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When I was diagnosed with bone cancer in my left femur 15 years ago this summer, one of the first things I thought was, “I’ll never be able to walk the streets of Paris with my daughters.”
Well, I was in Paris last week, and for at least some of the time I was walking – or, more accurately, limping – along the streets with my girls. At least the garbage strike had lifted and those streets were relatively clean!
One morning we took a Hemingway Walking Tour, which took us through the streets of the Left Bank visiting sites associated with the Lost Generation – Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Joyce; Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Sylvia Beach, and others. Along the way, our guide read us this quote from Hemingway’s posthumously published memoir, A Movable Feast:
“I would walk along the quais when I had finished work or when I was trying to think something out. It was easier to think if I was walking and doing something or seeing people doing something that they understood.”
That quotation is one of the more famous descriptions of an idea that goes back to the ancient world (“It is solved by walking,” the 4th century philosopher Diogenes said) and continues until today (Aaron Sorkin added a scene into the new version of Camelot that opens on Broadway tonight in which Guinevere encourages King Arthur to walk around the castle, a move that produces the idea of the Round Table).
In effect, this reverence for ambulation has taken on near scriptural status in recent years: walking is good for the body! good for the mind! good for the soul! and good for the imagination! Like leeches and whisky in their time, walks have become the go-to tonic of modern times.
Worried about finding the funds to pay your taxes? Take a walk!
But new research changes what we know about walks – and how we should approach them.
The idea that walking could have abundant side effects for mental health, creativity, and well-being goes back decades, with a series of tests on rodents. Studies showed that active animals showed greater neurological activity than sedentary ones. With the addition of a number of tests, largely of undergraduates, this new consensus about the Power of Walking began to take over popular media.
More recently, academics began pushing back – hard.
Just this February, Luis Ciria, of the University of Granada, and six colleagues, published a major study in Nature using a metareview of existing research claiming that most of the studies on the benefits of walking were overstated and based on flimsy data.
Despite most of the 24 reviewed meta-analyses reporting a positive overall effect, our assessment reveals evidence of low statistical power in the primary randomized controlled trials, selective inclusion of studies, publication bias and large variation in combinations of pre-processing and analytic decisions.
What’s more, those benefits reduced even further when other moderating factors were taken into consideration. “These findings suggest caution in claims and recommendations linking regular physical exercise to cognitive benefits in the healthy human population until more reliable causal evidence accumulates.”
As it happens, within days more reliable evidence appeared.
A massive new study was released two weeks ago by Boris Cheval from the University of Geneva, and eight colleagues, that used a new technique sampling the DNA of 350,000 people and provided the best evidence yet that “higher levels of moderate and vigorous physical activity lead to increased cognitive functioning.” As one of the of the lead researchers summarized the finding: “absolutely, exercise is one of the best things you can do” for your brain.
So what’s a layperson to think about this debate? Well, another new study, by New Zealand’s Travis Gibbons, and colleagues, released last year, provides what turns out to be the most salient answer: not all walks are equal.
Here, based on the most up-to-date findings, are three ways to think about the impact of walking on the mind:
1. Where You Walk Matters
Simply put, walking in nature is more impactful than walking on city streets. A study released in January confirmed that exercise increases cognitive function but that the environment in which that exercise is performed may be just as important as the exercise itself.
Katherine Boere of the University of Victoria in Canada, and two colleagues, asked subjects to perform cognitive tasks after taking both indoor and outdoor walks. Their study, also in Nature, called “Exercising is good for the brain but exercising outside is potentially better,” reports that all forms of exercise were effective, but outdoor exercise “had an additional impact on cognitive attentional scores,” “lower reaction times,” and “higher accuracy” on tests.
When it’s time to strap on your boots for walking, green exercise is better than gray.
2. How Fast You Walk Matters(Video) Does 10000 Steps Matter For Exercise Goals? | Dr Shriram Nene
That 2022 study by Travis Gibbons on the connection between the type of exercise and the impact on brain function homed in on a subtle point: brisk exercise has greater benefits than moderate exercise. While Gibbons focused on cycling, the lessons can apply to walking, too.
The researchers compared results for 90 minutes of light cycling compared with six minutes of high-intensity intervals. During the easier tasks, positive outcomes rose slightly as early as 30 minutes; but during the high-intensity intervals, the benefits soared as early as six minutes. As Mr. Gibbons told the Washington Post last week: “Exercise is good for your brain and that exercising longer, or particularly, harder, may maximize the benefits.”
