Walking is a low impact and low intensity cardiovascular activity, although brisk walking can be a high intensity workout. The health benefits of high intensity activities (such as running) are well known and include: a reduction in blood pressure, heart disease risk and living longer1. Does walking, whether slowly or briskly, offer the same health benefits of high intensity activities?
This article will discuss the various health benefits of walking.
Walking and blood pressure
Is walking effective at lowering blood pressure? A 2010 meta-analysis which looked at 27 randomized controlled trials on the topic of walking and blood pressure found that many, but not all, of the studies found walking helped reduce blood pressure2. In total, 9 of the studies found that walking was beneficial. The trials which found that walking helped blood pressure had larger sample sizes, longer intervention periods and the participants engaged in more vigorous levels of walking than the subjects in trials that found no relationship.
Walking and cardiovascular disease risk
A 2005 randomized controlled trial involving 21 older participants (aged 50-65 years) assigned participants to either 30 minutes of brisk walking daily for 5 days or the control group3. By the end of the trial, those in the walking group experienced decreases in blood pressure, a reduction in stroke risk and increased functional capacity, which is related to improvements in aerobic fitness. There we no changes in lipid levels in either group.
The overall health benefits of walking
A 2015 meta-analysis looking at 32 articles relating walking to health benefits found that overall walking was associated with improvements in blood pressure, waist circumference, weight and reduced body fat percentage4. Walking had no noticeable effects on lipid levels (cholesterol).
- The health benefits of walking have been studied extensively.
- Most studies have found that walking has a positive effect on blood pressure.
- A 2015 meta-analysis of 32 studies found that walking was associated with improvements in blood pressure, waist circumference, weight and reduced body fat percentage.
- There appears to be a dose-related response between walking and health measurements. Longer studies and higher intensity walking consistently show better health outcomes than shorter studies and lower walking intensity.
- Lee, D. C., Brellenthin, A. G., Thompson, P. D., Sui, X., Lee, I. M., & Lavie, C. J. (2017). Running as a key lifestyle medicine for longevity. Progress in cardiovascular diseases, 60(1), 45-55.
- Lee, L. L., Watson, M. C., Mulvaney, C. A., Tsai, C. C., & Lo, S. F. (2010). The effect of walking intervention on blood pressure control: a systematic review. International journal of nursing studies, 47(12), 1545-1561.
- Tully, M. A., Cupples, M. E., Chan, W. S., McGlade, K., & Young, I. S. (2005). Brisk walking, fitness, and cardiovascular risk: a randomized controlled trial in primary care. Preventive medicine, 41(2), 622-628.
- Murtagh, E. M., Nichols, L., Mohammed, M. A., Holder, R., Nevill, A. M., & Murphy, M. H. (2015). The effect of walking on risk factors for cardiovascular disease: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised control trials. Preventive medicine, 72, 34-43.