When you walk a mile every day, this is what happens to your body

Racking up steps and miles by walking is arguably one of the easier forms of exercise for able-bodied folks. Walking is something that humans have done for as long as we've populated planet earth. Whether you circle around the track, meander through a scenic park, or simply strut to get from point A to point B, walking a mile every day is a surefire way get the 150 minutes of exercise per week that the American Heart Association recommends.

Walking is also a form of exercise that is absolutely free and can be done indoors or outdoors; on a treadmill or in a park. Plus you can make it even more enjoyable by going on a stroll with a family member or friend, rendering it a pleasant social activity. If you want to make it into an intense cardio exercise, you can also try out power walking, as noted by Healthline.

Whether you've been walking a mile every day for a long time now or if you've only just started the habit in the last few months, here's exactly what happens to your body when you hit a mile every day.

Want to boost your body image? Walk a mile daily

We've all had that moment in the fitting room, right? The one where you find a dress you adore, only to try it on and think it looks terrible. Or perhaps someone tagged a photo of you on social media taken at an unflattering angle and now you feel like you aren't attractive. It's not a good feeling! 

Fortunately, though, if you walk a mile every day you're actually working to improve your body image, according to certified personal trainer Annie Calhoun. "In fact, studies show that the increased awareness of physical capabilities provided through exercise will result in a sense of heightened self-efficacy and improved body image," she told The List. "In part, this is due to the fact that focusing more on what your body can do, rather than what it looks like, will result in a greater connection to and appreciation for your body." Instead of worrying that your best days are behind you, it's smart to throw on a pair of sneakers and get moving.

If you walk a mile every day, your concentration may improve

Whether you're a student in college or active in the American workforce in a variety of capacities, being able to concentrate is important to complete your assignments or do your job as best as you possibly can. Of course, concentration isn't only important for school and work. Perhaps you want to keep your focus sharp so you can enjoy reading a book or write that novel you're determined to publish. Either way, your attention span needs to be nurtured and protected.

One way you can do that is by walking, as noted by chartered physiotherapist Dr. Chris Norris. "Your concentration will improve because walking increases the brain activity, specifically in the areas of the brain responsible for focus and attention," he revealed to The List. "Walking a mile every day enhances the connectivity of important brain circuits, combats declines in brain function associated with aging, and increases performance on cognitive tasks." That's a lot of brain benefit for such a simple exercise! 

Struggling with joint pain? Walk a mile daily

Did you know that 23 percent of all American adults struggle with some form of arthritis? That's approximately 54 million people who have to deal with the pain, swelling, and stiffness in their joints that come with this disease, according to the CDC. In severe cases, arthritis can have debilitating impacts on people, limiting their ability to work, be active, and more.

If you're one of the individuals who suffer from this condition, try walking a mile every day to get some relief. "Because walking is low impact, it not only prevents joint damage but can actually ease joint pain," certified personal trainer Sergio Pedemonte shared with The List. "Regular walks are particularly helpful for reducing knee, hip, and lower back pain in seniors, and even folks with arthritis." That's good news, for sure.

There's a specific reason that walking can help you manage your joint pain, according to registered dietitian Trista Best. "Walking increases joint lubrication and strengthens the muscles that support and protect joints," she explained to The List. That's helpful not just for folks with arthritis, but pretty much everyone.

You may lose weight if you walk a mile every day

Are you currently on a diet to drop the 15 pounds you recently gained? Perhaps you're stepping up your exercise routine as well, in an effort to slim down and shape up. That means you're joining approximately half of all American adults who are trying to lose weight, as noted by the CDC

One way you might be able to make that goal a reality is to walk a mile every day, according to physical therapist Dr. Jocelyn Wallace. "You may lose weight because it increases your activity level," she told The List. "More activity means higher energy demands on your body, and if we use more energy than we consume, we will lose weight." 

