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Maybe you have enjoyed vigorous exercise in the past, but time or events have conspired to make you look for some physical activities that are a bit less strenuous on the body than running or high-impact sports.
Or maybe it is the other way around, and you are just starting out with your exercise regimen, and need to ease into it.
Or perhaps you are just looking for a little bit of extra activity to add to a vigorous routine to burn a few more activities.
Regardless one of your best options is walking.
But is walking actually exercise?
When people think of exercise, they often think of heavy breathing, sweating, and exhaustion. How can you get any of that from simply walking? Many people are able to walk a mile or two with relative ease. Some even walk 5 miles a day to help them lose weight.
Below, we will answer 18 frequently asked questions about the effectiveness of walking as a form of exercise.
Let's jump right in.
Frequently Asked Questions About Walking
1. Is walking exercise?
In 1989, a study was completed by the Cooper Institute that linked daily walking to improved health.
The study followed 13,000 people for over eight years and revealed that moderately fit people had a significantly lower chance of dying from heart disease than people who are sedentary. While it is true that extremely fit people had the lowest death rates, their extra work only increased their health advantages over moderately fit people by 10-15%.
This study initially gave walking a good reputation when it came to getting physical exercise. However, as time progressed, more details about walking for exercise came to the surface.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, simply walking throughout the day as you normally would does not suffice if you are trying to get exercise.
While over 145 million adults claim that walking is a part of their exercise, they do not realize that you need at least 2 1/2 hours of aerobic activity each week for it to be beneficial to your health. This means that walking should be done at a fast pace at least 10 minutes at a time for a total of 150 minutes each week.
So, yes, walking certainly has the ability to be fantastic exercise. However, it is important to make sure you are walking enough and at the right pace in order to gain health benefits from walking.
2. What are the benefits of incline walking?
Walking on an incline challenges your cardiovascular system even more than walking on an even surface. It also causes your lungs to breathe more deeply, which increases the blood flow to the lungs and heart. This is a great way to get more exercise without having to walk faster. According to LiveStrong, walking on an incline can help you lose weight, improve your aerobic capacity, and build leg strength.
Walking uphill can help to tone your legs, stomach, and butt by increasing your natural muscle movement.
Walking on an incline increases the calories you burn during your walk without increasing the time or your speed. The body also uses more fat for fuel and increases leg muscle activation.
For example, if you weigh 150 lbs. and you walk a 25-minute mile on no incline, you will burn about 97 calories for each mile you walk. However, if you do the same walk at a 4% incline, you will burn about 120 calories. The higher the incline, the more calories you will burn.
Walking on an incline also increases your heart rate, which may otherwise only be done by speeding up. If your goal is to walk and not run, you will only be able to speed up so much before you begin to jog. Walking on an incline will increase the workload of your exercise, which will raise your heart rate without risking getting an injury by speeding up and running.
3. Is walking on exercise machines as good as walking?
Perhaps you love walking outdoors and even have the perfect route to take, but the weather is becoming a huge limiting factor during the cold months of winter. During the times when the weather is not so inviting, can you do your walk on a treadmill and still get the same benefit?
There are some advantages and disadvantages to walking outdoors and walking on a treadmill. First, most people have access that they need to a convenient and affordable walking area outside. The changing terrain outside keeps the body's muscles guessing and adds some variety to the workout. With surfaces changing from concrete to grass, each step you take is slightly modified.
Additionally, walking outside gives your body varied proprioception, which is the neural-muscular response to stimuli that helps to keep the brain engaged in the walk. With the brain engaged, you must consider any changing factors during your walk to maintain your comfortable stride. Due to its repetitive nature, treadmills do not offer this same engagement of the brain's sensory receptors.
However, a treadmill is able to offer several setting options to simulate the same varieties that outdoor walking provides. Treadmills let you customize your incline and speed even more so than walking outside. Additionally, the surface of a treadmill puts less strain on your body than concrete or asphalt. The surface is also consistent, making it a bit more of a mindless task for beginners.
You can get the benefits of walking whether you do so outdoors or on an exercise machine. The key here is to find what works best for you and stick with it as much as you can. If walking on a treadmill is more likely to become a habit for you than walking outdoors, then that is the best option for you, and vice versa.
