The benefits of walking vs. driving extend far beyond getting your daily steps in. When you chose to walk instead of drive you’re choosing active transport that helps your health, environment, and mood. Here, we’ll summarize the benefits of an active commute as well as a testimonial from an exercising client who stumbled into walking instead of driving.

Walking Vs. Driving Data

Data from the 2009 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) shows that 12% of all trips in the United States occur on foot or by bicycle (only 1% of that is by bike). The other 82% commute segment are made by personal vehicle (car, van, SUV, pickup truck, or motorcycle).

Additionally, the average distance that a person in the United States appears to be willing to walk to a destination for a particular purpose (such as going home, to work, to school, to the doctor, shopping, on errands, personal business, to eat, etc.) is about 3/4 of a mile.

This is based on data provided by NHTS (a government survey) to provide you with percentages and a more digestible format than raw numbers or tables. 

You’re about to learn more about the benefits of walking vs. driving, but ultimately we know people agree that it’s more convenient to drive.

Benefits Of Walking vs. Driving

We know there are research-backed health benefits of walking as a means to increase regular physical activity. For example, some of the benefits you can expect from brisk walking to and fro include:

  • Lowered risk of heart attack
  • Improved mood 
  • More controllable blood pressure
  • Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Increased strength
  • Mental health benefits 
  • Decreased risk of hip fracture
  • Lowered stress levels

This alone should be reason enough to consider active transport instead of your car or even public transport. Other benefits of walking when you can include:

  • A quieter environment for all
  • Decreased carbon footprint
  • Lowered transport costs
  • More resourceful use of space
  • Decreased impact on the greenhouse effect
  • A more sustainable mode of transport
  • Easy social distancing

A Testimonial From An Accidental Walker

Logically, you know the benefits of walking. Most people do. But until it accidentally becomes your primary source of transportation, the logic might not be enough to make you choose to commute by foot rather than a vehicle. Here is a store from an individual not new to exercise or health, and their experience of walking.

“A few months ago, my car was out of commission. It’s about 12 miles between home and work for me, so I took public transport (bus) for a couple weeks until the car issue was diagnosed and repaired. In order to get to work on time, I had to get to the bus on time, which meant I had to get up an hour earlier, because the bus stop was one mile away and that bus came every 40 minutes. 

Instead of a 15-minute drive to work, I had a 15-minute walk plus a 35-minute bus ride and then a couple blocks more of walking. It was not convenient.

The tail end of the walk home from the bus stop at the end of the day included a lovely, quarter-mile trek up a 45-degree incline hill. This is barely any distance at all. It should have been easy. That first day, I stopped halfway up the hill to take a breather and was sweating a bit by the time I got home. It’s embarrassing.

I’m not overweight, and I generally eat healthy, nutritious food (with an occasional cheese slip). I also exercise. So, I just assumed that I was doing well in the health department. It turns out that I was out-of-shape. I just didn’t know it because I hadn’t needed to rely on my body to be in strong physical condition. I spent all day at a desk, in my car, eating, relaxing at home, relaxing with friends, or sleeping. Other than one or two gym trips per week, I wasn’t moving.

Movement is key to your well-being. What happens to a car that sits in the same spot for too long without being run? The battery dies, hoses and other components may deteriorate, the fuel goes stale and sediment collects at the bottom of the tank, the tires get flat spots, and the brake rotors can rust. When you finally go to start the engine, there’s a high probability that it’s not actually going to start. 

Like a car, your body will break down if you don’t use it. If you don’t use your muscles, you won’t build them. If you don’t use the fuel that you’re putting in your body by eating, it just sits there. When you eventually do need your body to perform for you, it just might not be up to it, depending on how long it’s been since you really used it and how weak it’s become.

I got lucky and had an eye opener before I let myself get too soft and weak. I had to trek up that hill every day for a couple weeks. By the time my car was usable again, I didn’t think of it as a “trek” anymore. My body had gotten accustomed to it, so it didn’t sweat it anymore, and the walk actually had turned pretty easy. Plus, I enjoyed walking to and from the bus. That was the part of my day that I got to see the neighborhood, smell the proverbial roses, listen to music on my earphones, and soak up that early morning not-so-harsh-yet sun.

And I felt better physically. I was less achy, less tired at the end of the day, more awake when I got to work, less reliant on that first cup of coffee, and in a much more positive mood. I even carried groceries up that initially insurmountable hill from the store right by the bus stop on my way home. Instead of waiting to make a trip requiring me to stock up for a week or two. I shopped for fewer items at a time, just getting what I was going to eat in the next few days or had just run out of. This actually led to more fruit and veggie consumption in my diet, since I was always buying and eating fresh produce.

Another side effect of the physical activity was that I actually craved healthy, freshly prepared home-cooked food over processed or pre-made “convenience” meals. It tasted better, satiated me, and I could almost feel it re-energizing me.


Even though my car is now repaired, I sometimes take the bus because I feel like walking to music and checking out peoples’ gardens as a start to my day. And if my grocery list has less than 10 items on it that’ll fit in one bag without breaking through the bottom, I walk to the store. And when I go downtown for a couple hours or for a whole afternoon, I park in one spot and leave my car there until I’m ready to drive it home.

Blocks can add up into miles without you even noticing, and walking frees you to pay attention to your surroundings and actually enjoy them. I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t do that while driving. Besides, there is no way I’m going to catch myself considering that hill to be an agonizing “trek” ever again.

There’s a reason that just about all exercise recommendations tell you to start off with walking if you haven’t been physically active in the recent past. Walking is one of the gentlest activities you can undertake that will get you moving and let your body gradually adjust to the fact that you’re asking it to do something a bit more physically challenging. And there’s no need to view it with the mentality of “In order to exercise, I have to go walking today.” Why make walking a “task” that needs to be accomplished that you then need to summon up the proper motivation for?

Increasing the role of walking in your daily commutes could have a major impact on longevity and risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. If it’s not that far, and you don’t have to carry anything ridiculously heavy on your way, then leave the car at home and hoof it at least part of the way.

If health is on your mind, you want a side hustle, or you love helping others, consider an exercise science degree program from Lionel. These types of degrees, regardless if it’s an associates degree, bachelor’s degree, or master’s degree, give you what you need to know to be a successful personal trainer, health coach, nutrition coach and more. In fact, there are tons of exercise science jobs looking for qualified people.  

Lionel University offers the best-in-class exercise science degree programs. The founders of Lionel are pioneers in the fitness space and have prestigious backgrounds. This means students learn from the best and have completed the most respected program available.

Contact Lionel today to learn more about an education that you can use for your own health and wellness.