Why We Should All Walk A LOT

When I was younger, preparation for bikini/wedding/holidays or frankly any season, inevitably meant a new workout regimen. Endless hours were spent scouring magazines for the hottest new fitness fad, hoping it would get me beach-ready. Unfortunately, because of this silly commitment, I became the proud owner of Jane Fonda videos, the Thigh Master, the Bowflex and the Shake Weight. Bring on summer of 2014, then 2015 and now 2016 where my focus is flipped from looking pretty to being well. And now my clothes fit without all the gizmos. How have I done it? Give a round of applause for a plant-based diet, a little yoga and a lot of walking.

Walking, yes, insert a laugh here. If I had read this post 10 years ago, I would have rolled my eyes because I never considered walking a health benefit. Images of senior citizens walking malls with high socks and fanny packs come to mind when discussing “walking for exercise.” Funny thing is, they were on to something.

Why We Should All Walk A LOT - Walking Research: Disease Prevention and Beyond

When it comes to disease prevention, one of my super doctors, who’s both a nutritionist and oncologist, recommends focusing more on exercise than any single nutrient. Both the Nurses Health Study (NHS) and the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living Study (WHEL) show increased breast cancer survival rates with a moderate exercise regimen such as walking. For those colon and prostate cancer survivors, studies cited in “The Journal of Clinical Oncology” (2006) and “The Harvard School of Public Health News” (2011) have shown decrease in mortality rates with physical activity, as well. The media is catching on, too. When I first started researching wellness three years ago everywhere my finger scrolled, I found another Tweet or short form essay on the benefits of walking and physical activity.

So, how much is the right prescription? Please ask your doctor, as each individual’s needs are slightly different. What I’ve learned through my research and medical appointments is that the average recommendation is to walk 45-minutes to an hour at a moderate-to-brisk pace, five times per week. Whether it’s disease prevention or just looking great, I’ve noticed my legs are tighter following this suggestion.

While these studies showcase the benefits for cancer survivors, increasing physical activity can benefit all who are concerned about optimal wellness. I’m thrilled that merely walking can promote great health and looking svelte, too. Just strap on a pair of comfy shoes and be creative with how to fit it into a daily schedule.

Walking and Physical Activity Research and Media:

1. Forbes: American Cancer Society claims walking an hour a day might reduce risk of developing breast cancer.

2. YouTube: Heart Health Minute: Dr. Chauncey Crandall discusses the importance of walking an hour a day to improve heart health and includes tips to start moving more.

3. ABC News: Studies link increase in children’s physical activity to better academic performance.

4. WebMD: Lose weight and get fit by walking. Creative ideas to make walking for exercise fun.

5. New York Times: Why a Brisk Walk is Better: The post explains a study highlighting brisk walking for increased health benefits.

6. Get Up and Do A website with resources for personal and family optimal health.

7. Sitting is the New Smoking: New York Times: Sitting Increases the Risks of Dying Early

We love to hear your thoughts. Any suggestions to keep from sitting throughout the entire day?

Some Tools to Make Walking a Little Easier

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  1. Couldn’t agree more. Question: is it something unique to walking, or is the important thing to be physically active?

    • Caryn Sullivan

      From what I have read, the importance is to be physically active. However, in the past, many people thought this meant more strenuous activity was needed. Recent findings (and what my docs have said), is that brisk walking approx. 5x a week, 30-45 minutes hits the criteria to lower risk and help further disease.

  2. Stephanie

    I was diagnosed with breast cancer last June right after I turned 35 and just recently had my second reconstructive surgery with two more procedures to go. I have been taking Tamoxifen since September. I have been trying to add more exercise to my daily routines but it is an adjustment fitting it in to a full time job and two young kids. I have realized though that I can’t make excuses anymore and have to focus on my health. Thanks for sharing this great information! (Nicole shared the link to your blog and I’m so glad she did)

    • Caryn Sullivan

      HI. First let me say that I’m sorry that you, too, have to go through this. Yes, I do believe that we all should exercise 5x a week – cancer or not…but I also know that having a full time job (and a second one with kids) it is very very very hard to do. So, don’t be hard on yourself. I just try and make small changes and work towards getting there. Can you put your kids in a stroller and go on “nature walks”? Now that it is getting nice, do you have a friend that would walk with you? I’ve also heard that rebounding (mini trampoline) is really good to get the energy flowing throughout your body. This could be fun with kids and while likely not a 30-minute stint, it still gets everyone moving. Here are some other ideas for at home exercise. Keep in touch.

  3. I need to walk more, thanks so much for the motivation! Checking out the other links now!
    Kristen recently posted…Top 5 Inspirational Books

  4. I fully agree. I started in January and things changed for me on all levels – lower blood pressure. Toned legs. Better stress. Happier dog too! (I took her with me)
    For me, it was about 45-60 minutes 4-5 times a week.
    I have slipped with summer. I admit. The humidity hurts. Not as much as having two kids home with me.
    I won’t even wait until September to get back in gear, though, because I’m leaving for Alaska tomorrow and my husband has booked 5-6 walking tours on glaciers.
    So there’s that!
    Tamara recently posted…Going Back to School Like Champions

    • Yay. I’m so happy that are enjoying all the health benefits of walking. Enjoy the trip to Alaska. I can’t wait to see your photos.

  5. I adore walking. ADORE IT. Sadly, when I moved to Los Angeles, my walking cut down at least by 50% if not more (in terms of walking places)… It’s just not the safest to just walk places in LA unfortunately. Thankfully I do work out for 1.5-2 hours every day, so I get my exercise in, but I just love to walk places — Ugh. When I do get to walk places in LA (when I am in a safer place with side walks and/or with others) I always feel so much better! Thankfully I live in a relatively WALKABLE area, so that’s good! :)
    GiGi Eats recently posted…Gobble Up This “Plucking AVOCONTROL” Recipe

    • Do you have your workout online somewhere? I have to start doing more strength training/lifting. I’ve been to a number of trainers over the years and know what to do, just need a little reminder. xoxo

      • I actually don’t! My work outs are apparently TOP secret – LOL!! But I can tell you that I do at least 4 – 5 minutes of ass raises (I don’t know the correct name for them, LOL) a day… 2 – 3 minutes of wall sits every day, 3 – 4 minutes of planks every single day and then a series of dumb bell moves – and every day I add on more and more ;)
        GiGi Eats recently posted…Gobble Up This “Plucking AVOCONTROL” Recipe

        • I somehow wish that I spent 1-2 hours in the gym. I wish I liked working out enough because I know I would look AWESOME. Maybe I should try??

    • When I moved to NYC, some of my favorite days were walking throughout the city. I love to just walk and window shop at the super couture stores as well as the hole in the wall ones.

  6. Walking is so important! As I am dealing with my elderly and ill mother we have to push walking all of the time, because her doctors have said that walking means life! Sure there are cases we can’t and I get it, but we just have to keep moving. Great post!
    Jen recently posted…The “Back to School” medicine caddy!

    • I’m glad that you are motivating your mother to walk more. It really is so important. I just found out today that I have a bone spun so I’m supposed to rest. Yikes. I’m not sure I know how to rest. I guess this means I’m back to yoga regularly and maybe even swimming laps. I love my power walking not only for the cardio but also the zen and socialization.

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