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Is walking 10 minutes a day enough exercise?

Getting regular physical activity is important for maintaining good health and preventing chronic disease. Many health organizations recommend adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week. But is walking just 10 minutes per day enough to meet these recommendations and provide health benefits?

How Much Exercise Is Recommended?

Here are the current physical activity guidelines from major health organizations:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week, or 75–150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity.
  • The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise.
  • The US Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 75–150 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or an equivalent mix of both intensities per week.
  • The UK National Health Service (NHS) recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, building up gradually if new to exercise.

Moderate-intensity activities are those that make you breathe harder and make your heart beat faster, but you should still be able to carry on a conversation. Examples include brisk walking, leisurely bicycling, doubles tennis, ballroom dancing, and water aerobics. Vigorous-intensity activities significantly increase your heart rate and breathing, making conversation difficult. Examples include hiking uphill, jogging, swimming laps, singles tennis, and high-intensity interval training.

How Much Exercise Is in 10 Minutes of Walking?

The amount of exercise you get from 10 minutes of walking depends on the intensity.

A slow, leisurely 10 minute walk would be considered light-intensity activity. Light activity provides some health benefits, but not to the same extent as moderate and vigorous activity.

A brisk 10 minute walk, at 3–4 miles per hour or faster, would be considered moderate-intensity activity. Brisk walking significantly raises your heart rate and breathing.

Running or speed walking for 10 minutes would qualify as vigorous-intensity activity, substantially raising your heart rate and breathing.

Counting Steps Instead of Minutes

Another way to quantify walking exercise is by counting steps using a pedometer or fitness tracker. General step count guidelines include:

  • 7,000–8,000 steps per day for most healthy adults
  • 10,000 steps per day for greater health benefits and weight loss
  • 3,000 additional steps on days when you don’t get 30 minutes of exercise

The number of steps in a 10 minute walk depends on your walking pace:

Pace Steps
Casual strolling 850 steps
Leisurely pace 1,000 steps
Brisk pace 1,200 steps
Very brisk pace 1,400 steps

As you can see, a 10 minute casual stroll takes fewer steps than the daily recommendation, while a brisk or very brisk 10 minute walk can provide a good contribution.

Health Benefits of 10 Minutes of Walking

Research has shown that just 10 minutes of brisk walking can provide many health benefits:

  • May reduce risk of premature death. A 2011 study of over 6,000 adults found that those who walked briskly for at least 10 minutes a day had a lower risk of premature death than those who did not walk briskly for 10 minutes daily.
  • Lowers blood pressure. Brisk walking for 10 minutes has been shown to lower blood pressure in previously sedentary and hypertensive adults.
  • Helps control blood sugar. Short 10 minute walks after meals can help regulate blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Improves fitness. Walking just 10 continuous minutes briskly can improve cardiovascular fitness in previously sedentary adults.
  • Eases depression. Walking briskly for 10 minutes 3 times a week for 12 weeks reduced depressive symptoms in inactive adults in one study.
  • Boosts energy. A 10 minute walk can boost energy and mood more than drinking caffeine or relaxing.

In addition to these specific findings, getting at least 10 minutes of daily moderate to vigorous activity has been associated with:

  • Lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, dementia
  • Healthier body mass index, waist circumference, body fat percentage
  • Improved cognitive function and academic performance in children
  • Better sleep and wellbeing

Is 10 Minutes per Day Enough?

While a brisk 10 minute walk provides great health benefits, it’s not enough on its own to meet physical activity guidelines. Getting the full 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise per week provides even greater health improvements.

One study found doubling exercise from 75 to 150 minutes per week further reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality.

Further, getting 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days a week has been shown to have additional health impacts compared to 10 minutes per day:

  • Greater increase in cardiovascular fitness
  • Further reduction in body weight and body fat percentage
  • Additional lowering of blood pressure
  • More improvement in blood lipids

However, for many people, adding just 10 minutes of brisk walking to daily routines is an achievable start when transitioning from a sedentary lifestyle. It can help build an exercise habit and lead to gradually increasing activity.

Tips for Starting a 10 Minute Walking Routine

Here are some tips if you want to start walking briskly for 10 minutes daily:

  • Get a pedometer or fitness tracker to monitor your steps and pace.
  • Set a daily reminder to get your walk in. Put it in your calendar or set an alarm on your phone.
  • Find a walking buddy to motivate you and pass the time quicker.
  • Walk outdoors if possible for mental health benefits.
  • Add in hills or intervals (short bursts of fast walking) for a greater challenge.
  • Pair walking with daily activities: walk to work, walk the dog, walk on a treadmill while watching TV.
  • Gradually increase duration and frequency. Aim for 30 minute walks most days of the week.

Bottom Line

Research shows that briskly walking for just 10 minutes daily provides substantial health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, controlling blood sugar, reducing depression, boosting energy, and potentially extending lifespan.

However, to meet physical activity guidelines for optimal health, 10 minutes of walking daily is not sufficient on its own. Most experts recommend building up to at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise like brisk walking.

That said, starting with a 10 minute walking habit is an achievable goal for many people looking to become more active. It can create positive changes quickly, laying the foundation for a more active lifestyle long-term.