4. What are the benefits of walking barefoot?
Believe it or not, Health Guidance reveals that walking barefoot has various health and fitness benefits. The idea here is that the human body has evolved over thousands of years to provide us with the best mode of transportation. However, as the human body evolved, humans were still walking on bare feet.
With the invention of modern-day shoes, your ankle, bridge, and heal are supported, which changes your stride and angle to a point that the body was not designed for. The support that you get from shoes can help prevent muscle strain and ankle injuries, but it also provides the foot with too much protection that you then get accustomed to having.
Essentially, you don't get the same muscle development when you are walking with shoes because your muscles are not being used as they are intended to be to support your body. This can ultimately lead to more injuries to your ankle and surrounding muscles.
The negative aspects of shoes offer insights into the benefits of walking barefoot. When you walk barefoot, you will be using your foot muscles to adapt to the changing ground, which will help develop the muscles. This means that the foot muscles will become stronger, making your body more efficient and less prone to injury.
Additionally, you will become better at walking long distances. Due to the efficient way that you use your feet while walking barefoot, you will be less likely to tire out during your walk.
Another benefit of walking barefoot is that you are given the opportunity to use your toes. Your toes are designed to help you adapt to your walking surface. Using your toes will help you burn more fat and produce more of the growth hormone that results in muscle development.
The additional muscles that you use while walking barefoot help to decrease some issues that can come along with walking, such as shin splints, back pain, and knee pain. And think about some of the minor benefits that you can get from walking barefoot—you don't have to buy walking shoes, and you will be more light-footed!
5. How can I determine how fast I am walking?
There are a few methods you can use to determine your walking speed. If you have a pedometer and a watch, it is easy to determine how fast you’re walking. Get a pedometer that collects your height and stride length information in order to get the most accurate calculations.
Map out a mile route for your walk and use your pedometer to calculate the number of steps that you take on this one-mile route. Alternatively, determine how many steps it takes you to walk one yard. Multiply this number by 1,760, as that is the number of yards in a mile.
Walk your pre-determined course, taking note of your start and finish times. To calculate your speed, divide 60 by the number of minutes it took you to walk the mile. For example, if you completed your mile in 15 minutes, you would divide 60 by 15 and get a walking speed of 4 mph.
6. What are the benefits of brisk walking?
Perhaps you are used to walking at your own pace, or just strolling with your friends. If this is the case, consider the benefits of speed walking to get more benefits out of your walk.
Even if you still walk the same distance, speed walking will help you get more bang for your buck. Brisk walking increases the heart rate into the moderate-intensity exercise zone, and may even raise it into the vigorous exercise zone. This will help you reach your target heart rate that is needed for health benefits.
A brisk walk also adds increased endurance to your workout goals, which is likely to keep you motivated to continue to walk. It also increases the flexibility of your muscles and joints because it requires you to use a wide range of motion.
If you are short on time, speed walking will allow you to finish walking the same distance in less time than if you were just walking at your normal pace. The increased impact on your muscles also helps to tone them and build strong bones, which will delay osteoporosis.
7. What is good about walking in the morning?
A great way to start off your day is with an early morning walk. It will provide you with a sense of happiness, help to calm your nerves, and help relax your mind and body before taking on the day. In fact, there are several benefits to walking in the morning rather than waiting until the afternoon.
First, taking a morning walk will provide your body with the energy it needs to get through the day. It will make you feel alert and refreshed so you can conquer your day head-on. It will put you in a positive mindset that is needed to be successful.
Walking in the morning also helps you get it out of the way for the day. This way, you will not spend the day coming up with an excuse to skip your exercise for the day. Walking every morning has a better chance of becoming a habit that will result in long-term weight loss than walking during only a few afternoons each week.
You can also reap the social benefits of walking in the morning. People are more likely to be free very early in the day before they get wrapped up in work. Start a walking group so you can have some social time while you are also benefitting your body. You can even use this time to plan out your day and get in the necessary mindset to accomplish all of your goals.
