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Man in jeans and jacket walking down the street smiling
Easy to integrate into everyday life: Even 30 minutes of brisk walks have amazingly positive effects on the body and mind. © IMAGO / Depositphotos

Walking is so simple and yet so effective! Healthier, fitter, more relaxed: discover how just a short 30-minute walk a day can change your life. Here you will find valuable tips and a training plan to help you get started with walking.

Free, easy and can be done anywhere: there is probably no other sporting activity to which this applies as clearly as walking. Yet walking (the English term that has also caught on here) offers numerous health benefits for everyone – regardless of fitness level and age. It can even prevent certain diseases and prolong life. These effects have been proven by scientific studies.

No more excuses: walking is (almost) always possible!

Many people struggle or fail to develop a fitness routine and integrate it into their daily routine. Walking can be the ideal solution to achieve this. Whether it’s a daily walk around the block, shopping or during your lunch break: 15 to 30 minutes of walking can always be squeezed in somewhere (tip: you can even make work-related phone calls while walking). And even these short exercise sessions have amazing health benefits:

1. Burn calories and lose weight by walking

The individual calorie consumption when walking depends on factors such as gender, body weight, height and walking speed. There are various calorie calculators on the Internet that you can use to calculate how many calories you burn on a 30-minute walk. A small study with 15 test subjects showed, for example, that around 89 calories were burned when walking briskly over a distance of 1.6 kilometers. On a 30-minute walk, you manage about twice the distance and burn around 180 calories.

These absolute numbers don’t sound like a lot. But you should remember that walking is a low-intensity workout for the cardiovascular system and muscles (especially the legs). And if you strengthen your muscles and build muscle mass, you also increase your basal metabolic rate, which increases your overall calorie consumption. You can also reduce belly fat by walking if you pay attention to the timing.

Download our 8-week training plan “Walking for Beginners” for free HERE

For those trying to lose weight who struggle with cravings for sweets, walking has another benefit: a study from the University of Exeter showed that a 15-minute walk can curb chocolate cravings and even reduce the amount of chocolate eaten in stressful situations. The research confirms that walking can reduce cravings and consumption of various sugary snacks.

Tip: You can burn even more calories in the same amount of time while walking if you increase the pace, include stretches with ascents and descents (hills, stairs, etc.) or carry a heavy backpack. This increases your heart rate, increases the intensity and strengthens your muscles.

2. Walking improves heart health

Walking can improve heart health primarily by lowering blood pressure. A widely cited study on the health benefits of walking was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002. It showed that those who regularly took brisk 30-minute walks had a 30 percent lower risk of cardiovascular events (such as a heart attack or stroke) than those who did not.

A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2024 showed that 9,000 to 10,500 steps a day could reduce mortality and the risk of cardiovascular disease from a sedentary lifestyle by 39 and 21 percent respectively. However, the positive effects on the cardiovascular system were already evident from 2,000 steps.

Tip: If you walk for 30 minutes, you will end up with about 3,000 to 5,000 steps – depending on your pace and stride length – and can therefore benefit from the advantages for heart health.

Also interesting: The best time to exercise to prolong life

3. Walking strengthens the immune system

Scientific research shows that moderate-intensity physical activity – and walking in particular – strengthens our immune system. Researchers at Appalachian State University, North Carolina, observed 1,000 adults during flu season. Those who walked 30 to 45 minutes a day at a moderate pace had 43 percent fewer sick days and fewer upper respiratory tract infections.

Tip: Try to go for a 30-minute walk every day, even if the weather is cold or wet. The fresh air and daylight (even if the sun hardly shines through) will give you an extra boost to your health. If you can’t motivate yourself to go outside, switch your walking to the treadmill in your home gym or fitness studio.

Download the walking training plan as a PDF now!

Endurance sports are too strenuous? This does not apply to walking! Download our 8-week training plan for walking beginners HERE for free and improve your fitness and health step by step. To gain access to the PDF library, you must register once with our media login USER.ID.

Walking training plan
Download the walking training plan for free in the PDF library. © IMAGO / Image Source

4. Strong bones and joints through walking

Walking can help strengthen bones and reduce the risk of bone loss in old age. Among other things, a 2022 study published in the journal Plose One shows that regular brisk walking is an efficient way to improve bone density. In this case, women in premenopause were specifically studied.

Tip: To prevent bone loss, researchers recommend taking brisk walks for 30 minutes a day three times (or more) a week.

Walking also protects the joints – especially the knees and hips, which are most susceptible to osteoarthritis. Walking “lubricates” the joints, improves mobility and flexibility, and strengthens the supporting muscles. For example, one study showed that adults with osteoarthritis who walked regularly experienced less pain and improved physical function than those who did not walk regularly.

Also interesting: Prevent knee pain and osteoarthritis in later life – with this sport

5. Walking improves mental health

Mental health can also benefit from regular walking. Studies have shown that walking can reduce anxiety, depression and negative moods and increase self-esteem.

Tip: To experience these benefits, you should walk briskly for 30 minutes at least three days a week. But even short walks of 10 minutes can reduce stress and improve mental wellbeing.

Training plan “Fit for hiking”

Do you want to prepare for hikes in the mountains? Then download our 12-week training plan HERE for free. To do this, you must register once with our media login USER.ID.

Woman with mountain boots in front of lake in the Alps
Download the “Fit for Hiking” training plan now for free! © IMAGO / Panthermedia

6. Walking can increase energy levels

When you walk, your heart rate increases and oxygen-rich blood is pumped through your body, getting more of it to your muscles and brain. Improved circulation is one of the main reasons why walking increases energy and reduces fatigue. It can also increase the levels of hormones that boost energy levels, such as cortisol and adrenaline. According to studies, a walk can even be a more effective energy boost than a cup of coffee.

Read more: The positive effects of hiking on health

7. Walking can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes

In addition to factors such as genetic predisposition and unhealthy diet, obesity and an inactive lifestyle are risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. A study with overweight test subjects showed the positive effects of regular walks on weight loss and reducing body fat – especially unhealthy belly fat. According to studies, short walks after eating can lower blood sugar levels, after 15 minutes or even after just 2 minutes. According to another study, brisk walking can be associated with a 40 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Tip: Even though even very short walks can have a positive effect on blood sugar levels and the risk of diabetes, the medical recommendation is to do walking sessions of 30 to 60 minutes three times (or more) per week.

Conclusion

Walking can have a positive effect on health in many ways, both physically and mentally. Due to its low intensity, it is feasible for most people, including those who are overweight or have pre-existing health conditions such as high blood pressure.

It can also be a suitable training for anyone who wants to start running to get used to the strain. If you feel ready to jog and have had your doctor check your fitness, there is nothing stopping you from starting to run. Here you will find the right training plan that will prepare you to run five kilometers in one go.

The author is a former competitive athlete, certified ski instructor and fitness trainer (B license).