Walking is the most recommended form of cardio for a reason – it’s the perfect low-impact workout to burn calories and get healthier that anyone can do. A common myth is that the only way to get all the benefits of cardio is through running and jumping. Research has shown that you can get most if not all of the same benefits from walking at a lower intensity level, which is perfect for everyone from beginners to super active people.
Walking might be the perfect exercise because it’s great for your mind and mental health in addition to its physical benefits. 15 minutes in the morning and a short walk after dinner are all you need to hit your recommended daily activity too.
Read on to learn more about the many benefits of walking for mind and body, why walking is the most popular exercise, and how to get more from your walks. Being an expert on walking is also a great way to get friends or family more active too!
The Many Benefits of Walking
Despite the number of people who walk for fitness, walking may actually be an underrated form of exercise. Even though walking is a low-impact activity, it can still give you the amazing fitness and health results that other more intense cardiovascular exercises offer. It turns out that you don’t have to run, do intense sports or lift weights all day to get the health benefits of exercise – in most cases walking can get you the exercise you need! Walking isn’t just for fitness either. It’s great for…
- Mental Health: Walking makes you feel great in more ways than one! Walking improves your mood, gives you more energy, increases stamina, sharpens mental focus, helps improve memory, and lowers your stress level. It’s a great activity to do first thing in the morning, which can give you a more significant boost of energy than a cup of coffee, or it’s the perfect tool to do at night to help you fall asleep fast and sleep longer.
- Weight Loss: Walking is an ideal exercise to help you lose that extra weight and belly fat. Not only can it be a tremendous calorie-torching exercise, but it can preserve your lean muscle, which will help you burn more calories throughout the day.
- Overall Health: Walking is a great tool to not only help improve your cholesterol, strengthen your heart, and lower your risks of stroke, diabetes, and even certain cancers. But it’s also great for building stronger muscles and bones, which is ideal at retaining strength and function as you get older. A study done in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that average paced walking was linked to a 20% reduction in all-cause mortality rates and a 24% reduction in the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
How to Get the Most from Your Walks
Fitness walking can be done by almost anyone, anytime, and anywhere and all it takes is a good pair of walking shoes. However, the key to turning your walking routine into the ideal cardio workout is turning up the intensity. Not only will your calorie burn be higher, but you will be working every muscle from head to toe.
- Stairs/ Steep Hills: Including steep hills or a set of stairs into your walking routine can take your walks from a moderate to a vigorous activity level. Not only will this addition get your heart pumping, but it will maximize that calorie burn. You can also try an incline setting on a treadmill or a stair climber. That’s just another example of the versatility of walking!
- Intervals: Instead of only walking at a steady pace, try to include intervals into your walking routine. This change in speed gets your heart pumping and gives you the benefits of a very intense workout while also giving you time to rest. Start at a moderate pace and then throw in an intense, fast pace walk for 30 seconds. Repeat this cycle for up to 30 minutes. Here are 15-minute and 30-minute versions to get you started.
- Switch Up the Terrain: If you are a road walker, try adding some grass walking, beach walking, or even trail walking into your routine. This change in surfaces will work your lower leg muscles in different ways than you are used to, as well as engage your upper body to help you stabilize on the different ground levels. Walking on uneven terrain can increase your risk of injury, so make sure to be careful. Walking poles can be a great help. You can also try indoor walking to mix things up!
Why Walking is the Most Popular Exercise
Walking is the most popular exercise for a reason. It’s easier on the joints that most workouts you can do, but you can make it much more intense if want to. You can do it anywhere, anytime, which means that you can always get a walking workout in. And no matter if you are an athlete, old, or young, walking can provide you with fantastic health benefits that will last with you a lifetime.
- Easy to Stick With: Walking is an extremely safe exercise that is easy on joints, tendons, muscles, and bones, plus it’s essentially free to do! This is one of the reasons that a walking routine is easier to stick with than many other exercises. You don’t need a special class or equipment, and you can continue your walking routine throughout your entire life.
- Great For Beginners: Walking is easy and safe to start, making it perfect for people just getting into fitness. You can start a beginner walking program, or just get out and start taking steps. Walking allows you to set the time, intensity, distance, and location. This is the perfect set-up for those that want to work on their overall fitness level but have certain limitations that keeps them from intense forms of exercise.
- Walk Any Time: Unlike other forms of exercise, walking isn’t an all or nothing routine but instead, it’s a step by step activity. Even if you only have five or ten minutes, you can still get in a great walking workout. Those walks add up over time. It’s not as easy to run sprints during breaks at work, for instance. All of those little walks add up if you keep at it. Fitness walking is perfect because it will work with your schedule and time limits, and even give you the calorie-burning workout that you want.
Walking for cardio is a fantastic exercise that builds muscle strength and pushes your lungs and heart to their optimal performance. This is terrific news for those trying to get fit while also working on getting the rest of their body in the best shape that it can be. Well, we are here to tell you that not only can walking provide you with the same amazing benefits as running but it’s one of the few workouts where your starting fitness level does not matter.
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Why Walking Is Good For You (And A Great Workout). (2016). By Karisa Ding. Rally Health.
Need a Midday Energy Boost? Skip the Caffeine, Take a Walk. (2017). By Christopher Berland. Psychology Today.
Walking more during the day can lead to better quality sleep, study suggests. (2019). By Susan Perry. MinnPost.
How Walking Can Help You Lose Weight and Belly Fat. (2017). By Helen West. Healthline.
6 Ways to Make Walking Workouts More Intense. (ND). By Carina Wolff. AAPTIV.
Why is Walking the Most Popular Form of Exercise? (2017). Health. Org.
Self-rated walking pace and all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality: individual participant pooled analysis of 50 225 walkers from 11 population British cohorts (2018). By Stamatakis E, Kelly P, Strain T, et al. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2018;52:761-768.