Walking is finally getting the recognition it deserves. The last three pandemic years have put our step count in the spotlight: As possibly the ultimate form of accessible exercise for our mental and physical health, walking has been a way to get out of our houses and breathe some fresh air while moving our bodies and maybe even connecting with a friend. In 2022 specifically, walking really had some Moments—in the form of not one but two TikTok trends.
First, the Silly Little Walk trend was all about relishing the quaint simplicity that a walk provides in our overstimulated world. Then the Hot Girl Walk said nuh-uh, don’t minimize the walk! It’s a chance to find power in ourselves through our gratitude, our dreams, and our hotness. Both trends have resonated with millions of TikTok viewers, making even more people fall in love with walking.
And for good reason. Last year, we spotlighted five reasons walking is so good for you, which highlighted benefits to your cardiovascular system, muscles, brain, mood, and mental health. But in 2022 we covered new ways and research about why walking is, in the iconic words of Tina Turner, simply the best.
Here are eight reasons we fell in love with walking all over again in 2022.
1. It efficiently improves cardiorespiratory fitness
Just 17 minutes of power walking per day has been linked to an increase in cardiorespiratory fitness, which is “the capacity of the heart and lungs to deliver oxygen to the body’s muscles and organs during physical activity,” according to Michael Weinrauch, MD, a New Jersey-based cardiologist. Essentially, it’s your ability to power your body through everything that you do. Higher cardiorespiratory fitness is also linked with lower cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.
2. It’s connected with better brain health
A study of people in their 80s found that the those who engaged in regular movement, including going on walks, had fewer signifiers of inflammation and degenerative aging in the brain. “Physical activity relates to better cognitive aging and reduced risk of neurodegenerative disease,” the researchers wrote.
3. It’s linked to longevity
A study of 47,000 adults found that power walking for even just 10 minutes a day was associated with lower mortality. And the more people walk, the lower their rates: Increasing moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity by 10, 20, or 30 minutes per day was associated with a 6.9 percent, 13 percent, and 16.9 percent decrease in the number of deaths per year, respectively.
4. It can aid gut health and digestion, especially for people with IBS
Walking can help with digestion, and it turns out it is a great way for people with IBS to mitigate flare ups. It decreases stress and inflammation, while promoting good sleep, which are all ways to help manage symptoms of IBS.
5. It’s a full-body workout
Your quads, glutes, and hamstrings are most certainly doing work while you walk. But did you know your core and upper back are also getting some action, too? Having good walking form means your abs are supporting your body and keeping your pelvis stable, while bent arms are swinging, engaging your back muscles, and powering you forward. That makes walking a true full-body workout.
6. It can give you cardio benefits similar to jogging—but is easier on your joints
The myth that running is “better” than walking has been thoroughly debunked. Walking with intervals at faster paces, or by including some incline, can raise your heart rate and engage your muscles without putting the strain on your joints that running does.
7. It’s the perfect cooldown
Yep, it really is important to cool down after an intense workout, and walking is one of the best tools in your cooldown toolbox. Walking helps your nervous system tame down the fight-or-flight state it enters during intense exercise, and start to engage the rest-and-recover response. It also helps promote blood flow back to your brain and heart while decreasing brain fog.
8. This is number 8, but actually, walking’s benefits are “immeasurable”
Walking lowers blood pressures, blood sugars, and cholesterol numbers, which are just three of the reasons Eli Friedman, MD, medical director of sports cardiology at Baptist Health’s Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, described the benefits of walking as “immeasurable.” Friedman also calls out improved mental health and ability to handle stress as some of the many upsides of walking. So whether you’re going long or short, head out on a walk today—your body and mind will thank you.