John Ford, certified exercise physiologist and owner of JKF Fitness & Health in New York City, says that walking is a great form of exercise for many people, including those with knee, ankle, and back problems, and those who are overweight or obese. Walking is a low-impact exercise that can be done for extended periods of time, making it a great option for those looking to improve their fitness or lose weight.
The Physical Benefits of Walking
Green lists many reasons for why walking is good for exercise. These reasons include improving fitness and cardiac health, alleviating depression and fatigue, improving mood, creating less stress on joints and reducing pain, preventing weight gain, reducing the risk for cancer and chronic disease, improving endurance, circulation, and posture.
The energy used for moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running resulted in similar reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease over the study’s six-year period.
The two activities – walking and running – are equals in terms of their benefits for health, so long as the person expends the same amount of energy during both activities.
A number of previous studies have shown that taking a daily walk can have various benefits, such as reducing the risk of stroke for both men and women, reducing the number of days spent in hospital each year, and potentially lowering the risk of death by up to 39 percent in comparison to those who don’t do any leisure-time physical activity.
The study found that people who stuck to a walking program saw significant improvements in their blood pressure, resting heart rate, body fat and weight, cholesterol, depression scores, and quality of life. They also saw increased measures of endurance.
The Mental Benefits of Walking
The mental benefits of adding a walk to your daily routine may be more immediate than the physical benefits.
One study conducted by researchers at Stanford University found that walking can increase creative output by up to 60%. This type of creativity is known as “divergent thinking”, and is defined as a thought process used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. According to the study, “walking can help to increase the free flow of ideas, and is a simple and effective way to increase creativity and physical activity.”
Since science shows that it is good for our minds to wander when we are trying to be innovative, it makes sense that doodling would help us come up with new ideas.
The mental benefits of walking are not only limited to creativity; walking has also been proven to elevate one’s mood. One study found that after just 12 minutes of walking, people felt more jovial, attentive, and confident when compared to those who had spent the same amount of time sitting. Walking in nature, specifically, was found to reduce worry and negative thinking, which activates the parts of the brain associated with negative emotions and raises the risk of depression.
Walking can help improve memory and prevent the deterioration of brain tissue as we age. Also, psychologists believe that a short walk can be just as effective as a long workout when it comes to relieving the symptoms of anxiety and boosting mood.
How to get the most out of your walking workout
You won’t see significant results if you mindlessly walk on a treadmill for an hour at a moderate pace.
The use of the buttons on a treadmill can make a walking workout more effective.
If you adjust the settings on a treadmill properly, you can get just as good of a workout walking as you can running, according to certified personal trainer Chrys Crockett of VIBE5 Fitness.
According to Rob McGillivray, Founder of RETROFIT in West Hollywood, adding some variables to a simple walk can turn it into a fun, fast interval session that burns a high level of calories and crushes fat cells.The heart rate of someone walking up a mixture of steep hills and then adding in variations of walking speeds, styles of walking (such as lunging, striding, side crossovers, etc.) is greater than someone who is primarily running at a medium pace on a level gradient. This results in greater all-round results on both your body’s caloric burn and a greater degree of lower limb muscle groups being targeted.
McGillivray suggests varying your incline, walking style, speed, and weights (ankle weights and/or handheld weights to work the upper body while on the move), as well as music choices to help encourage a variation in speed.
To make your walking workout more effective, you can use some of the following variables.
Crockett says that many people don’t take advantage of the incline feature on treadmills, which can turn a motion similar to walking on a sidewalk into something more like walking up a mountain. The benefits of using the incline feature include an intensified workout, more calorie and fat burning, and activation of the glutes, quadriceps, and calves.
An incline can provide a more challenging workout while still being easier on the knees than running or jogging.
One mistake that people make is setting the machine to a pace that is too fast for them, Crockett says. Instead, people should make sure that the machine is set to a pace that they can safely walk or run on without hanging on. This way, they will be able to engage their muscles and use more energy.
Interval training is a quick way to get the most out of your treadmill workout, whether you are walking or running. Intervals help to build up your strength and cardio endurance by using short periods of time to maximize your results.
If you want to start walking with intervals, Spraul says to start by walking for 5 minutes at a comfortable speed with no incline. Once you’re done there, increase the incline to 5 percent for 3 minutes. After those 3 minutes are up, return to 0 incline for 1 minute of rest while keeping the same speed. Repeat this for 3-5 rounds, depending on how you’re feeling.
One way to make your morning walk an interval workout, as Dr. Tannenberg suggests, is to create a playlist with alternating fast and slow songs. When you hear a fast song come on, walk quickly, and when a slow song comes on, slow down your pace.
One way to increase the intensity of your walking routine is to add weights. For example, you can use dumbbells to do exercises such as shoulder presses, dumbbell jabs, squats, and sit-ups while you are walking on an incline. This will help to tone your arms and burn more calories. Another option is to do quick, high-repetition exercises such as weighted jumping jacks after you finish your fast interval on the treadmill.
According to Spraul, carrying extra weight will make your workout more intense and help you burn more calories, as long as the weight you’re using isn’t too much for you and throws you off balance.
The Secret to Walking Your Way to a Lean Body, Say Experts
- You Need to Step on the Gas
One of the best ways to make your walks more effective, especially if you’re looking to lose weight, is to walk faster. This will raise your heart rate and help your body burn stored fat, according to Steve Stonehouse, the director of education at STRIDE, a walking and running class.
To get the most out of your walks, you should walk at a moderate pace. If you can sing while you walk, you are not going fast enough.
- Or Walk on an Incline
To burn more fat while walking, walk uphill or use the incline function on your treadmill.
“While the number of calories burned by each person is based on individual factors, walking or running at an incline of two percent or more burns more calories than walking or running outdoors on a level surface—the body uses a greater percentage of fat for fuel,” says the Iowa Heart Center. “Walking at 3mph on a super-incline trainer… burns 70 percent more fat than running with no incline.”
- Brisk Walking Is a Wonder Drug for Your Body
The Mayo Clinic, a leading authority on health, reports that regular brisk walking can have a positive impact on both muscles and bones. The Australian government’s health department notes that other benefits of brisk walking include improved management of conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol, joint pain, and diabetes.
The study found that going for a brisk walk for half an hour can improve blood flow to the brain, cognitive performance, and memory function in older adults with cognitive impairments.
According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, regular walking at a brisk pace was associated with a 20 percent reduced risk of “all-cause death.”
- Here’s a Great Brisk Walking Workout to Try
Ash Wilking, who is a popular Nike Trainer, Rumble Instructor, and creator of the app Ash Fit On Demand, has provided ETNT Mind+Body with this great walking workout that you can try at home. She says that in order to burn more fat, you need to walk faster for a longer period of time, so this workout is an hour long.
The walk will take a total of 12 minutes. You will walk for one minute at a “faster than normal pace.” Then, you will do 30 seconds of either heel kicks or high knees. After that, you will return to one minute at a faster pace. You will do this 8 times.
Sprint for 30 seconds, then walk for 1 minute at an easy pace. Do this 8 times. The workout consists of eight 3-minute walks at a fast pace followed by two minutes at an easy pace. There are also eight 30-second sprints with a one-minute easy walk in between.
Jog for 1 minute at a comfortable pace. Walk for 1 minute to cool down. The Cooldown: Walk for 8 minutes at a slow pace. Jog for 1 minute at a comfortable pace. Walk for 1 minute to cool down.