose weight. I was amazed by the comments I got after a very short time period maybe a month or two. I only lost 5 pds but by the comments I got, you would have thought I had lost 30 pds. It totally changed by body for the better. This was after having 3 children. Thanks for the encouragment – I’m starting again!!!

    Toni Harper wrote on January 9th, 2014
  22. Every morning, i put on a pedometer and try to get 10k steps (5Miles) a day. When the weather is nice, I usually do 12k and up to 17k a day working around the ranch. I work from a home office and get up as much as possible during the work day. The pedometer keeps me on track to keep moving. Unfortunately, I’m allergic to the cold so have to get on the tread mill when it’s below 40 degrees. Does anyone know of a good pedometer wrist watch?

    bamboo wrote on January 9th, 2014
  23. I walk miles sometimes for free food. Today I got 500g of both 100% dark chocolate and almond flour. Food bank boxes near the entrances to stores occasionally contain healthy fare bagged/boxed and ready to go, or semi-healthy fare such as baby formula (as do some hospitals). This morning I went on a restaurant run to pick up bagels and coffees for people in exchange for some Old Toby.
    The government is taking too long calculating how much they owe me for being certified crazy since the disability pension application went in so I’ve been working for my bonuses.

    Animanarchy wrote on January 9th, 2014
    • Also picked up a little bottle of Angostura this morning and tried a few drops. It tastes pretty good. I think I detect nutmeg. I was expecting it to be much more bitter like wormwood.

      Animanarchy wrote on January 10th, 2014
      • Got busted yesterday for trying to get Millionaire’s sardines in olive oil. I talked the cops into giving me a promise-to-appear for court by telling them they were for healing purposes (need protein, omega 3 and other nutrients to help my hand wound) and by doing some handstand pushups off the cop car to show them that though I sounded inebriated, I had my wits about me. I told them to look up MDA.

        Animanarchy wrote on January 11th, 2014
  24. I had a great primal moment on my walk this morning. I’ve been IF’ing to drop the last of my grad school weight, delaying my first meal until after 11. I took my “morning constitutional” at 10, and passed a kumquat tree that was heavy with ripe fruits. My analytical brain said, “it’s not 11 yet! Don’t take in calories until 11!” while my Grok brain said, “yum.” I went with Grok, grabbed a few of the delicious fruits and munched them as I walked. It was so pleasurable and simple!

    Emily wrote on January 10th, 2014
  25. I’d love any suggestions on how to get walking more. I live and work in a rough neighborhood, and it’s just too risky to walk around by myself. Even in daylight. Moving is out of the question, the work I’m doing here brings more value and meaning to my life than safety/good health ever could. I can’t get a dog, I’m allergic.
    So basically, I can only go walking when my husband/ a friend is around to come along and it’s daylight. I work until 8pm most days, so that adds another layer of challenge.
    Needless to say, I get out for a walk once a week, if I’m lucky…

    Emily wrote on January 11th, 2014
    • If going outside isn’t ideal, don’t let that stop you. Is there a gym nearby that you could walk on a treadmill?

      Jered wrote on January 26th, 2014
  26. Quote by Thomas Jefferson
    “A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercise, I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprize, and independance to the mind. Games played with the ball and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks”

    DRK wrote on January 12th, 2014
  27. Can walking in place give similar benefits. I work at a desk 8 hours / 5 days a week. 4 days a week that is followed by 4 to 5 hours of sitting a classroom for school. While I will happily get outside when I can to walk, will standing up at my desk and walking in place for 15 to 20 minutes at a time help in any of these same ways?

    Randy Rhyne wrote on January 22nd, 2014
    • Ideal would say to reap all benefits from walking you probably need to actually move. But none of us live in an ideal all the time, so if all you can do is walk in place, then thats something. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good!

      Jered wrote on January 26th, 2014
  28. I love walking. Every time a feel bored at home I just take my two dogs out for a long walk. I spend most of my weekend’s time walking and exploring the neighborhood. On workdays, If I get back early from work I feel a sort of physical stress and laziness in my body. Going out for a walk takes the stress away and seems to regulate everything in my body: hormones, power, temperature, tension. I always come back home in a very good mood and eager to cook, clean the house or exercise. I do believe walking has lots of benefits.

    Steve wrote on February 4th, 2014
  29. Hi there friends, how is everything, and what you would like to say regarding
    this paragraph, in my view its genuinely awesome for me.

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