8. I get pain in the front of my legs when walking. What is that?
This common pain is referred to as shin splints. Shin splints are pains in the lower leg caused by overuse of the muscles during exercise.
This is a common problem to have when people first begin a new walking or running regimen. However, shin splints are easily treated with self-care. Starting out slowly can prevent shin splints in the first place, but if they do occur, they can be treated.
According to the Mayo Clinic, shin splints cause you to feel a dull ache or sharp pain near your tibia while you are walking. The pain can either present itself towards the front of the leg or the back of the leg, depending on if you have anterior or posterior shin splints. Shin splints may also cause some swelling where the pain occurs.
Shin splint pain typically goes away when you stop moving, but if it continues to hurt, it may be progressing to a stress fracture. There are a few things you can do to prevent shin splints in the first place, including:
If you are currently experiencing shin splints, here are some self-care tips you can use to help accelerate the healing process:
Don't allow shin splints to keep you from walking for exercise. Shin splints are easy to overcome, and you can even do activities that are gentle on your shins while you are recovering.
9. What are the benefits of walking backward?
Walking backward may seem like a silly thing to do, but it actually provides several health perks. Walking backward is an easy way to challenge various muscles and make your mind focus and operate in a different way during your walk. According to Healthline, walking backward provides both mental and physical benefits.
Naturally, walking backward will give you a heightened sense of body awareness as you try to navigate your way in an unnatural manner. This also helps to increase your coordination and keeps you motivated to step outside of your comfort zone.
Walking backward will also prevent you from getting bored during your workout, and will actually improve your mood, as it keeps your mind guessing as to what is coming next. This also helps to sharpen your cognitive abilities, and really sends all of your senses into overdrive, which can even help improve your vision.
When it comes to the physical benefits, walking backward increases the strength in the muscles that you would not otherwise use if you were walking forward. This helps to burn more calories with increased muscle activation, and can even help improve your balance.
With the increased muscle strength, you will be able to maintain a healthy body weight more easily and even boost your metabolism and energy. What's more, a study published in the Journal of Biomechanics revealed that walking backward can actually help to reduce knee pain.
When walking backward, find a smooth surface that is far away from traffic, potholes, trees, and other walkers. A track that is not currently in use is an ideal location. You can even grab a friend to be a spotter so you are not at risk of bumping into anything. Start slowly to avoid muscle soreness from developing.
10. How does speed walking help intensify your exercise?
Speed walking will intensify your exercise by raising your heart rate. In this style of walking, you move at a steady and energetic pace. You move your arms in a calculated way to help propel your body forward and use brisk, long steps to get the most benefits from walking.
Power walking works your muscles by using intense and exaggerated movements of the arms and legs. When it is done consistently, power walking can decrease harmful cholesterol levels while still raising healthy cholesterol levels. Power walking works the heart harder to help lower blood pressure and lessen your chances of chronic disease.
Believe it or not, speeding up your pace can even help improve your mental health. The endorphins that are released in the brain during power walking result in a calmer state of mind. Also, taking a break from your everyday routine to go for a power walk will leave you feeling renewed and refreshed.
11. How does daily walking improve your health?
Making the choice to walk each day can improve your health in several ways. Its benefits even go beyond the short term and can benefit your health in the long term. Some of the benefits of daily walking include:
12. What are the advantages of walking a long-distance?
In addition to aiming for speed, walking longer distances will also help improve your health and wellness.
Obviously, if you walk 20 miles, you are taking more time out of your day than if you walk 5 miles. This means that doing long walks may not be practical every day. But going for long walks as much as possible can increase your endurance and stamina. As your distance improves over time, your physical strength will also improve, and you will be able to build up stronger walking habits.
Having better stamina means that you will be able to burn calories more efficiently, and increase your metabolism. It also helps to improve your aerobic capacity, which will result in more efficient oxygen intake.
What's more, your body will become more relaxed and you will be able to gain the mental strength that is needed to accomplish any goal that you set for yourself. Enjoy yourself as you push your body through a long walk. It will help teach you patience and determination as you are exercising.
