Does Walking Extend Life?

Michael Hunter, MD
Published in
4 min readDec 4, 2021


ARE YOU ONLY TO GET in a 15-minute walk as your physical activity of the day? My patients often ask whether walking counts as exercise and are surprised when I answer “absolutely!” Even minimal physical activity is associated with improvements in health.

Do it right, and you may discover your blood pressure goes down, your cholesterol improves, and you can experience memory improvements. In addition, you can reduce your risk for diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and more.

Walking can be central to losing weight, dropping blood pressure and cholesterol, and boosting memory, as well as lowering your risk for diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

I prescribe walking to my patients, a “wonder drug” with health and wellness benefits we often underestimate. Moreover, it’s free, and there are no side effects.

Longevity benefit

Every minute counts. A 2014 University of Utah study discovered this:

For every single minute of brisk walking performed, women dropped their risk of obesity by five percent.

The same institution looked at the power of walking in combating being sedentary. Low-intensity activities (for example, standing) may not be enough to offset the health hazards of sitting for long periods.

The scientists found no benefit in decreasing sitting by two minutes each hour and adding two minutes more of low-intensity activities. However, they noted this:

Trade sitting for light intensity activities for two minutes each hour, and there appears to be a 33 percent lower risk of dying.

Perhaps we focus too much on the benefits of moderate or vigorous activity. Light activity appears associated with a lower chance of premature death. Of course, we need large, randomized, interventional trials to definitively answer whether exchanging sitting for light activities leads to better overall health.

Photo by Dmitry Schemelev on Unsplash

But what about heart health? Fifteen minutes of activity is associated with a 22 percent lower risk of early mortality, according to research presented EuroPRevent…



Michael Hunter, MD

I have degrees from Harvard, Yale, and Penn. I am a radiation oncologist in the Seattle area. You may find me regularly posting at