30-Minute Walks Could Kickstart a New Love of Exercise, Here’s Why

Woman walking for exercise outside

Getty Images / Dianne Gralnick

Have you decided to incorporate exercise into your routine but don’t know where to start? Walking can be a relaxing way to get some exercise without needing any special equipment. Aside from its convenience, walking can boost social and environmental interaction while you get those steps in.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend at least 60 minutes of aerobic exercise daily for children and 2.5 hours a week for adults. This can seem overwhelming at first, but a good start could be a 30-minute walk every day.

Physical and Mental Benefits of 30-Minute Walks 

Going for walks has mental and physical benefits, such as reducing stress and lowering blood pressure. Here are some benefits of walking as exercise. 

May Lower Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases

Cardiovascular diseases are a group of heart and blood vessel disorders and are the largest cause of death and disability worldwide. A significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease is hypertension, or high blood pressure, which may not produce any symptoms.

Walking for 30 minutes a day can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. This is because it improves your aerobic fitness and blood pressure, risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

May Lower Cholesterol and Help Manage Blood Pressure

Walking can also lower your cholesterol and reduce the risk of diabetes. In fact, studies found that walking and running produced similar results for lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and risk of diabetes.

Nearly 68 million people have high blood pressure, and about half of those people do not have it under control. Similarly, 71 million adults have high cholesterol, and two-thirds of those people do not have it under control. This means that a large portion of the population is at risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes—walking can help.

May Improve Bone Density

Bone density becomes a concern as you get older and start to experience bone loss which can lead to osteoporosis. Walking cannot increase bone mass, but it can slow down the process of bone loss.

Walking can help preserve bone mass. If you are not yet experiencing bone loss, walking as you age can help preserve your bone mass throughout your life.

May Reduce Depressive Symptoms

Some consider walking the most cost-effective and therapeutic form of exercise, partially because it does not require specific training or skills. Walking alone can reduce depressive symptoms and negative thoughts, but walking with others has even more benefits.

A study based on only 15-minute walks in the forest found a reduction in depression, sadness, tension, anxiety, anger, hostility, fatigue, and confusion.

May Promote Social Well-Being

Walking in groups promotes social well-being, reduces feelings of stress, and increases your overall mental well-being. Overall, studies found leisure walking leads to better health perception and mental health. While higher-intensity walks were shown to be more effective, it is believed that lower-intensity walks can also be beneficial.

May Reduce Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression triggered by seasonal changes. It is a recurrent major depressive disorder, often beginning in autumn and continuing through the winter months.

A common treatment for SAD involves light therapy, also known as “getting sun.” This means that going on short walks outside can help. SAD is often triggered by decreased daylight hours in the winter months, which lead to shorter days. Going for 30-minute walks in the sun daily can help to counteract seasonal feelings of sadness or lack of energy.

How to Make 30-Minute Walks a Fun, Healthy Habit

Walking doesn’t have to be a chore. Walking is a relaxing way to get exercise, and there are even more ways to make it fun. Here are some tips from Stephanie Thomas, certified personal trainer, certified health coach, and certified yoga teacher.

  • If you’re walking alone, and are in an area without traffic, consider listening to music or a podcast.
  • Find new walking routes to help keep the scenery fresh.
  • Invite people you enjoy spending time with to join you in your walks.

A fun workout is one you'll be more likely to turn into a habit. If you are having trouble making it a habit, here are some tips from Dave Thomas, head coach at Thomas Jefferson University, for cross country and track and field.

  • Start with short walks with coworkers during lunch breaks.
  • Park your car farther away from your destinations to encourage walking.
  • Create specific and reachable short and long-term goals.
  • Wake up early and walk before breakfast. Doing it first thing in the morning makes it a priority and an essential part of your day.

A Word From Verywell Fit

If you have any existing medical conditions, are over 60 years old, or have a disability, you should talk to a healthcare professional before beginning a walking regimen. A doctor can provide safety tips and other important information regarding walking. If you are walking and sustain injuries or feel pain or discomfort, seek medical attention. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it better to walk faster or walk longer?

    There is not much research on whether it is better to walk faster for short periods or slower for more extended periods. A study focused on individuals who experienced chronic strokes investigated the pros and cons of walking faster or longer. Some participants found that one method was better for them than the other. Neither was discernibly more effective, however. More research needs to be done on this topic for a definite answer.

  • How do you power walk?

    An increased pace defines power walking. Walk briskly, engaging your arms and taking shorter, quicker steps, rolling from your heel to your toes and pushing off the balls of your feet. Your arms should stay at a 90-degree angle and swing back and forth with each stride.

  • Does a walk count as cardio?

    According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, brisk walking is considered an aerobic (or cardio) activity. Cardiovascular activity is any activity that gets your heart, lungs, and large muscle groups working. So yes, walking counts as cardio.

11 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cardiovascular Diseases.

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  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital signs: High blood pressure and cholesterol.

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  8. Han A, Kim J, Kim J. A study of leisure walking intensity levels on mental health and health perception of older adults. Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine. 2021;7:233372142199931. doi:10.1177/2333721421999316

  9. Melrose S. Seasonal affective disorder: an overview of assessment and treatment approaches. Depression Research and Treatment. 2015;2015:e178564. doi:10.1155/2015/178564

  10. Combs SA, Puymbroeck MV, Altenburger PA, Miller KK, Dierks TA, Schmid AA. Is walking faster or walking farther more important to persons with chronic stroke? Disability and Rehabilitation. 2013;35(10):860-867. doi:10.3109/09638288.2012.717575

  11. American College of Sports Medicine. Starting a walking program.