3. How Many Steps You Take Matters – But Not As Much As You Think
Finally, even within the cult of walking, there’s an even more cultish number: 10,000 steps. Like 10,000 hours, anothermyth, 10,000 steps is a lie that sounds good. (It turns out, the number came from a decades-old marketing campaign for a Japanese pedometer.)
Amanda Paluch of the University of Massachusetts Amherst did a meta-analysis of 15 studies covering 50,000 participants and found that the popular number is not necessary for increased benefits. Instead, getting between 6,000and 8,000 daily steps is sufficient for most people.
“The major takeaway is there’s a lot of evidence suggesting that moving even a little more is beneficial, particularly for those who are doing very little activity,” Paluch said last year. “More steps per day are better for your health. And the benefit in terms of mortality risk levels off around 6,000 to 8,000 for older adults and 8,000 to 10,000 for younger adults.”
One more note before I send you out for a stroll. Another secret to successful walking is a really long walk, from hiking the Appalachian Trail to completing the Camino de Santiago.
Martin Mau of the University of Southern Denmark did one of the few studies of prolonged walking—from hikes to walkabouts to pilgrimages. In his study, which carries the charming title, “Becoming a person: How long-distance walking can lead to personal growth,” he writes that in such journeys, “the destination is so far away, that the walker is not preoccupied with ‘getting there,’ instead, the walker has free time that is not allocated for some specific purpose.”
Freed from focusing on reaching a certain milestone, we are liberated instead to focus on the world around us. By letting our bodies wander, we let our minds wander. It’s precisely that act of wandering that may be the most important secret to being more creative. For as Hemingway himself once said, the goal in being a better person is using the know-how we gain as adult “to acquire the courage to do what children did when they knew nothing.”
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What’s the Hardest Part of a Life Transition?
The Stories That Bind Us: My Most Popular Piece Ever
Why Are Fathers Suddenly Doing More Housework?
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Is walking 10,000 steps not enough? ›
Walking can help reduce your risk of illness and improve mental and physical health. But it's an old marketing myth that the optimal number is 10,000 steps a day. For health, researchers found 7,000 to 8,000 daily steps was beneficial.Which is more beneficial 10,000 steps or walking fast? ›
Walking 10,000 steps a day has long been associated with a reduced risk of dementia, heart disease, cancer and death. But experts have now found that a faster pace, like a power walk, shows benefits beyond how many steps are recorded.How many steps should you at least walk a day? ›
The average American walks 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day, or roughly 1.5 to 2 miles. It's a good idea to find out how many steps a day you walk now, as your own baseline. Then you can work up toward the goal of 10,000 steps by aiming to add 1,000 extra steps a day every two weeks.Has anyone lost weight walking 10,000 steps a day? ›
To lose weight by walking, you have to burn off an extra 500 calories a day to lose a pound a week. Most people burn around 300 to 400 calories by walking 10,000 steps.How many minutes does it take to walk 1 mile? ›
The average “usual” walking speed works out to walking one mile in 20.6 minutes, while walking a mile at the average maximum walking speed would take 13.48 minutes. Therefore, this data suggests that the average middle-aged walker can walk a mile between 13 minutes and 30 seconds to 20 minutes and 36 seconds.How many hours is a 5 mile walk? ›
While the average 5-mile country walk probably takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes, you may find that this varies. Fast walkers, for instance, typically walk at a pace of around 12 minutes per mile. So, if you walk faster than the average person, a 5-mile walk might take you around one hour.How many miles should a person walk a day? ›
As a result, the CDC recommend that most adults aim for 10,000 steps per day . For most people, this is the equivalent of about 8 kilometers, or 5 miles. Most people in the United States only take 3,000–4,000 steps per day , which equates to about 1.5–2 miles.How many miles should I walk a day to lose weight? ›
Popular fitness trackers and pedometers encourage people to take 10,000 steps per day, and one 2016 study agrees that 10,000 steps are ideal. This works out to roughly 5 miles of walking. People interested in walking for weight loss should consistently hit at least 10,000 steps each day.Can I eat more if I walk 10000 steps? ›
On average, 10,000 steps are going to come out to be roughly 5 miles. So assuming you weigh 180 pounds, then yes, by simple mathematics, 100 calories x 5 miles equals 500 calories. Over a week, that becomes 3,500 calories.Is it better to walk faster or longer? ›
Brisk walkers had a 35 percent lower risk of dying, a 25 percent lower chance of developing heart disease or cancer and a 30 percent lower risk of developing dementia, compared with those whose average pace was slower.
