Most people understand that combining a healthy diet and physical activity is an important part of getting down to a healthy weight. But physical activity often conjures thoughts of grueling exercise: weight training, calisthenics, running.

However, one activity well within the reach of most people is walking. While it might be hard to gear up for a rigorous exercise regimen, the idea of taking a brisk walk isn’t so daunting. And you don’t need a lot of expensive equipment, either.

Walking burns calories

A mere 30 minutes of brisk walking every day can burn up to 150 calories. Naturally, the more distance you walk and the quicker your pace, the more calories you’ll burn.

One study found that 11 women of moderate weight were able to shed 17 pounds on average after walking briskly every day for six months. That’s 10 percent of the test subjects’ initial body weight. And what better way to lose that weight than by enjoying the sights, sounds and fresh air of the outdoors?

Remember, while you can lose weight just by walking, it’s much more effective to combine this activity with a healthy diet that restricts caloric intake. Try to do both.

Reducing your cravings for sweets

Speaking of lowering calories, two studies from the University of Exeter found that walking for a mere 15 minutes can lower your cravings for sweets such as chocolate. That’s welcome news: Any activity that helps get a person’s sweet tooth under control is certainly worth considering. The sugar intake of most Americans is far too plentiful and can become addictive. 

When it comes to reducing the desire for sweet treats, it appears that regular walking can give you … a leg up. 

Walking is good for your heart

Beyond weight loss, walking conveys a host of other benefits. For one, it helps keep you heart-healthy. Taking a walk of at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week, can lower your risk of heart disease by as much as 19 percent. 

It helps your joints

People who carry around too much weight often put undue stress on their joints. That’s another plus for walking: It helps you control joint pain by strengthening the muscles that support your joints. There’s also evidence that walking can help stave off debilitating arthritis.

Regular walking protects your knees and hips, because it helps lubricate and strengthen the muscles that support them. Additionally, walking five to six miles per week may serve as a preventative measure against the disease. 

Reducing depression

This simple, outdoor activity also helps promote mental health. It’s no secret that people struggling to lose weight will often experience depression, which only exacerbates the struggle. An Australian study of middle-aged women indicated that walking 200 minutes per week may lead to greater levels of mental well-being and fewer depression-imposed limitations. 

So, put on your walking shoes and get going. Your heart, brain and joints will thank you.