It’s National Walking Day! But this year, we don’t need a national holiday to draw attention to the popular exercise. Walking is having a major moment. From “Hot Girl Walks” to the 12-3-30 workout — people are putting their own twist on the most basic exercise.

But unlike many viral workout trends, walking is far from a fad. To the contrary, the simple movement has long been an accessible, free and easy way to keep our hearts healthy, shed unwanted pounds and boost our mental health.

In fact, the simplicity of walking may be the reason why it’s so underrated. With all the fancy gym equipment, viral workouts and fitness technology on the market, could the best option really be just lacing up your sneakers and hitting the pavement? For many, the answer is yes.

The benefits of walking

The transformations coming out of our Start TODAY group are firsthand examples of how a walking routine can transform your physical and mental health. As previously reported on the benefits of walking include:

  • Improving your cardiovascular health and function
  • Increasing your aerobic capacity
  • Improving blood pressure
  • Controlling your blood sugar and reducing your risk of diabetes
  • Increasing your metabolism
  • Maintaining your weight
  • Reducing your risk or osteoarthritis
  • Maintaining mobility
  • Lowering your risk of dementia

Convinced that a walking routine is for you? In honor of National Walking Day, we are answering commonly asked questions to set you up for success.

Scroll back up and re-read all those benefits — the answer is yes! TODAY fitness contributor Stephanie Mansour said “walking often gets a bad rap as being not intense enough to create real change or a cop-out from more effective forms of exercise, both of which are entirely false!”

Of course, there are ways to up the intensity of your walk and modify your plan to reach specific goals, she added. Once you establish a walking routine, you can experiment with speed and elevation to make it more challenging and add strength training to tone your muscles. Here she shares 5 ways to get more out of your walk.

When it comes to a daily step goal, 10,000 steps has long been the benchmark to hit. But the tide has begun to turn on the seemingly arbitrary number.

Research shows that walking just 11 minutes a day reduces your risk of disease and early death. One study revealed that aiming for 8,000-9,000 steps a day is best to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes, while another suggests that walking 8,000 steps just once or twice per week can be enough to significantly reduce the risk of death over 10 years.

The jury may still be out on the exact number of steps to take for optimal health, but experts agree that taking short breaks throughout the day to get up and walk is a great place to start. You may be surprised how many steps you rack up!

If you’re walking for weight loss, Mansour says walking for time may prove more successful than distance. She recommends hitting the pavement for at least 30 minutes a day (preferably longer).

That being said, if you’re motivated by distance and enjoy tracking miles or steps — go for it! At the end of the day, it’s staying committed to the activity consistently that delivers results. So choose the method that will encourage you to stick with it.

The short answer: yes. It’s a low-impact exercise that burns calories, which can help with weight loss. Plus, the best form of exercise is one you enjoy and commit to consistently, and walking checks those boxes for many people. But you will need to increase your time spent walking to see results — experts suggest 45-60 minutes, while also making the necessary adjustments in your diet.

Walking at any pace will help you burn calories and improve your cardiovascular fitness. Power walking ups the ante by also getting your upper body involved and raising your heart rate. Research has shown that taking more steps per minute, as one does while power walking, can help with insulin levels and body mass index. Proper form when power walking is key — learn how to do it here.

You can make walking a more intense workout by adding intervals where you alternate between a more leisurely walking pace and a faster, more intense pace. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) like this has been shown to reduce body fat and improve cardiovascular fitness. Try it with this 10-minute HIIT walking workout.

I find walking boring. How can I make it more enjoyable?

Look at walking not as a workout, but as “me” time. Listen to a podcast, invite along a friend to chat with (or call one on the phone), or find some different routes that have some interesting sights to keep you entertained (we love parks and malls!). Start TODAY members love jamming out to their favorite music while getting steps in. They shared their top tunes to sweat it out to: Check out the playlist here (plus four walking playlists from Al Roker!).

Try these walking workouts:

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