Of course, simply taking up a walking routine might not be enough if you're making other changes that can thwart your intentions, according to Wallace. "This assumes that you do not increase your energy or food consumption in response to increased activity," she continued.

Your digestion may improve if you walk a mile daily

Your digestive system is truly an extraordinary network, starting with the taste buds in your mouth and concluding with the process of elimination, the Cleveland Clinic noted. Thanks to this sophisticated process, we are able to take the nutrients that we need from food and convert them into cell-nourishing energy. Once we do that, we can expel whatever is left over.

However, that process isn't always easy. If you're interested in supporting your digestive system however, exercise should be in your future, according to registered dietitian Bri Bell. "When you walk a mile every day, you may notice an improvement in your digestion," she shared with The List. "Movement such as walking physically helps move your bowels along and can reduce constipation and gas." Indeed, that's quite literally a relief!

Furthermore, if you have a condition like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), walking a mile every day may help to relieve symptoms, as noted by Healthline.

Your risk of heart disease will decrease if you walk a mile every day

Did you know that the number one cause of death in the world is cardiovascular disease? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), heart attacks and strokes are by far more likely to claim your life than anything else.

Fortunately, there are things that you can do to prevent these conditions — and exercise is a big one. "Walking a mile every day can improve your heart health and reduce your risk of a heart attack or dying from such an event by up to 30 percent," registered dietitian Kelsey Lorencz revealed to The List. "While upping the pace to a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day, five days a week is recommended for maximum benefits, even a leisurely stroll for less time has been found to improve cardiovascular health." 

Lorencz also said to remember that your heart is a muscle. So just as you would do push-ups to strengthen your arms, doing regular aerobic exercise strengthens your heart.

Need a mood boost? Try walking a mile every day

Do you ever find yourself feeling blue for no reason? Or perhaps you're stuck in a rut and having trouble being your usual optimistic self. You might want to try adding a mile of walking to your day because, thanks to endorphins, it can boost your mood, according to physical therapist Dr. Nicole Lombardo. "Endorphins are hormones that make us feel good and are released when we exercise," she explained to The List. "When you spend even just ten minutes exercising, these hormones are released and can have an effect that can last throughout your day." Who knew one little walk could have such an enduring impact?

You may do better getting your steps in at a park or on a scenic road as opposed to a gym, though. "Walking outside also has mood-boosting effects," the expert continued. "I suggest starting your day with a walk or walking midday as a pick-me-up." So plan your day accordingly. 

Your stress levels may decrease if you walk a mile daily

The problem of stress is very, very real in the United States. In fact, according to a Gallup poll, a whopping eight out of ten American adults say they are dealing with stress in their lives. If you're feeling overwhelmed by it all, you're definitely not alone. And, if you've been nodding your head while reading this, there are some things you can do to help manage the stress on your plate, according to clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Manly. "Research shows that the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol tend to be dramatically reduced when you take a feel-good walk," she told The List.

Walking a mile every day does more than just reduce those stress hormones, noted Manly. "By the very act of leaving your desk, your couch, or any stressful situation to take a walk, you are leaving your stresses behind you," she continued. "When you consciously let go of your stress as you walk, you'll feel a surge of relief as the parasympathetic nervous system comes on board."

Walking a mile every day can improve your mental health

It might not seem like a lot, but walking a mile every day can have some pretty powerful health impacts. That's even the case if you already have certain conditions and diseases, according to clinical psychologist Dr. Brian Wind. "If you're battling a mental health condition like depression or anxiety, taking time to get moving and soak up some sunlight can completely transform your mood and emotional well-being," he explained to The List. It can also help you manage other serious mental conditions like dementia and lessen some of the "cognitive issues in schizophrenia," as noted by Psychology Today. So don't underestimate the power of plain old walking!

You may reap more of these mental health benefits by walking outside instead of around an indoor track or at the mall, revealed Wind. "By walking outside and taking in your surroundings, you can take a break from whatever thoughts are troubling you and unwind," he added. And that can have positive ripple effects throughout your day.

