Here are just a few of the benefits of walking.
As well as being a great way to get around, walking is:
- good for your health – it has numerous benefits including reducing your risk of diabetes
- convenient – you can just get up and go when it suits you
- free – it won’t cost you a penny as you don’t pay for fuel, parking or transport fares
- predictable – you’re in control so you don’t have the stress of late buses and traffic jams
- sociable – you can do it with a friend or colleague and chat as you go
- a great way to discover new areas – it’s amazing what you find just from taking a different route
- one way to improve your environment – walking instead of driving means less pollution and hence better air quality
Walking is an accessible and easy way for us all to get more active. Brisk walking that raises your heart rate and makes you warm and slightly breathless is a great form of aerobic exercise. This helps you to get fitter so you will find it easier to be more active and get tired less quickly. You may feel more tired in the first week or two after you start. But if you keep it up, you’ll probably find you soon have more energy than when you were inactive.
And there’s more good news. Walking burns calories. If you walk briskly at about 6.4km per hour (4 miles per hour) for half an hour, you’ll use up around 150 calories. That equals the number you’d burn playing doubles tennis for the same length of time. And it’s more than half the number of calories in the average chocolate bar!
Although the exact number you burn depends on your body weight, age and fitness, there’s no denying that walking more is a good thing.
Walking also has a whole range of other health benefits. For example, it can reduce your risk of:
- cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure and stroke
- high cholesterol
- coronary heart disease
In fact some research suggests that brisk walking is just as effective as running for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Since you can fit walking into everyday life, it’s an easy way to meet the recommended activity targets. To reach these you should aim to exercise at a moderate intensity for two and a half hours (150 minutes) a week. You can break this down into sessions of 10 minutes or more. Moderate intensity means:
- your breathing is faster
- your heart rate is faster
- you feel warmer
As with other types of exercise, walking is good for both your physical health and your mental health. It can:
- improve your mood
- treat depression – it’s as effective as medicines for mild depression
- reduce stress and anxiety
- build self-esteem
Exercise causes the release of particular hormones (chemicals produced naturally by your body) called endorphins. These create a ‘natural high’ bringing about changes in your body that make you feel better and happier.Bupa UK’s Clinical Director for mental health, Pablo Vandenabeele says: “We know that physical exercise, such as going for a walk, can be good for your mental health in many ways. To name a few, it helps you to sleep better, fends off anxiety, boosts self-esteem and generally reduces levels of stress.”
For your joints to work at their best, you need to keep them moving. Regular walking gives your joints a good workout, increases your muscle strength and can help to keep your bones strong. Walking is an excellent choice of exercise if you already have joint problems because it doesn’t put much impact on them.
- An active lifestyle that includes walking may help protect against osteoporosis (weak bones).
- Walking can help to reduce pain caused by osteoarthritis. Research shows that exercise, such as walking, also improves how well you can move your knee and hip joints if you have osteoarthritis in them.
- Walking may help to prevent back pain and alleviate it if it’s already a problem for you.
If you haven’t been active for a while, walking is one of the easiest ways to get started. Begin slowly and gradually increase how much walking you do. You might find it helps to set yourself a goal. The figure of 10,000 steps a day is one that you might have heard about so you could aim to build up to that. There are lots of apps that can count your steps, or you could use a pedometer.
Try to build walking into your daily routine so that it becomes a habit – that way it will be easier to keep it up. And there are lots of ways to stay motivated once you’ve started. Here are just a few of our ideas.
- Walk to the shops instead of driving. Or walk to the station when heading to work, or do the school run on foot.
- Go for a walk in your lunch break with a colleague.
- Walk up escalators and use stairs instead of the lift.
- Explore your local green spaces with your family on foot – it will give you a chance to enjoy some quality time together.
- Instead of going to a café to catch up with a friend, get a takeaway drink and go for a walk instead.
- Listen to music while you walk – the time will fly and you might up your pace in time to the music.
- Join a walking group. See our Further information section for details of how to find a scheme in your area.
Walking isn’t going to be much fun if you’re in pain from blisters or challenged by the British weather. But remember, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.
- Buy a good pair of shoes or trainers. Any pair will do, as long as they are comfortable, provide adequate support and don’t rub. If you’re walking to the office, carry your work shoes in your bag or leave them there overnight.
- Get some good waterproofs – admittedly they might not be the height of fashion but you’ll enjoy your walk much more if you keep dry.
- If you’re walking to make the most of a sunny day, take some water, sunscreen and a sun hat to stay safe in the sun.
- Maybe you’re setting your sights on mountains rather than city streets. If so, you might want to get some advice on walking boots and other specialist gear from an outdoor activities shop.
There are lots of apps available to track your steps, as well as your daily calorie count and what you’re burning off while you walk. You can also set goals and share your progress with friends. There are plenty to choose from and most are free.
If you live in a city, there are apps that have interactive walk planners so you can map the best walking route. They will also track your journey time, calories burned, step count and how much carbon you’ve saved.
You could also download our Ground Miles app which will help you walk your way to health and wellbeing.
We’ve put together a six-week walking programme to help you get started with exercise if you’re a beginner. It’s designed for you to use with our Bupa Ground Miles app so you can see how you’re getting on. You don’t have to use the app but you might find it helps you to stay motivated and on course.
