On paper, walking isn’t the most exciting form of exercise, but it’s usually the most practical. Walking just minutes a day could seriously benefit your health. Check out these amazing perks to taking a simple stroll around the neighborhood.

Here are 3 surprising ways to use walking as part of your healthy lifestyle:

1. It protects against dementia. Walking, which improves cerebral blood flow and lowers the risk of vascular disease, may help you stave off dementia, the cognitive loss that often comes with old age. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to combat the onset and advancement of the disease.

Fun fitness tip: Download upbeat music you love to listen to on your iPod, and take it with you while you walk. An analysis conducted by the American Council on Exercise found that music not only makes exercise more enjoyable, but it can also boost endurance and intensity. 

2. It improves your mood. A brisk walk can boost your mood and may even help you treat depression. Research shows that depressed adults who walked for 30 to 45 minutes five times a week for 12 weeks showed marked improvements in their symptoms when medication alone did not help.

Fun fitness tip: Get outdoors! When the weather permits, take your walk outside, for a dose of vitamin D and an even bigger mood boost. Research reveals that group walks in nature were associated with significantly lower depression and perceived stress, as well as enhanced mental well-being. 

3. It boosts your overall health. Studies show that a heart-pumping walking routine can help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol and, in turn, your risk for heart disease. Walking is also a great form of weight-bearing exercise, which helps prevent the bone-thinning condition osteoporosis, as well as osteoarthritis. Walking may reduce your chances of developing some cancers; women who walk at least seven hours per week are less likely to develop breast cancer. (http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/22/10/1906.short)

Fun fitness tip: Can’t find a full 30 minutes to walk? Spread it out throughout your day — 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there will add up if you stick with it. Breaking your workout into several shorter workouts throughout the day is just as effective as one longer workout session, while also making it easier to fit exercise into your schedule.

So, what are you waiting for? Start today by putting one foot in front of the other, and walk your way to a healthier lifestyle.