Search “walking for health” on Google, and you’ll get 1.7 billion results. Why? Because it’s something you can do without any fuss, anytime, anywhere, just using your own two legs—no pricey gym membership needed—and the benefits are big.

“Often we believe the best workout has to be intense and strenuous,” explains Jennifer Walsh, founder of Walk with Walsh. “Our body and brain flourish when we activate our senses with a brisk walk outside.” 

Just 11 minutes of walking a day can add years to your life, attests the National Institutes of Health. A study published in JAMA of more than 2,000 adults over the span of 11 years showed that walking about 7,000 steps a day lowered the risk of death by 50% to 70%

But if you can only make it outside on the weekends? That works, too. A 2023 JAMA study shows that taking a long walk (about 8,000 steps, or approximately 4 miles) just one or two days a week helped study participants achieve cardiovascular benefits and lower mortality rates that were almost as strong as those who walked the same distance nearly every day. 

Why walking is the best exercise

The benefits of walking are big: Taking a stroll regularly can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension and diabetes. It’s a good weight-bearing exercise that also counts as a cardio workout, notes Luke Pickett, a physiotherapist who has worked as head physio for the Australian Football League, the Australian Institute of Sport, Australian sporting teams, as well as director of Melbourne Physio Clinic. “Additionally, [walking helps] mothers by exercising the postural muscles of the spine that will help prevent the aches and pains of lower, middle and upper back, along with the neck, that mothers experience.”

But walking can be just as beneficial for its mental health boost as well as the physical ones. “This low-impact activity can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, and increase energy levels, especially for new moms who need a much-needed break from the demands of caring for a newborn,” explains New York City based-psychotherapist Robi Ludwig, PsyD. 

And we already know that self-care and the mind-body connection are important to keeping our sanity as moms. “Our brains are like computers,” says Walsh. “When we have too many tabs open, our batteries become drained. A walk in nature is the perfect way to observe the beauty around us and quiet the mind.” 

If you don’t have the liberty to take a break from the kids with a solo stroll, the best thing about taking a walk is that in many cases, your little ones can go with you. “Walking with a stroller also offers bonding time with your baby and can help establish a healthy routine for both mom and child,” explains Dr. Ludwig. With older kids, set off on a nature walk together and see what natural treasures you can find. 

Crystal First attributes daily walking to helping quell her postpartum depression. “Being outside and having the sun shine on me and moving with purpose instead of feeling stuck at home really helped keep me from feeling depressed,” says the stay-at-home mom of four in upstate New York. “It also provided the daily exercise I felt I couldn’t get at home.” 

What to know before you walk 

If you’ve decided it’s time to incorporate walking into your daily routine, the Mayo Clinic has some suggestions before you get started:

  • Chart your course: If you can get outside on a bike path or walk around the block, choose a safe course without uneven terrain or potholes. If the weather is bad, opt for a shopping mall that offers specific times for walkers. 
  • Prep your body: Warm up before you walk and cool down and stretch after, to avoid sore or strained muscles (especially if your activity level was limited before). 
  • Set realistic goals: 30 minutes daily is fine, or you can break that up into smaller increments, like 10 minutes at a time. 
  • Get the right gear: Good sneakers with proper arch support, loose, comfortable clothes in moisture-wicking fabrics, and sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses are all important if you’re walking outdoors. You might also opt for a pedometer or some sort of fitness tracker so you can track your steps and keep yourself accountable. 

Our favorite walking must-haves

Need more motivation to help you get up and go? We’ve rounded up 10 of our favorite products for making the most out of your walk. Now go ahead, take a hike! 

Bala Bangles Sea

Bala

Bala Bangles

$55

Bala Bangles add a constant but comfortable level of resistance to your walk. They can be worn on wrists or ankles, come in many colors and don’t require a lot of storage space.

lululemon belt bag pink

Lululemon

Everywhere Belt Bag 1L

$38

We can thank the trendy athleisure brand for bringing the fanny pack back into the limelight. It’s the perfect hands-free essential for your walk, and you can stash your keys, credit card, sunscreen, or whatever else you need!

Jetti Pack

Jetti

Jetti Pack

$84

Want to up the ante and get more out of your walk? Weighted walking increases calorie burn, improves posture, and activates your core (as a bonus, you’ll help get those abs popping). This new take on a weighted vest slips on like a backpack, and you can easily adjust the weight by adding or removing panels.

Brooks Trace 2

Brooks

Trace 2

$100

Brooks’ sneakers are designed especially for walking and running, with dynamic cushioning that responds to your stride and minimizes the impact of every step.

Corkcicle Series A Sport Canteen

Corckicle

Series A Sport Canteen

$42.95

Don’t forget to hydrate! This Corksicle water canteen keeps liquids cold for up to 25 hours, and you can even get a hands-free sling to stash it in.

ESAS Hamam Deodorant Spray

ESAS

Hamam Deodorant Spray

$25

The last thing you want from your daily walk is to end up stinky. This handy purse-sized Hamam spray ensures you won’t by working with your body’s natural chemistry to neutralize odors for 24 hours. “As a new mom, I found that most deodorants don’t work for postpartum body odor, and I didn’t want any of the synthetic, endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in so many drugstore brands near my underarms where they can leach into breast tissues, says Esas co-founder Seda Bilginer. “That’s why we created Hamam Body Splash.”

RayBans Wayfarer

Ray-Ban 

RB2140 Wayfarer

$213

Don’t forget to protect those peepers! Ray Bans are a staple, and this classic style, in particular, offers a secure and comfortable fit while blocking 85% of visible light.

jillian michaels iTouch fitness smart watch tracker

iTouch Wearables

iTouch Active Fitness Tracker

$75

Celeb trainer Jillian Michaels swears by this iTouch fitness tracking device that is not only fashionable and tracks steps, calories, sleep, and heart rate — but also comes with a 90-day subscription to Michaels’ fitness app.

Lalabu Simple Wrap

Lalabu

Simple Wrap

$139.95

If you’re itching to bond with your baby, strap them to your chest for your leisurely walk with one of these soft, comfy Simple Wraps without all the rigidness and bulkiness (and potential sweatiness) of a traditional carrier.

Love and Fit Strappy Back 2.0 Nursing Sports Bra

Love & Fit

Strappy Back 2.0 Nursing Sports Bra

$59

As the author of The Bra Book and someone who’s helped millions of women with bras, proper support is more important than ever during any type of physical activity. Studies have shown even something low-impact, like walking, can cause breast tissue to move up and down, which can contribute to pain and/or sagging down the line. I chose this sports bra from Love & Fit because not only is it adjustable, it’ll also accommodate nursing and pumping.

A note on walking for wellness

The National Institutes of Health reports that working moms especially are at high risk for not meeting the recommended levels of exercise, putting their overall health and well-being in jeopardy. Walking is a low-lift way to meet your fitness goals and reap big rewards.

Another tip? There’s power (and accountability) in numbers. You can join a local mom’s group or just gather up a group of your favorite local moms and plan a time and a meeting spot to stroll each day. 

Incorporate walking into your life today and reap the benefits for years. Your mental and physical health will thank you for it.

A version of this post was published July 5, 2023. It has been updated.