How far should a 65 year old walk every day? ›
Adults aged 65 and older need: At least 150 minutes a week (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) of moderate-intensity activity such as brisk walking. Or they need 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity such as hiking, jogging, or running.How many steps should you walk a day by age? ›
And for adults younger than 60, the risk of premature death stabilizes at about 8,000 to 10,000 steps per day. This means that adults ages 59 and younger can benefit the most from 8,000 to 10,000 steps per day, and adults ages 60 and older have the most benefits from taking 6,000 to 8,000 steps per day.How many pounds can you lose in a month walking 10000 steps a day? ›
Completing an extra 10,000 steps each day typically burns about 2000 to 3500 extra calories each week. One pound of body fat equals 3500 calories, so depending on your weight and workout intensity, you could lose about one pound per week simply by completing an extra 10,000 steps each day.How much weight can I lose in 1 month by walking 10000 steps? ›
What is 10000 Steps Equal To? “But,” continues Jamie, “if you walk briskly for 30 minutes and include enough activity throughout the day to reach the combined total of 10,000 steps, you're burning about 400 to 500 calories a day, which means you're losing one pound each week.”How many steps a day to lose 3 pounds a week? ›
If you're trying to lose weight or lose body fat, aim for 10,000 to 12,500+ steps a day.Can you lose belly fat by walking? ›
One of the most effective ways to reduce belly fat is to regularly take part in aerobic exercise, such as walking ( 19 , 20 ). In one small study, women with obesity who walked for 50–70 minutes three times per week for 12 weeks, on average, reduced their waist circumference and their body fat.How fast should a senior walk a mile? ›
Between 11 to 15 minutes, ideally. If you walk at a more relaxed pace, are new to fitness or are older, your average mile time may be closer to 20 minutes.How many miles should a 60 year old woman walk per day? ›
Older adults who walk three to four miles a day — 6,000 to 9,000 steps — were found to be 40 to 50 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke than those who walk a mile (2,000 steps) a day, according to research published in the journal Circulation.How much weight can I lose in 1 month by walking? ›
How much weight you can lose from walking depends on your current weight, diet and activity level. We recommend losing no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week for sustainable weight loss, which means you could potentially lose 10 pounds in five weeks.Will walking 5 miles a day tone legs? ›
Walking is particularly effective for toning your legs and bum, she adds. “The muscles you use when walking include your calf muscles, thighs and buttocks, so these areas will become more toned and shapely.”
How many miles is 10,000 steps equal to? ›
An average person has a stride length of approximately 2.1 to 2.5 feet. That means that it takes over 2,000 steps to walk one mile and 10,000 steps would be almost 5 miles.Is it better to walk in place or walk? ›
“By walking in place, you're raising your heart rate, which is going to signal to your body to start pumping more oxygen and blood to your muscles to help them move more efficiently, thus burning more calories.” You can walk in place almost anywhere.Can walking get you a flat stomach? ›
Studies show walking is one of the best ways to shed belly fat, in less time than you think. Researchers reviewed 40 years of studies on exercise and belly fat and found that just 2 1/2 hours of brisk walking a week--about 20 minutes a day--can shrink your belly by about 1 inch in 4 weeks.How many steps a day is considered a sedentary lifestyle? ›
The following pedometer indices have been developed to provide a guideline on steps and activity levels: Sedentary is less than 5,000 steps per day. Low active is 5,000 to 7,499 steps per day. Somewhat active is 7,500 to 9,999 steps per day.How long does it take to see results from walking? ›
After 3-4 days of walking: you will notice the “better fit” or more room in your clothes! After 7 days of walking: real changes are happening! You have used body fat as energy (fat burning!) Muscles feel more toned!Why am I not losing weight walking everyday? ›
If you're walking every day and not seeing results, you're not burning enough calories on your walks to put you in to a caloric deficit, explained NASM-certified trainer and physical therapist Molly Canu.Is it better to walk before or after eating to lose weight? ›
Because glucose increases to its maximum at 30–60 minutes after a meal, walking must be started before the glucose level reaches a maximum, because once insulin is secreted it will play a role as an obesity hormone.Why am I gaining weight even though I walk everyday? ›
When you exercise regularly, your body stores more glycogen to fuel that exercise. Stored in water, glycogen has to bind with water as part of the process to fuel the muscle. That water adds a small amount of weight, too.Why am I gaining weight since I started walking? ›
A month or two after you start exercising, your body composition may begin to change. You will likely gain muscle mass and may begin to lose some fat mass. Muscle weighs more than fat, but it also burns more calories.
