Multiple short walks can be just as good as one long walk for your health and fitness goals. Short walks are easier to fit in a busy schedule, and they allow you to get your steps in anywhere, any time. Breaking up your active time into smaller chunks can also benefit beginner walkers and people with health conditions.
To get the maximum health, fitness and weight-loss benefits from short walks, you’ll need to make sure you maintain an overall brisk pace. It’s important to keep up your intensity for the short time you’re walking, and ensure you properly warm-up and cool down. Read on to see how multiple short walks can help even busy people hit their step goals.
Are multiple short walks as good as 1 long walk?
In short – yes! Shorter walks are just as good as longer walks for fitness. In fact, it may even be more beneficial to work in short bursts of activity during your day. Studies have shown that a 2-5 minute walk after an hour of sitting can go a long way towards combatting the health risks of long periods of inactivity.
Most health organizations recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. That breaks down to 30 minutes of walking 5 days a week. Some health authorities do recommend that fitness walks be a minimum of 10 minutes long because it’s simply hard to get your heart pumping and body fully active in a minute or two.
Short walks work just as well
According to the New York Times, most physical activity counts about the same – whether it’s a bunch of 2-minute walks or a few 10-minute walks. The CDC also agrees that “[a]ll amounts of aerobic activity count toward meeting the key guidelines if they are performed at moderate or vigorous intensity.” As long as you’re exercising 3 or more days a week, you’re hitting your minimum requirements. (Hitting 150-minutes in one day and then being completely sedentary the other 6 would be problematic)
The key is ensuring that you’re actually doing moderate-intensity activity during your shorter walks. Even if you can’t hit a brisk walking pace all the time due to time constraints, try to work in some intense walks to balance out those slow walks that you’re able to fit in your schedule.
Every step counts
There’s no such thing as a step that “doesn’t count.” While a 10-minute walk is more ideal for fitness than a 2-minute leisurely lap around the office, that doesn’t mean that the latter doesn’t contribute to your fitness. If your options are to watch a round of commercials or zone out at work versus getting a few hundred leisurely steps in, you’re much better off getting those steps!
Most people don’t get 100% of their steps from brisk, fitness-paced walking. You’re likely to get a mix of slow and faster-paced walking in every day. While you should still try to get 30-minutes of brisk walking in 5 times a week, those other steps can add up to big changes in fitness. If your goal is weight loss or burning stubborn belly fat, you can still get there with a whole bunch of short walks – you just may have to work a bit harder.
Benefits of shorter walks
Some people have difficulty finding a 30-60 minute block for walking. Others might have physical limitations or be new to walking, and doing a 30-minute brisk walk might be difficult. Or, you may just not have an interesting walking path that gets you to 30 minutes. Here’s why 3 10-minute walks are just as good as a 30-minute walk!
They fit easily in your schedule
It can be tough finding a block of 30+ minutes to get your steps in every single day. If you’re raising kids or have a hectic work schedule, every minute counts. If you take a hard look at your day, you can probably find at least three 10-minute blocks for a walk, however. A great way to do this is to start a daily activity journal – even if it’s for a day or two. If you’re watching TV or checking your phone, that’s fine but still write it down. After a day or two, you’ll almost certainly be able to find a few low-value 10-minute blocks in your day you can replace with a walk.
If you can wake up 10 minutes earlier, take a brisk walk during your lunch break, and cut 10-minutes from your nightly TV watching – congratulations! You’ve just hit your minimum recommended walking requirements.
Short walks are easier to keep fresh
The longer your walks go, the more difficult it may be for you to stay motivated and interested. You can try tricks like listening to music or audiobooks, but as you start to tire you may feel the urge to cut your walk short. By taking shorter walks, you only need to hold your focus for 10-15 minutes. Try focusing on a different aspect of walking for each of your short walks. You might focus on using your arms in the morning, then focus on your stride on the next. This can help you improve your walking form while giving you something to do during your walks.
Short walks are easier for people with health conditions
If you’re dealing with an injury or long-term medical condition, it may be difficult to walk for extended periods of time. People with knee injuries may find that the longer they walk, the more sore or swollen their knees get. By breaking up your walks into shorter chunks, you can rest in between and make things easier on your body.
Short walks also mean that you won’t be caught out far away from home if you suddenly feel short of breath or if you have a health scare. People with health conditions don’t want to be caught halfway through an hour-long walk with no way to get home.