Looking to boost your immune system? Walk a mile every day

If your immune system works well and keeps you healthy and thriving, there's a good chance you don't think of it all that often — and you're quite lucky to be in that situation. Regardless of how well it works, your immune system is a complex and multi-faceted system that even doctors don't fully understand, according to Harvard University.

If you're interested in boosting your immunity, there are several things you can do, like abstain from smoking, drink in moderation, and cultivate good hygiene habits. Walking a mile every day helps as well, according to chartered physiotherapist Dr. Chris Norris. "Your immunity will improve because walking reduces your risk for disease and promotes longevity," he shared with The List

Given that walking can be as gentle as you make it, it's also good for patients with conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), noted Norris. "Walking can help improve symptoms and lower their risk for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome," the expert added.

Walking a mile every day may help you sleep better

Getting a good night's sleep is super important for your overall health, as noted by Healthline. Of course, getting solid rest is often easier said than done. If you struggle with falling asleep or want to wake up less often during the night, walking a mile every day can help. "Burning energy from exercise and physical activity can help you sleep better at night," registered dietitian Amanda A. Kostro Miller revealed to The List. "In fact, if you suffer from insomnia, physical activity may give you similar benefits as sleeping pills." Well, that's impressive!

That's not all, though. There are additional links between walking a mile daily and sleeping well at night, according to certified personal trainer Nancy Feinstein. "Exercise boosts the production of melatonin, which helps you fall asleep," she told The List. "Also, when you walk your temperature rises; as it cools down, it promotes not only falling asleep, but staying asleep." All the more reason to get outside once a day and pound the pavement for a bit.

You may get stronger if you walk a mile every day

The importance of building and maintaining muscle mass for women cannot be overstated, according to Verywell Fit. It helps us ward off osteoporosis, avoid pain and injuries, and reduces the risk of chronic diseases. Plus strength training can increase confidence and decrease depression, which sounds like a win-win to us.

If you're just beginning to get serious about strength training, you should consider starting out by walking a mile every day, according to chartered physiotherapist Dr. Chris Norris. "You will get stronger because walking works your large muscles over and over, and pushes your heart and lungs to work hard," he explained to The List. "Over time, this makes your heart stronger and more efficient." And that can help to prepare you for even more intense exercise down the road. In addition to strengthening your lungs and heart, walking a mile every day can even strengthen your brain, as noted by Science Daily

You'll enjoy walking more and more if you walk a mile every day

Let's face it: one of the reasons it can be difficult to walk a mile every day is because it takes motivation to commit to the practice. But that didn't stop registered nurse Sandra Crawley from pledging to do just that, as she's aware of the many benefits that such an activity can bring — including a new appreciation for physical activity. 

"Throughout my one-mile-a-day challenge, I've realized that not only has my mood improved throughout the day, but I've learned to look forward to exercising every day," she revealed to The List. "You actually start to look forward to the walks, even on the days you're tired because you can feel the difference mentally." Believe it or not, it just so happens to be true!

If you're looking to muster up the gumption to do the same thing yourself, Crawley revealed there's a way to frame your mindset to get it done. "The old adage of an object in motion stays in motion is a great way to think about it," she explained.

You may feel a bit sore when you start walking a mile daily

If you go from being fairly sedentary to walking a full mile every day, you'll probably feel it. "You may feel sore because when muscles work harder than they are used to, low grade muscle damage can occur," registered dietitian Conor McCrink shared with The List. "This kick starts the repair process, but may cause something called delayed onset of muscle soreness for around 24 to 48 hours after exercise." So if you find yourself in a bit of pain after day one, know that it's totally normal, especially if you're not used to regular exercise.

Don't worry, though, walking a mile isn't always going to be an uncomfortable experience. It's almost always a temporary situation, according to McCrink. "This soreness should subside with adequate rest and recovery," he added. If it happens to last longer, contact your doctor or medical professional for informed advice.