For healthy, sustainable results, you should aim to shed no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week. Walking 10,000 steps per day for a week burns roughly enough calories to melt a pound of fat.
Do you walk slower as you age? ›
Research has found that elderly people walk at a slower speed and tire more quickly because of loss of strength and mass in leg muscles.How fast should a 70 year old walk? ›
|50 to 59||1.31 to 1.43||2.93 to 3.2|
|60 to 69||1.24 to 1.34||2.77 to 3.0|
|70 to 79||1.13 to 1.26||2.53 to 2.82|
|80 to 89||.94 to .97||2.10 to 2.17|
Kick starting your day with a brisk walk can not only regulate your body-cycle for the day, but also facilitate an early to rise, early to bed mindset. 7am to 10am are the most ideal hours for an intense walk to pump adrenaline and boost energy levels for the day forward.What happens to your body at 80 years old? ›
With age, bones tend to shrink in size and density, weakening them and making them more susceptible to fracture. You might even become a bit shorter. Muscles generally lose strength, endurance and flexibility — factors that can affect your coordination, stability and balance.Why do the elderly shuffle when walking? ›
10 common reasons seniors shuffle when they walk:
Weak hips and leg muscles. Arthritis pain in joints. Loss of flexibility in feet making it hard to flex them normally. Decreased ability to maintain balance.
Sleep and Aging
Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as all adults—7 to 9 hours each night.
Many experts agree that the recommended steps per day for seniors is 7,000-10,000. People who live with a disability or chronic illness can still benefit from an active lifestyle, and depending on individual abilities may strive for 5,500 steps per day.How many steps is 2 miles? ›
Ten thousand steps equates to about eight kilometres, or an hour and 40 minutes walking, depending on your stride length and walking speed. But that doesn't mean you have to do it all in one walk.How many steps is a 2 hour walk? ›
Say you walk 100 steps per minute as an average walking pace, with an average of 2,000 steps per mile. If you aim to walk 10,000 steps, this will take you two hours, or 4 to 5 miles, depending on your stride.
Can you lose belly fat by walking 10,000 steps a day? ›
1) Helps Burn Belly Fat
Fortunately, it isn't difficult to begin losing weight. It just takes a few days to burn a few calories by walking 10,000 steps every day. Brisk walking is also one of the simplest ways to burn off extra calories and prevent the creation of belly fat.
As stated, walking is an exercise like any other, and thus depending on how much you weigh and how fast you walk, you can burn anywhere between 670 to 1000 calories a day by just taking 20000 steps. Doing this constantly for several months can help you lose and keep off more than 100 pounds.What happens to your body when you start walking 10000 steps a day? ›
A study in JAMA Neurology found that walking about 10,000 steps a day was linked to less cardiovascular disease (heart disease, stroke and heart failure), 13 types of cancer, and dementia. Taking 10,000 steps is about the same as walking four or five miles, depending on your stride.How many steps is 60 minutes of walking? ›
Intensity-related translations based on taking 120 steps/minute at 3 miles/hour correspond to 3,600 steps in 30 minutes, or 7,200 steps in 60 minutes.How much do I need to walk to lose 50 pounds in 3 months? ›
You burn about 100 calories per mile walked. 50 lbs of weight loss equates to 50 x 3,500 calories or -175,000 calories. In which case, to loose 50lbs in ~3 months (100 days) means a deficiet of 1750 calories a day. To achieve this -- just by walking -- equates to 17.5 miles a day (if my math is correct).What is the best exercise for a 45 year old woman to lose weight? ›
Try brisk walking for 30 minutes a day, 5 days per week. If you have less time but can do more intense exercises, such as jogging or running, the CDC says 75 minutes per week is sufficient.Is losing 3lb a week realistic? ›
According to many experts, losing 1–2 pounds (0.45–0.9 kg) per week is a healthy and safe rate (1, 2, 3 ). Losing more than that is considered too fast and could put you at risk of many health problems, including muscle loss, gallstones, nutritional deficiencies and a drop in metabolism ( 4 , 6 , 7 , 8 ).Can you do 10000 steps a day and still not lose weight? ›
If you have increased your walking and are still not seeing weight loss, it might be a good time to look at what you are eating. You may need to make a few swaps. There are many strategies for this, but the key is maintaining good nutrition.Is 10,000 steps not enough to lose weight? ›
However, without understanding your net caloric balance, walking 10,000 steps, 15,000 steps, or even 20,000 steps a day might not be enough to cause any meaningful fat loss or improvements in body composition. To achieve fat loss, you need to burn more calories than you get from your food.Is walking 10,000 steps a day considered active? ›
Low active is 5,000 to 7,499 steps per day. Somewhat active is 7,500 to 9,999 steps per day. Active is more than 10,000 steps per day. Highly active is more than 12,500.
