Simple walking packs a serious punch in health benefits.  Walking requires minimal preparation, equipment or time to tally up miles of healthy perks.

Once you've laced up your shoes, and donned your iPod, you can expect  30-minute walk to help you lose weight, prevent cancer, diabetes and heart disease, ward off depression, tone muscles, prevent bone loss, hip fracture and gall stone attacks, increase good cholesterol and decrease impotence, insomnia and stress levels.  You'll live a longer, healthier life, simply by walking out the door.

How much does it take?

Not as much as you might think.  A study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at groups who worked out at various intensities and how much weight they lost.  They found weight loss occurred with as little as 30 minutes of low to moderate intensity walking (about 12 miles per week).   The more subjects walked, the more they lost. 

Another study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that women who walk four hours per week were at significantly lower risk for developing breast cancer.

The American Heart Association says:

Walking has the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity, and is the simplest positive change individuals can make to effectively improve their heart health. For every hour of brisk walking you do, you may live two hours longer.

Additionally, walking for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week can help you:

  • Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease
  • Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Improve blood lipid profile
  • Maintain body weight and lower the risk of obesity
  • Enhance mental wellbeing
  • Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • Reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer
  • Reduce the risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes

How fast do you have to go?

When you're just getting started, take it easy.  You want to walk fast enough that your heartrate speeds up but you can still carry on a conversation.  Gradually, pick up the pace until you can cover approximately one mile every 15 minutes to burn about 100 calories per mile. 

How far and how long?

If your goal is to walk 12 miles/week, you'll need to walk at least 2 miles (and 30 minutes) six days per week.  If you're going for that breast cancer reduction goal of 4 hours per week - you'll need to walk for 40 minutes, 6 days per week. 

What about hills? 

You might burn significantly more calories (3-5 per minute) by adding hills to your route because you'll work the large muscle groups in your thigh and buttocks.  You'll also work your heart and lungs a little harder by bumping up the intensity of your walk. 

There's no easier way to add exercise into your life than walking.  So, grab the dog, your children and go.