If your idea of an effective cardio workout involves a long-distance run, a high-intensity bike ride, or a vigorous aerobics class, you’d be right, but you’d be missing out on a simple, yet effective activity. Power walking is a great cardio workout that can be done indoors or outdoors, any time of the day or night, without the need for a gym membership or special equipment .
All you need to practice walking is a comfortable, sturdy pair of shoes and the motivation to put them on and get going. This article takes a closer look at the benefits of walking as a cardio exercise, and how you can improve your fitness and health by putting some pep in your step.
Is walking a good type of cardio exercise?
Cardio is short for “cardiovascular,” which means exercise involves the heart (cardio) and blood vessels (vascular). The term “cardio” is also used interchangeably with the term “aerobic”, which means “with air”. A good cardio workout makes your heart pump harder and faster, allowing oxygen-rich blood to flow more efficiently to all the muscles, organs, and tissues in your body.
You might associate this blood-pumping action with running and wonder if walking is cardio exercise. The truth is, any activity that works your heart and lungs, as well as your large muscle groups, can be considered aerobic or cardio exercise. A brisk walk does all of this.
What are the benefits of walking?
Walking has many benefits, in addition to improving your cardiovascular condition. A regular brisk walking routine can help
reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes
improve blood circulation
manage high blood pressure
improve cholesterol levels
control blood sugar level
strengthen muscles and bones
improve your sleep
increase your energy level
improve brain functions
improve balance and coordination
Is walking better than running?
Brisk walking is considered moderate-intensity exercise, defined simply as an activity that allows you to carry on a conversation, but is too strenuous for you to sing. Running, of course, is a much more demanding activity and is considered vigorous-intensity exercise. Both walking and running provide the same benefits. A study published in a journal of the American Heart Association found that walking and running led to a similar reduction in the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.
Remember, though, that you need to walk for a longer period of time to burn as many calories and get some of the other benefits of running. But if you’re not pressed for time, or aren’t looking to take part in a 10k run, walking may be a better option, especially if you have joint problems, injuries or pain. backbones.
Walking places less stress and strain on your joints and feet than running. A 2016 study found that the impact force of running is significantly greater than that of walking, whether moderate or vigorous. This means there is less risk of joint injury with walking. Walking may be a better cardio option than running if you have joint issues or injuries.
How fast should you walk?
As we mentioned earlier, the easiest way to gauge if you’re walking fast, but not too fast, is to take the “talk test” and see if it’s easy to converse.
If you can speak comfortably enough with some shortness of breath, you’re probably walking at a moderate-intensity pace.
If speaking out loud is difficult for you, you are probably walking at a brisk pace.
If you can sing your favorite song with ease, you are walking at a low intensity. Try to pick up the pace!
Another measure is known as the Borg Perceived Exertion Scale, which rates how hard you feel your body is working for a given activity.
The scale goes from 6 to 20. A 6 corresponds to zero effort, as if you were sitting quietly reading a book. A 20 means you feel like you’re working “very, very hard,” like a burst of speed at the end of a race or some other effort that you can’t sustain for very long.
To walk at a moderate intensity pace, try aiming for 13 to 14 on the scale. At this rate, your heart rate and breathing quicken but you are not out of breath. If you want to walk at a faster pace, aim for 15 to 16 on the scale.
If you are a beginner, try to maintain a brisk walking pace of 4 to 5 km per hour. If you are already quite active, aim for a pace of 5 to 7 km/h. And if you’re ready to race walk, increase your pace to over 8km/h.
How often should you walk?
Aim for 150 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity, or 75 minutes or more of vigorous-intensity activity, each week for overall health and reduced risk of disease. Based on these recommendations, you could do five 30-minute brisk walks per week. If that sounds a little daunting, break your activity down into more manageable time chunks. For example, you could do
three 10-minute walks per day
two 15-minute walks per day
To get the most benefit from your walk, try to do at least 10 minutes at a time.
To start, you can start by walking on flat ground. As you build up your stamina and strength, you can start climbing small hills.
Tips for getting started with walking
Invest in a good pair of shoes
Before you take the first stride of your new walking workout, make sure you have the right walking shoes. Your shoes should be lightweight, but strong enough to cushion the sole and heel of your foot. The shoe should have enough room in the toe box (front of the shoe) for your toes to be comfortable, but not so much that the shoe moves with each step.
Wear breathable clothes
Loose clothing made of lightweight, breathable fabrics will help you walk more comfortably. Dry clothes that wick away sweat can help you stay cool and dry.
Before heading out, warm up for a few minutes to increase blood circulation throughout your body and prepare your muscles and joints to move. Here are some simple warm-up moves:
Stand on one leg and gently rock the other leg back and forth 10 to 20 times. Then switch legs.
Do a set of squats while standing with your feet hip-width apart. Work your core, keep your back straight, and lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Pause briefly with your knees over your toes, but not past them. Exhale and stand up. Do this exercise 8 to 10 times.
Standing with your legs shoulder-width apart and your arms extended to your sides, do 10 backward circles with your arms, then 10 forward circles.
Be careful outside
If you are walking outside, be sure to use sunscreen and wear sunglasses and a hat. If you’re hiking in cold weather, put on several layers of clothing that you can take off when you warm up. Bring enough water to stay hydrated throughout your walk. You can also bring your phone in case you need help.
Make it fun
Chances are you’ll stick to your walking routine if it’s something you enjoy doing. To up the fun factor, you can consider:
walk with a friend or two or join a walking group
walk your dog
listen to a podcast while walking
listen to a playlist of your favorite songs that make you want to move
use a fitness tracker or app to set goals and challenge yourself.
Tips for walking on a treadmill
If bad weather forces you to exercise indoors, or if you just want to watch a TV show while doing your cardio workouts, a treadmill is ideal for your walk. Make sure you know how the treadmill works before you start using it. Also make sure you know how to stop it and how to change the speed and incline.
Ideally, use a treadmill with side handrails, not just a front handle. This is especially important if you have balance issues. Try not to hold on to the railings or lean on them. Poor posture or an unnatural stride can increase the risk of injury.
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