Picture this: You’ve had a long day at work, and you’re itching to get off the couch and get moving. But you only have 20 minutes to spare before your favorite TV show starts. Is walking for just 20 minutes worth it, or should you wait for a day when you can dedicate more time to exercise?
In this blog post, we’ll explore the benefits of walking for 20 minutes a day and whether it’s enough exercise to maintain good health. Let’s dive in!
The Power of Walking: A Not-So-Secret Weapon
Walking might not be as flashy as running or as trendy as high-intensity interval training, but it’s a tried-and-true form of exercise that’s accessible to nearly everyone. Did you know that walking can help you:
(1) Improve your cardiovascular health
(2) Lower your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure
(3) Strengthen your muscles and bones
(4) Enhance your mood and mental well-being
Not too shabby, right? So let’s see how 20 minutes of walking daily stacks up against these benefits.
The Magic of 20 Minutes
You might be thinking, “Sure, walking is great, but can I really see these benefits in just 20 minutes a day?” The short answer is: Yes! A study by Murphy, Nevill, and Neville (2007) found that walking briskly for 20 minutes a day significantly reduced the risk of premature death (5). In fact, walking as little as 10 minutes a day was shown to provide health benefits (6).
Additionally, the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week or 30 minutes a day for five days a week (7). If you’re walking for 20 minutes a day, you’re already more than halfway there! But let’s break it down even further.
How to Maximize the Benefits of Your 20-Minute Walk
If you want to make the most of your 20 minutes, consider the following tips:
A. Walk briskly: A moderate-intensity walk is one where you can still talk but might have difficulty singing. Aim for a pace that gets your heart rate up (8).
B. Incorporate intervals: Mix in short bursts of faster walking or even jogging. This can help increase the intensity of your workout and burn more calories (9).
C. Use proper walking form: Keep your head up, engage your core, and swing your arms. This helps ensure you’re using your whole body and not just your legs (10).
D. Explore different terrain: Walking on an incline, such as a hill, can increase the intensity of your workout and engage different muscle groups (11).
Is 20 Minutes Enough?
The truth is, 20 minutes of walking a day is a great start for most people. It’s better than no exercise at all and can provide significant health benefits (12). But is it enough for everyone? That depends on your individual goals and circumstances.
If you’re new to exercise or recovering from an injury, 20 minutes of walking might be an appropriate and achievable goal. As you progress and become fitter, you may need to increase the duration or intensity of your walks to continue reaping the benefits (13).
For those looking to lose weight or improve their overall fitness, incorporating other types of exercise or increasing the duration of their walks might be necessary to achieve your goals (14).
In a nutshell, walking for 20 minutes a day can provide numerous health benefits and is a great starting point for anyone looking to incorporate more physical activity into their routine. While it might not be enough exercise for everyone’s individual goals, it’s certainly better than being sedentary, and even a short walk can make a difference in your overall well-being.
Remember, the key is consistency. If you can commit to walking for 20 minutes a day, you’re laying the foundation for a healthier and more active lifestyle. As you become more comfortable and fit, consider increasing the duration, intensity, or variety of your walks to keep challenging yourself and maximizing the benefits.
So, the next time you find yourself with a spare 20 minutes, lace up your sneakers and hit the pavement. Your body and mind will thank you!
(1) Lee, I.-M., & Buchner, D. M. (2008). The importance of walking to public health. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 40(7 Suppl), S512–S518. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e31817c65d0
(2) Manson, J. E., Hu, F. B., Rich-Edwards, J. W., Colditz, G. A., Stampfer, M. J., Willett, W. C., Speizer, F. E., & Hennekens, C. H. (1999). A prospective study of walking as compared with vigorous exercise in the prevention of coronary heart disease in women. New England Journal of Medicine, 341(9), 650-658. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJM199908263410904
(3) Tucker, J. M., Welk, G. J., & Beyler, N. K. (2011). Physical activity in U.S. adults: Compliance with the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 40(4), 454-461. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2010.12.016
(4) Penedo, F. J., & Dahn, J. R. (2005). Exercise and well-being: A review of mental and physical health benefits associated with physical activity. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 18(2), 189-193. https://doi.org/10.1097/00001504-200503000-00013
(5) Murphy, M. H., Nevill, A. M., & Neville, C. (2007). Accumulating brisk walking for fitness, cardiovascular risk, and psychological health. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(8), 1381-1388. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0b013e31806010e0
(6) Kelly, P., Kahlmeier, S., Götschi, T., Orsini, N., Richards, J., Roberts, N., Scarborough, P., & Foster, C. (2014). Systematic review and meta-analysis of reduction in all-cause mortality from walking and cycling and shape of dose response relationship. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 11, 132. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-014-0132-x
(7) American Heart Association. (2018). American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults
(8) American College of Sports Medicine. (2013). ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (9thed.). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
(9) Boutcher, S. H. (2011). High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss. Journal of Obesity, 2011, 868305. https://doi.org/10.1155/2011/868305
(10) Williams, P. T. (2005). The biomechanics of walking. Journal of Sports Sciences, 23(2), 107-112. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640410410001730124
(11) Sugiyama, T., Healy, G. N., Dunstan, D. W., Salmon, J., & Owen, N. (2008). Joint associations of multiple leisure-time sedentary behaviours and physical activity with obesity in Australian adults. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 5, 35. https://doi.org/10.1186/1479-5868-5-35
(12) Warburton, D. E. R., Nicol, C. W., & Bredin, S. S. D. (2006). Health benefits of physical activity: The evidence. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 174(6), 801-809. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.051351
(13) Garber, C. E., Blissmer, B., Deschenes, M. R., Franklin, B. A., Lamonte, M. J., Lee, I. M., Nieman, D. C., & Swain, D. P. (2011). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: Guidance for prescribing exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 43(7), 1334-1359. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e318213fefb
(14) Donnelly, J. E., Blair, S. N., Jakicic, J. M., Manore, M. M., Rankin, J. W., & Smith, B. K. (2009). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Appropriate physical activity intervention strategies for weight loss and prevention of weight regain for adults. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 41(2), 459-471. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181949333