I am a huge proponent of exercise.
But I also realize that exercise doesn’t appeal to everyone, and it isn’t always enjoyable in the moment. An exercise habit is also very hard to get started, especially if you haven’t been active in a while.
But you don’t need to do high intensity interval training or push your body to the limits to see the benefits of exercise.
Walking — an activity that is available to nearly everyone — produces remarkable health benefits.
Even if you haven’t exercised in a while, it is still pretty easy to get up and go for a walk. No heavy weights or judgmental gym instructors required.
It turns out that the simple act of walking is the best thing we can do to improve our overall health and increase longevity.
Following the recommended exercise guidelines — which call for just 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (equal to a brisk walk, at a pace of 3 miles per hour) per week — has been shown to lower the risk of death by 31% compared to people who get no leisure-time activity.
That means walking for just 30 minutes per day, 5 times per week, can slash your risk of dying by nearly a third. Going up to 1 hour of walking per day (7 days a week) drops the risk of death by 39%.
If that seems like a lot of activity right out of the gates, even very low levels of walking can help you live longer. Just 2 hours of walking per week — equivalent to around 17 minutes per day — has been shown to lower the risk of premature death.
Walking also reduces the risk of numerous diseases, including breast cancer, colon cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
But walking doesn’t only help stave off disease and help you live longer. Walking also helps you live better.
Walking has been shown to improve memory and cognitive function. In fact, a daily walk could cut the risk of developing dementia by 40%. Walking also lowers stress and improves mood.
So you can expect to be mentally sharp and happy during your extra years.
If the above benefits aren’t enough to get you out the door, consider also that walking is free (other than a pair of sneakers), can be done pretty much anywhere, and has one of the lowest injury rates of any form of exercise.
The bottom line is our bodies were made to move, and walking is the easiest form of movement.
If you want to live longer and better, make a habit of going out for a daily walk.
Andrew Merle writes about living well, including good habits for health, happiness, productivity, and success. Subscribe to his email list at andrewmerle.com.