Is 20,000 steps a day considered active? ›
Is 20,000 steps a day considered active? If you were to walk 20,000 steps a day, you are going to find that this is going to be considered an active lifestyle. In fact, it is often considered to be a very active lifestyle since a lot of people struggle to get to 10,000 steps a day.Why am I walking a lot but not losing weight? ›
One of the main reasons why burning calories through exercise may still not result in weight loss is due to overexertion, or inflammation of your body. If you exercise too hard on a daily basis, there is an excess of inflammation in your body. All the added up inflammation makes you gain more weight than lose.How many pounds will you lose in a week if you walk 10000 steps a day? ›
Completing an extra 10,000 steps each day typically burns about 2000 to 3500 extra calories each week. One pound of body fat equals 3500 calories, so depending on your weight and workout intensity, you could lose about one pound per week simply by completing an extra 10,000 steps each day.Why am I gaining weight walking? ›
A new exercise regimen puts stress on your muscle fibers. This causes small micro tears, also known as micro trauma, and some inflammation. Those two conditions in your muscle fibers are the reason you may gain some weight.How many pounds can you lose in a month walking 10000 steps? ›
What is 10000 Steps Equal To? “But,” continues Jamie, “if you walk briskly for 30 minutes and include enough activity throughout the day to reach the combined total of 10,000 steps, you're burning about 400 to 500 calories a day, which means you're losing one pound each week.”How many steps equal a mile? ›
An average person has a stride length of approximately 2.1 to 2.5 feet. That means that it takes over 2,000 steps to walk one mile and 10,000 steps would be almost 5 miles. A sedentary person may only average 1,000 to 3,000 steps a day.
There are 3,500 calories in 1 pound. "This means to lose 1 pound, you'll need to walk roughly 35 miles or 70,000 steps. Over the course of a week, this means targeting 10,000 steps a day," says Davis. At this rate, you could lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks.Does walk reduce belly fat? ›
Walking is a moderate-intensity exercise that can be easily incorporated into your daily life. Simply walking more often can help you lose weight and belly fat, as well as provide other excellent health benefits, including a decreased risk of disease and improved mood.Does walking tone your butt? ›
Walking is absolutely a great form of exercise, and one that doesn't get a ton of love because it's so chill and easy compared to other forms of exercise, Saltos says. But, rather than building butt muscles, walking can actually make your bum a bit smaller.What happens to your legs when you don't walk enough? ›
Muscle deterioration and pain
As with all of our muscles, if you don't use them, you lose muscle capacity. The muscles of your feet, ankles and lower legs become weaker with inactivity, causing muscular tension, stiffness and aches.
Is 2 hours of walking too much? ›
There is no set number of miles that is considered too much (or too little) for all walkers. However, it is wise to start with shorter walks and gradually increase mileage as fitness goals are met.How many steps a day is healthy by age? ›
And for adults younger than 60, the risk of premature death stabilizes at about 8,000 to 10,000 steps per day. This means that adults ages 59 and younger can benefit the most from 8,000 to 10,000 steps per day, and adults ages 60 and older have the most benefits from taking 6,000 to 8,000 steps per day.