Walking Is the Most Popular Form of Exercise, Here's Why

Two women walking on a trail

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While running usually gets the glory when it comes to cardiovascular fitness, walking is just as beneficial to get your heart pumping, and is actually more popular. Walking also is a favorite means of staying active because it's accessible, it's free, and it's low impact, making it less likely to cause injury.

Research also shows that walking at a quick pace is strenuous enough to be considered cardiovascular training for most adults. Both moderate walking and vigorous running reduced risk for hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, and chronic heart disease at a similar rate.

If you are looking to increase your physical activity and experience mental health benefits, you may want to add walking to your fitness routine.

The Benefits of Walking as Exercise

Though you may not think of walking as exercise because it's something you do every day, walking has incredible cardiovascular benefits. Getting more steps in per day is significantly associated with lower all-cause mortality. The more you walk, the greater the benefits will be to your health and longevity. Not only that, but walking more steps can also help you get a better night's sleep.

Another benefit of walking is that it can be done with others. You can socialize, but it's not necessary to be at the same fitness level, as walking can be modified for anyone (this includes kids too)! Take your walk outdoors to enjoy the fresh air, and get an extra boost of Vitamin D from the sun as well.

If you do choose to ramp up your effort, you also have the option to add Nordic poles to your walk. Studies suggest that nordic walking can have some greater and faster benefits than just walking.

Meanwhile, brisk walking has been shown to improve cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength, body composition, balance, flexibility, muscular endurance, and life satisfaction.

Walking's Popularity

Walking began to gain traction in the 1990s due to new recommendations around physical activity, as people were encouraged to do more moderate-intensity physical activity and it continues to remain popular.

Walking has shown no signs of slowing down as it is the most popular form of exercise among adults. People love walking because there is no cost and you don't need a lot of time or any special skill or equipment to do it. Plus, studies show that people stick to walking more than other, more intense forms of exercise.

Should You Walk For Exercise?

In short, you should walk for exercise. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for substantial health benefits. Walking falls within those guidelines.

Because you don't need anything special to get started, and it's great for beginners, it's one of the simplest activities you can incorporate into your life. To get started with a walking regimen, try setting a daily step goal. You could use an app or purchase a fitness tracker to help you keep track of your steps.

You may be able to reach your step goal right away, or you may find that you need to work your way up to your goal, especially if you are new or returning to exercise. As you continue to get stronger, increase your goals.

A Word From Verywell

Walking is a great workout that you can add to your fitness routine to help you build cardiovascular endurance and improve your mental health. If you are new to fitness, you can get started with no equipment, and small daily commitments.

If you have been working out for a while, you can mix up your training program with some brisk walking. No matter your fitness level, you'll quickly see why walking is the most popular form of exercise.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it better to walk or do a workout?

    Both walking and working out are beneficial. Walking is a weight-bearing exercise that can help you to build bone density. Likewise, this can also be seen in resistance exercises, such as lifting weights. If you only have time to do one, walking is a better choice because of the cardiovascular benefits in addition to bone support.

  • What are the disadvantages of walking?

    Walking is low risk, but not zero risk. Common risks for walkers include plantar fasciitis and blisters as well as back and knee pain. To lower your risk of these complaints you should get proper footwear and use good posture. You also should not do too much too soon. Make sure you give your body adequate time to rest and recover, especially if you are new to walking.

  • What is a good distance to walk every day?

    Instead of thinking about walking in terms of distance, take a look at the number of steps you get per day. Healthy adults typically take between 4,000 and 18,000 steps per day. Shooting for 10,000 is a great goal, but if you have only been walking about 4,000 steps per day, you may want to build up to this amount rather than trying reach it your first day.

  • Is walking too much unhealthy?

    Like any activity, there is such a thing as over training. You want to make sure you are giving your body adequate time to rest and recover. Exercise is important, but it is during the recovery period that your body makes the adaptations that allow you to see changes in your body.

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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By Brittany Hammond
Brittany is a Certified Personal Trainer and freelance wellness writer with work in Livestrong, Verywell Fit, and more.