Baylor College of Medicine

Close up photo of feet wearing tennis shoes, walking on a sidewalk.

The benefits of walking

Aaron Nieto


Hou -

An exercise accessible to most, walking is one of the best movements you can incorporate into your daily life. An expert with Baylor College of Medicine explains why walking is so beneficial and how it’s the perfect way to lead to more intense exercise.

“Walking is great as it is something you can easily fit into your lifestyle,” said Dr. James McDeavitt, professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and executive vice president and dean of clinical affairs at Baylor. “Walking can improve cardiovascular and mental health and help prevent osteoporosis since it is a weight bearing exercise.” 

For those looking to begin or increase the effectiveness of their physical activity, walking serves as a potent entry as compared to running since there is less wear and tear on the joints. Begin by consistently walking five to ten minutes daily, then gradually increase that time as you become more comfortable with the practice. To get the most out of walking as an exercise, McDeavitt says to aim for low intensity for a longer duration and not prioritizing speed. Many people will reach for ankle or wrist weights to supplement the intensity of their walks, but walking at a faster pace can have the same effect without overcomplicating the exercise. 

For those with underlying health conditions that may impair mobility or prevent long walking sessions, walking can still be an option if done safely. Indoor running tracks provide safer environments for those who may need supervision, and bringing a caregiver or loved one along can increase the mental health benefits of walking. Treadmills and other automated cardio machines should generally be avoided if one has serious mobility issues as there may be a higher risk of injury using those machines. 

Walking shoes should ideally have a stiff rubber or athletic sole and should fit well with some wiggle room in the toe area. There should be arch support and cushioning. If you are regularly walking on uneven terrain, look for shoes that sit higher on the ankle to provide more stability. If you begin to experience rubbing, chaffing or red spots, associates at running shoe stores will generally have a good idea on products to recommend for your style of walking. 

Walking has many benefits, especially when combined when other more intense forms of exercise. 

“Mixing up your routine will improve cardiovascular fitness, so look to add in resistance and strength training with weights to improve bone health,” said McDeavitt. “Low intensity exercise mixed with high intensity exercises for at least 30 minutes each will allow you to get the most out of your physical routine and lead to overall better well-being.” 

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