One of the best forms of exercise is simple, free, and overlooked. Going for regular walks is great for your health. It can help you reduce stress, lose weight, lower blood pressure, and keep chronic illnesses at bay — and all you need is a pair of comfortable shoes. Here are some of the benefits of walking just 30 minutes a day.

  1. Elevate and improve your mood – Walking can help alleviate symptoms of depression and lift your mood. Studies have shown that walking for 30 minutes a day can be as effective as antidepressant medications for some people.
  2. Slim down – Regular walking is one of the best low-impact ways to lose weight and trim your waistline. Daily walking increases metabolism, burns calories, and protects against muscle loss. It also improves the body’s insulin response, which helps reduce belly fat.
  3. Improve circulation – Walking helps ward off varicose veins, prevents heart disease, strengthens the heart, and lowers blood pressure. Studies have found that post-menopausal women who walked one to two miles per day lowered their blood pressure by 11 points in just 24 weeks. Women who walked 30 minutes per day also slashed their risk of stroke by 20 percent.
  4. Boost your creativity – The benefits of walking are often unexpected. A recent study shows that regular walking heightens creativity and improves divergent and convergent thinking, both of which are associated with high levels of creative thinking and problem solving.
  5. Deepen and improve your sleep – Walking can help you fall asleep faster, sleep more soundly, and prevents and improves insomnia. A walk in the early morning hours can be especially helpful keeping you in sync with your circadian rhythms and sleep cycle.
  6. Heighten immunity – Regular walking and exercise helps boost your immune system. Because it’s also helpful for reducing excess weight and belly fat, it reduces your risk of developing chronic illnesses like cancers and Type 2 diabetes.
  7. Reduce pain – Walking may help lessen symptoms and reduce discomfort for those suffering with chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia and arthritis. The gentle, low-impact nature of walking can help improve functioning while reducing pain.
  8. Improve and maintain memory – Walking boosts function in the hippocampus — the part of the brain involved in learning and memory. Research has shown that age-related memory impairment is lessened in those who regularly walk.
  9. Bolster bone strength – The physical benefits of walking can be long-term. For instance, it can help strengthen your bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. One study shows that women who walk for at least 4 hours per week have a 40 percent reduced risk of hip fractures. While many other forms of exercise (such as weightlifting and running) also offer bone strengthening benefits, walking is an excellent low-impact option.
  10. Keep your brain sharp and slow the aging process – Regular walking is shown to maintain cognitive function, and lower the risk of age-related dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other brain disorders. Researchers have also found that those who walk for exercise have preserved and lengthened telomeres, the parts of our DNA that shorten as we age. Regular walkers tend to look younger than their years — and may be younger on a cellular level, too.

For stress relief, preventing illness, boosting mood, and improving your overall quality of life, exercise is tough to beat. Walking is an easy way to reap the benefits of exercise with a no-cost, low-impact workout that gets you outside in the fresh air. Just 30 minutes a day, several days a week, is all it takes to see improvement thanks to the benefits of walking.