Walking 5 miles per week at a slow pace of 2 miles per hour can be enough to lower your risk of things like heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure by 31%. People who walked farther and faster got even more benefit, in case you needed some extra motivation.

Just a little can do wonders to help your blood move through your body the way it should. Any time you can spend walking is good, but push yourself a little: Getting your heart rate up can strengthen it and lower your blood pressure.

10k steps a day is a good goal for overall health. If you can’t quite make that, any walking you do helps. You can work your way up slowly: Use a pedometer to count your steps, and try to kick it up by at least 500 each week.

Ideally, you should log at least 150 minutes of exercise that raises your heart rate every week. Walking can definitely count toward this goal. You don’t need any special equipment (except a decent pair of shoes), and you can do it practically anywhere. But to get cardio credit, you have to do more than stroll to the fridge and back. If you can belt out a song, you need to pick up the pace.

For years, many experts thought that really pushing yourself — and your heart rate — was the best way to strengthen your heart. But it turns out that brisk walking is just as good when it comes to cutting your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes — as long as you do about twice as much of it.

 You should do 300 minutes of brisk walking each week if you want to lose weight

It breaks down to less than 45 minutes a day — a reasonable target if you’re serious about shaping up. But if your schedule is packed, you can burn just as many calories with 20 minutes of exercise called high-intensity interval training (HIIT): 20 seconds of an energetic activity, like running, followed by 1 minute of recovery (walking). This jump-starts your metabolism so your body can burn more fat.

Scientists at Stanford University asked people to walk 90 minutes in either a woodsy area or an urban one. Those who strolled in nature had less activity in an area of the brain linked to depression. That supports earlier studies that showed that people who live in cities tend to have more mental health issues, like anxiety and mood disorders, than people who live in the country.

Women who are active are 30% to 40% less likely to get breast cancer. Women and men who walk briskly or do other physical activities regularly are also much less likely than others to have colon cancer. To cut your cancer risk, try to walk at least 30 minutes almost every day.

Exercise helps the hormone insulin get sugar out of your bloodstream and into your cells, where it can be used for energy. That can lower your risk of complications from diabetes, like nerve damage and kidney disease. A 10-minute walk after each meal is enough to do the trick.

Got achy, creaky knees or hips? You have good reason to get walking then. For starters, your joint fluid moves around when you do, and that gets oxygen and nutrients to your joints and cartilage and helps prevent friction. It also strengthens your leg and core muscles. When your muscles do more of the work, your joints hurt less. A regular walk may also help you slim down, and a thinner body means less pressure on your joints.

Most doctors recommend physical therapy for people who have chronic lower back pain. While that can help, walking can be just as effective. And it’s free and a great stress reliever — and you can do it anytime without a referral from your doctor.