Can Walking Really Prove To be a Good Enough Workout for You?

Walking for Fitness
Walking for Fitness

Many people only resort to long walks when they are upset or need some time to clear their heads. For most young and active adults, walking doesn’t meet with their requirements of a ‘good workout’. After all, it is a low impact workout that doesn’t leave you feeling exhausted and drained of all energy, it doesn’t usually cause sore aching muscles and it doesn’t need any disciplined regimen. So, can something as simple as walking be good enough to stay in shape? Is Walking for Fitness really impactful for people of ALL ages?

Before we begin to explore whether walking is a good enough workout alone or not, let us try and first understand how much exercise we need to begin with. Experts say we need 30 to 60 minutes of exercise every day. That sounds like a lot, however, experts don’t mention how intense these exercises should be or which ones are the best. The idea behind the recommended 1 hour of workout is simple – There should be an hour or 30 minutes, where a person stays in their feet doing any workout they like, to get their heartbeat accelerated and their metabolism revved up.

Interestingly, a recent study has also revealed that high intensity exercises may not really benefit us like we believe they to. A study that was presented at Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2010 took data from several studies done by scientists over the years to reveal that vigorous cardiovascular exercises are not beneficial in the long run. Though moderate cardio will reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases, high intensity cardio can actually adversely affect your cardiovascular health, because it diminishes the functioning of the Right Ventricle of the heart. So, can walking really be a good enough cardio?

Exploring Walking as an Option for Regular Workout:

Walking is by far the most common type of exercise in the world. You will find people of all age groups going for early morning walks, and many people walking around parks and within their locality in the evening as well.

Make your walks count by putting some work in to them
Power Walking: Make your walks count by putting some work in to them

The reasons behind the popularity of walking are many, some of which include:

1. It requires no money to begin exercising

2. It is ideal for people of all ages and fitness levels as it isn’t very stressful

3. It doesn’t require any hard training and anyone can begin walking

4. It doesn’t require a strict discipline. One can walk whenever they find some free time, as long as they have comfortable shoes

In 2007, researchers at Duke University Medical Center found through a study that people who walked for half an hour for all 7 days of the week not only lost weight, they also reduced risk for metabolic syndrome. However, it needs to be understood that walking for 30 minutes doesn’t exactly mean you should simply stroll leisurely and expect to lose the weight.

Any exercise that will help reduce weight, increase stamina and endurance and increase metabolism must be intense enough to make you break into a sweat. Your walks need to be intense, which is easily achievable by altering the distance you walk, the speed at which you walk and the terrain you choose to walk upon. Experts recommend walking 10,000 steps a day to stay healthy, so keeping a pedometer is a great way to see how many steps you walk through the day in all. And that is why Power Walks are all the rage!

Making Walking for Fitness Work:

As discussed before, for walking to qualify as a good enough workout for you, it needs to become a good aerobic workout. For that, you need to walk at a faster speed and maintain the pace. Only then will your heart rate increase significantly enough for walking to be an effective workout.

Incorporate a few uphill and downhill climbs to make your walks more impactful
Incorporate a few uphill and downhill climbs to make your walks more impactful

As with all exercises, to be able to see results with walking, you need to be able to push yourselves. How to know whether you are walking fast enough for it to qualify for a good aerobic workout? Simple – do the talk test. If you can sing a song comfortably, you are walking too slowly. If you can barely utter a few words before you start gasping for breath, you are walking too fast. To make sure that your walking workouts are enough to keep you in shape, follow these simple tips.

– Every cardio must begin with a warm up. Start at a slow pace, walk casually for a few minutes. Then increase the pace and pump up speed. Similarly, when you start feeling tired, decrease your speed and walk slowly for another 10 minutes before you end the workout.

– For more speed and to maintain pace, bend your arms at the elbows. Take the stance of a brisk walk and keep arms swinging. It may feel strange in the beginning, but you will get used to it.

– You must challenge your body. Build speed as your stamina grows. Use a pedometer to increase the number of steps you can walk every day till you start to walk 5kms or more every day.

– Walking is versatile. You can even try interval training. So walk at a fast pace for 10 minutes, then reduce your speed and walk slower for another 10 minutes. Keep alternating between speeds, as you increase the number of steps you take every day.

Once you finish your walk,  some toning and strecthing exercises will further work on all muscle groups
Once you finish your walk, some toning and strecthing exercises will further work on all muscle groups

– Many people consider using ankle weights or wrist weights to add more impact to their walks. But unless you have been walking for a long time, this is best avoided. For beginners, body weight is more than enough.

– Once you have started walking at a pace fast enough to break in to a sweat with ease and are also walking over 5 km a day, try and incorporate a few uphill and downhill walks. If you use the treadmill to walk, this is easy. If you walk outdoors, try ramps and stairs to add more impact to your workouts.

– Once you finish your walk, do a few toning and stretching exercises. These will loosen up your muscles and will also add more strength. Toning exercises can be done with bodyweight exercises or even with light free weights. Aim to work all larger muscle groups, starting with your neck, shoulders, arms, chest, sides, abdomen, things and calves.

As long as you feel challenged by walking and can do it consistently, it is a good enough workout for most people, irrespective of their age. In fact, though most people think that running is the best cardiovascular exercise, it can negatively impact your joints, back and knees. Try walking, but make sure that you put enough work in to your workouts. It’s cheap too – All you really need is a good pair of shoes, a pedometer to track your progress and a good MP3 player to stay motivated and energized!

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