The multifaceted benefits of walking for healthy aging: from Blue Zones to molecular mechanisms

Geroscience. 2023 Dec;45(6):3211-3239. doi: 10.1007/s11357-023-00873-8. Epub 2023 Jul 26.


Physical activity, including walking, has numerous health benefits in older adults, supported by a plethora of observational and interventional studies. Walking decreases the risk or severity of various health outcomes such as cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes mellitus, cognitive impairment and dementia, while also improving mental well-being, sleep, and longevity. Dose-response relationships for walking duration and intensity are established for adverse cardiovascular outcomes. Walking's favorable effects on cardiovascular risk factors are attributed to its impact on circulatory, cardiopulmonary, and immune function. Meeting current physical activity guidelines by walking briskly for 30 min per day for 5 days can reduce the risk of several age-associated diseases. Additionally, low-intensity physical exercise, including walking, exerts anti-aging effects and helps prevent age-related diseases, making it a powerful tool for promoting healthy aging. This is exemplified by the lifestyles of individuals in Blue Zones, regions of the world with the highest concentration of centenarians. Walking and other low-intensity physical activities contribute significantly to the longevity of individuals in these regions, with walking being an integral part of their daily lives. Thus, incorporating walking into daily routines and encouraging walking-based physical activity interventions can be an effective strategy for promoting healthy aging and improving health outcomes in all populations. The goal of this review is to provide an overview of the vast and consistent evidence supporting the health benefits of physical activity, with a specific focus on walking, and to discuss the impact of walking on various health outcomes, including the prevention of age-related diseases. Furthermore, this review will delve into the evidence on the impact of walking and low-intensity physical activity on specific molecular and cellular mechanisms of aging, providing insights into the underlying biological mechanisms through which walking exerts its beneficial anti-aging effects.

Keywords: Aging; Blood pressure; Cardiovascular disease; Cerebrovascular disease; Healthy aging; Mortality; Walking.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2*
  • Exercise
  • Healthy Aging*
  • Humans
  • Walking / physiology