How Walking Affects Your Body

A step-by-step, minute-by-minute breakdown of what happens to your body when you walk

October 1, 2010
Woman walking outdoors
Jupitermedia Corporation/Bananastock Ltd

Here's a minute-by-minute rundown of what your body does when you're working on your walking:

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Minutes 1 to 5
Your first few steps trigger the release of energy-producing chemicals in your cells to fuel your walking. Your heart rate revs from about 70 to 100 beats per minute (bpm), boosting blood flow and warming muscles.
 
Any stiffness subsides as joints release lubricating fluid to help you move more easily. As you get moving, your body burns 5 calories per minute, compared with only 1 per minute at rest. Your body needs more fuel and starts pulling from its carb and fat stores.

Minutes 6 to 10
Heartbeat increases from 100 to about 140 bpm, and you're burning up to 6 calories a minute as you pick up the pace. A slight rise in blood pressure is countered by the release of chemicals that expand blood vessels, bringing more blood and oxygen to working muscles.

Minutes 11 to 20
Your body temperature keeps rising, and you start to perspire as blood vessels near the skin expand to release heat. As your walk becomes brisker, you'll be burning up to 7 calories a minute and breathing harder. Hormones such as epinephrine and glucagon rise to release fuel to the muscles.

Minutes 21 to 45
Feeling invigorated, you start to relax as your body releases tension, thanks in part to a dose of feel-good chemicals such as endorphins in your brain. As more fat is burned, insulin (which helps store fat) drops—excellent news for anyone battling excess weight or diabetes.

Minutes 46 to 60
Your muscles may feel fatigued as carb stores are reduced. As you cool down, your heart rate decreases and your breathing slows. You'll be burning fewer calories but more than you were before you started. Your calorie burn will remain elevated for up to 1 hour.