Getting intense can sometimes be easier
While longer walks may give you more time to warm up and get intense, you may actually be able to walk faster if you’re only going walk for 10-15 minutes. Some people have difficulty pacing themselves for a 30-60 minute walk. This is especially true if you’re jogging or walking very fast – you may feel great for the first few minutes and rapidly tire. Limiting your walk time to 10-15 minutes may allow you to go all out for the time you have, then rest up until you’re ready to go again. Do make sure that you get some kind of warm-up and cooldown in, however, to avoid injury.
Walks boost your mood, creativity, and energy
Taking even a short walk can improve your mood and happiness and boost your energy levels. These mood-boosting effects can last long after your walks are done. Most people face periods of low energy during the day – especially the early afternoon. By taking multiple short walks whenever you feeling tired, you can boost your energy and creativity and win the rest of the workday.
One drawback of the shorter walking stints is that you have limited time to pump up the intensity. With longer walks, you can break up the routine with fast-paced intervals sprinkled in, getting good blood flow. The ten-minute routine doesn’t give you much to work with, so it’s slow-paced instead.
Other Reasons to Take Shorter Walks
Shorter walks spread throughout the day offers more than just the benefit of burning a few calories and losing some weight. Health.gov reports that while adults should still try to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity per week, any amount of activity has some health benefits. Those short walks all count – no matter how many you get. Short walks can also
- Lower stress levels
- Boost your mental health
- Promote movement after sitting for long periods
One study, from Duke University School of Medicine, showed that physical activity of any amount helped reduce the risk of disease and correlated to longer lives. This included taking multiple 10-minute walks throughout the day. The key, however, is to make sure that the activity reaches at least a moderate level of physical effort.
How to Maximize Your Short Walk Routines
So, how do you maximize your short walk routine to get the most out of your walks?
Instead of riding the elevator, take the stairs instead. Climbing stairs is one of the most intense forms of a walking workout and can be intense for some. To start, try getting off the elevator one floor early and walk that one flight. Then gradually increase your stairs until you’re getting the whole workout in.
Add inclines to your walk
Incline walking is a great way to get more intense, burn more calories and tone your legs. While it’s a good workout, it’s less intense than stair climbing and you can go at your own pace. You’ll need a hilly area you can walk in 10 minutes, or you can try a treadmill on an incline setting.
It might seem obvious, but walking faster gets you more steps in the same amount of time. That will get you more calories, and maximize the time that you have.
Get creative with your busy schedule
You may need to get extra creative to get your steps in, but 10-15 minute blocks are easier to find. You can try combining running errands with walking your dog to kill two birds with one stone and also get some extra steps. Try taking phone calls walking or schedule a walking meeting to walk and get more done at the time.
Longer walks do have their benefits
Taking longer walks of 30 minutes or longer (1-2 miles or more) are great for many people. Here are some reasons why:
Potentially burn more calories
Taking more steps means burning more calories, and one long walk can get all of our walking out of the way in one block. More intense activity burns more calories, so one long, intense and varied walk can increase your calorie burn. A 5-mile walk could get your daily 10,000 steps done in that one session, with the associated calorie burn.
More opportunities for brisk/fast walking
Longer walks make it easier for you to get more intense by either walking faster or incorporating other elements like walking stairs or adding hills or inclines. If your goal is weight loss or fitness, part of your job is to get the heart pumping and blood flowing.
If you have 30 minutes to walk, you have plenty of time to warm up, get an intense walk in and then cool down. Your path has a better chance of taking you over some hills, or you may be able to do a light jog or quick walk in sections. There’s also more time for fast and slow walking intervals to vary things up!
You’ll minimize prep time
Going for a good, brisk walk usually requires at least a bit of prep time. You may need to change into walking clothes, grab some water or a snack and do a quick warmup. When you’re done, you may need to hydrate again, grab another light snack, or wash up if you’ve got very intense. One of the benefits of one longer walk is that you only have to do these things once. If you need to drive to a good walking location, for instance, you may be better off scheduling time to get all of your steps in one go.
You may tone your muscles
Longer walks allow you to incorporate different types of walking workouts to tone your muscles. You could get more intense by walking stairs, for instance. Or you could take a break to do a short bodyweight workout. (Check out Pacer’s free workouts for some suggestions).
Long, intense walks can tone muscles in your legs, buttocks, and even your stomach area. Of course, strength training and healthy eating are important along with walking for maximum results.
If you can’t get your 30-minutes of daily walking all at one time – it’s no problem! Take multiple 10-minute walks, or simply find as many chances as you can to take short walks. Every step counts, so keep working until you hit your goal!
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