When You Start Walking Less, This Is What Happens To Your Body

Taking a daily walk can have positive impacts on one's health, including disease prevention, strengthened muscles, and improved endurance. Beyond the physical effects, walking can also help us release endorphins and reduce stress levels. Unfortunately, life can get in the way of our workout routines, and we may find ourselves sedentary for most (or all) of our day. Let's examine what happens when we reduce or stop walking.

Let's assume you begin walking less and don't replace it with any other form of physical activity. Even if you're a healthy adult, you may begin to see negative health impacts quickly. A peer-reviewed study by the European Association for the Study of Obesity found that healthy adults around the age of 25 lost skeletal mass, increased their centrally accumulated body fat, and experienced a sharp decline in fitness endurance after just 2 weeks of inactivity. Additionally, participants were at a greater risk of metabolic disease and premature death. 

But does this study suggest the negative impacts are permanent? The authors of the study say they're not (via Health). When participants reengaged in physical activity, their health markers returned to normal. This suggests that periods of inactivity aren't necessarily dangerous unless sustained for long periods of time without reengaging.

Mind-body impacts of walking less

Many of us know the importance of the mind-body connection. Interestingly, walking consistently can have additional benefits that extend beyond just the physical. 

Because walking increases circulation and blood flow throughout the body and supports the health of our central nervous system, it can help calm nerves and reduce stress (via WebMD). One study found that ceasing exercise in adults who had previously engaged in 30-minute sessions 3 times a week led to significant increases in depressive symptoms after just 3 days, per Science Daily. While these researchers admit the data is limited, most health experts agree that walking 10-15 minutes at a time may still make a difference. Additionally, because walking is a gentler form of exercise, it's common for many to walk in pairs or groups. This creates beneficial impacts in terms of social interaction, in addition to the positive effects of physical activity (via WebMD). Unfortunately, for those foregoing their walking routines, they're missing out on both.

The key to minimizing negative impacts when we stop walking lies in our ability to reengage relatively quickly. We can not only regain the physical benefits and protect our mental health, but also maintain a long-term, possibly lifetime commitment to health and wellness.