Why you need to walk more

More than half the world’s population will be classed as obese or overweight by 2035 if action is not taken, the World Obesity Federation warns. The British Journal of Sports Medicine. Researchers examined 196 studies and found that a brisk walk — of at least 11 minutes a day — significantly lowered participants’ risks for heart disease, many kinds of cancer, and mortality overall. Walking may even help with arthritic pain and memory.

We’re in deep trouble. Obesity is killing us and making us sick. Every country is affected by obesity. No country has reported a decline in obesity prevalence across its entire population. None are on track to meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) target of ‘no increase on 2010 levels by 2025’. Action to reduce obesity must be decisive, people-centered, and integrated to improve our chances of successfully preventing and treating obesity. One of the best ways is simply by walking.

A study found that those who did at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week slashed their risks of early death. A brisk 20-minute walk each day will get you close to that goal, said Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, the Division of Preventive Cardiology chair at the Mayo Clinic.

Staying off your feet is tempting if you’re in pain, but that’s not always the best course of action. Nearly a quarter of adults in the United States have arthritis, for instance, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity (like vigorous walking) to help manage symptoms.

A 2022 study published in Arthritis & Rheumatology involved people ages 50 and older with knee osteoarthritis and found that those who walked regularly had less frequent knee pain. The research also suggested that a consistent walking routine may slow the damage within the joint, said Dr. Grace Hsiao-Wei Lo, an associate professor of immunology, allergy, and rheumatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the lead author of the study.

Walking may even help your memory. A small study of middle-aged and older people with memory impairments found that a half-hour walk — five days a week, over the course of a year — improved blood flow to the brain and cognitive functioning among the participants. A follow-up study published last year found similar results in older adults without cognitive impairments: They also experienced improved memory.

The problem of obesity can’t be solved with injectable drugs; it has to include behavioral changes. Walking is something most of us can do almost every day. So why aren’t medical professionals recommending that patients walk more? Because they treat problems, not patients.