This fact sheet describes in brief the benefits of walking, as well as practical strategies for setting goals. It is a valuable resource not only for care providers and people living with mental illness but also for anyone who wishes to improve their quality of life. Walking is a gentle form of physical activity accessible to many people. Over 145 million adults choose to walk to achieve physical activity goals; research has shown that walking increases longevity and improves overall well-being. Walking does not require any equipment or membership, so it is often the preferred choice of physical activity for many people diagnosed with a serious mental illness, who can frequently experience barriers to more specialized forms of exercise.

With guidance from a physician, walking as a moderate physical activity can improve cognition, relieve stress, and decrease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia. Walking goals should be realistic and short-term to help develop and sustain a routine. Experts suggest walking at least 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week. People who want to walk regularly should consider safe places where they can walk, medications or medical conditions that may affect their walking, and people who might walk with them, as sharing the activity with others provides the additional benefit of social support and can prevent boredom.

This resource was first shared in 2018.