Our walking programme will help you to build up gradually, starting from just 10 minutes. You can probably achieve that quite easily, perhaps by getting off the bus a stop earlier or walking around the block at lunchtime.
In walking terms, moderate intensity is a brisk pace of no less than 3mph (5kph). Put simply, at this pace, in 10 minutes you’ll cover about 0.5 mile (0.8km).
Your week-by-week walking plan
Click an image to enlarge it.
- Walking for Health
0207 339 8541
- Walking and cycling: local measures to promote walking and cycling as forms of travel or recreation. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), November 2012. www.nice.org.uk
- Start active, stay active: a report on physical activity from the four home countries’ Chief Medical Officers. Department of Health. www.gov.uk, published 11 July 2011
- Physical activity and mental health. Royal College of Psychiatrists. www.rcpsych.ac.uk, published November 2012
- Energy intake and expenditure. British Nutrition Foundation. www.nutrition.org.uk, published July 2009
- Cadbury Curly Wurly. Cadbury. www.cadbury.co.uk, accessed 22 June 2015
- Williams PT, Thompson PD. Walking versus running for hypertension, cholesterol, and diabetes mellitus risk reduction. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2013; 33(5):1085–91. doi:10.1161/ATVBAHA.112.300878
- Exercise. Stress Management Society. www.stress.org.uk, accessed 22 June 2015
- Fransen M, Mcconnell S, Harmer AR, et al. Exercise for osteoarthritis of the knee. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 1. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004376.pub3
- Fransen M, Mcconnell S, Hernandez-Molina G, et al. Exercise for osteoarthritis of the hip. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 4. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007912.pub2
- Low back pain. Early management of persistent non-specific low back pain. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), May 2009. www.nice.org.uk
- Hendrick P, Te Wake AM, Tikkisetty AS, et al. The effectiveness of walking as an intervention for low back pain: a systematic review. Eur Spine J 2010; 19(10):1613–20. doi:10.1007/s00586-010-1412-z
- Walking for Health
We’d love to know what you think about what you’ve just been reading and looking at – we’ll use it to improve our information. If you’d like to give us some feedback, our short form below will take just a few minutes to complete. And if there's a question you want to ask that hasn't been answered here, please submit it to us. Although we can't respond to specific questions directly, we’ll aim to include the answer to it when we next review this topic.
Let us know what you think using our short feedback form Ask us a question
Reviewed by Rachael Mayfield-Blake, Bupa Health Content Team, September 2015.
About our health information
At Bupa we produce a wealth of free health information for you and your family. We believe that trustworthy information is essential in helping you make better decisions about your health and care. Here are just a few of the ways in which our core editorial principles have been recognised.
Information StandardWe are certified by the Information Standard. This quality mark identifies reliable, trustworthy producers and sources of health information.
What our readers say about us
But don't just take our word for it; here's some feedback from our readers.
“Simple and easy to use website - not alarming, just helpful.”
“It’s informative but not too detailed. I like that it’s factual and realistic about the conditions and the procedures involved. It’s also easy to navigate to areas that you specifically want without having to read all the information.”
“Good information, easy to find, trustworthy.”
Meet the team
Head of health content and clinical engagement
- Dylan Merkett – Lead Editor – UK Customer
- Nicholas Ridgman – Lead Editor – UK Health and Care Services
- Natalie Heaton – Specialist Editor – User Experience
- Pippa Coulter – Specialist Editor – Content Library
- Alice Rossiter – Specialist Editor – Insights
- Laura Blanks – Specialist Editor – Quality
- Michelle Harrison – Editorial Assistant
Our core principles
All our health content is produced in line with our core editorial principles – readable, reliable, relevant – which are represented by our diagram.
In a nutshell, our information is jargon-free, concise and accessible. We know our audience and we meet their health information needs, helping them to take the next step in their health and wellbeing journey.
We use the best quality and most up-to-date evidence to produce our information. Our process is transparent and validated by experts – both our users and medical specialists.
We know that our users want the right information at the right time, in the way that suits them. So we review our content at least every three years to keep it fresh. And we’re embracing new technology and social media so they can get it whenever and wherever they choose.
Here are just a few of the ways in which the quality of our information has been recognised.
The Information Standard certification scheme
You will see the Information Standard quality mark on our content. This is a certification programme, supported by NHS England, that was developed to ensure that public-facing health and care information is created to a set of best practice principles.
It uses only recognised evidence sources and presents the information in a clear and balanced way. The Information Standard quality mark is a quick and easy way for you to identify reliable and trustworthy producers and sources of information.
Certified by the Information Standard as a quality provider of health and social care information. Bupa shall hold responsibility for the accuracy of the information they publish and neither the Scheme Operator nor the Scheme Owner shall have any responsibility whatsoever for costs, losses or direct or indirect damages or costs arising from inaccuracy of information or omissions in information published on the website on behalf of Bupa.
British Medical Association (BMA) patient information awards
We have received a number of BMA awards for different assets over the years. Most recently, in 2013, we received a 'commended' award for our online shared decision making hub.
If you have any feedback on our health information, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can write to us:
Health Content Team
15-19 Bloomsbury Way