13. Is it good/safe to walk after you eat?
Old wives’ tales tell us that it is not safe to engage in any type of physical activity right after you eat. This may be true if you are looking to run a marathon directly after eating your Thanksgiving dinner, but taking a walk after eating a meal is a completely different story. While there are a few things to keep in mind, walking after you eat is generally safe.
Remember, the type of food that you eat may impact your walk, especially if it makes you feel ill. If you are planning to go for a walk after eating, eat a meal that you know will not result in indigestion or nausea. This likely means avoiding foods that are greasy, high in fat, or heavy in sugar. Fatty and greasy foods are likely to make you feel sick to your stomach, and a sugary meal will spike your blood sugar, resulting in an energy crash during your walk. Stick with small meals that your body is used to before going on a walk.
If you are like me and have a sensitive stomach, it is best to wait at least half an hour after eating before you begin your walk. True, walking is not a rigorous exercise, but it can still cause the food in your stomach to slosh around, leaving you feeling sick. However, if you are lucky enough to have a strong stomach, you are probably fine going on a walk directly after you eat.
It is also important to consider the kind of walking you are planning to do before you start your meal. For example, if you know that you are going to walk up steep hills, you probably want to eat light foods. It may even be a good idea to eat only half of your meal before you walk, and the other half when you are finished walking. If you do happen to eat more than you intended, it may be a good idea to choose a less strenuous walking path if you have to start right away.
14. How many calories are burned in walking one mile?
The short answer to this question is that it depends. Your weight, the incline, and your speed are all factors in how many calories you will burn by walking one mile. The best rule of thumb is to figure that you will burn around 100 calories for every mile you walk if you are about 180 pounds. However, if you are 120 pounds, this number decreases to about 65 calories per mile.
If you speed up your walking to a brisk pace of four mph or more, you will burn more calories per mile as your speed increases. Another benefit of walking at a faster pace is that you will have the ability to walk a longer distance in the same amount of time, which will burn more calories.
Lastly, adding hills or an incline will also add to the number of calories you are able to burn per mile. Taking these factors into consideration, you can use this chart to get a more accurate idea of how many calories you are burning for each mile you walk.
15. How do I keep my feet from getting blisters?
Blisters are a common concern for walkers. They often occur if you have just started walking, recently switched your shoes, or have started walking longer distances. However, there are certainly ways to avoid getting painful blisters. You can toughen your feet both before and after your walk to prevent most blisters.
First, it is important to find the right shoes to prevent blisters. Blisters are caused by friction where your skin rubs against your shoe, so eliminating that friction is the first step in preventing blisters. While there is no shoe that is right for every foot, getting the right shape and size of shoe for your feet can make a big difference.
Beyond that, it is important to wear in new shoes before taking them out for a long walk. You need to break in your shoes to fit your feet, and that is a gradual process that you should take your time doing.
Wearing the right socks can also help prevent your feet from getting blisters. Invest in synthetic socks rather than cotton, as they will help wick away the moisture from your feet. Acrylic and polypropylene are good fabrics for keeping your feet dry.
To reduce the friction between your skin and your shoe, add some lubrication to your skin, such a petroleum jelly or A&D lotion. This will help your skin to glide with your shoe rather than rub against it.
If you do feel a blister forming, cover the spot to protect it. You can put a Band-aid on the spot, or use sports tape to help protect the blister and prevent it from getting worse. I like to keep second skin blister pads on hand for when I get in a pinch and need a quick fix.
16. How is climbing stairs beneficial?
Climbing stairs is one of the most beneficial exercises if you are trying to burn fat, strengthen and tone your lower body, and lose inches from your midsection. Climbing stairs is also very beneficial for your lungs and cardiovascular health.
Cardiovascular workouts that include climbing stairs offer vigorous and continuous movement for your legs and hips, which causes you to breathe deeper and increases your heart rate. This enhances the blood flow to your organs and helps your body release endorphins that act as natural pain relievers.
Doctors even say that climbing stairs is one of the best forms of exercise you can get. It is the ideal way to increase your energy, improve your immune system, and reduce your risk for chronic disease.
A report done by Harvard Medical School shows that stair climbing is an effective weight loss strategy. According to their studies, people who walk up stairs burn three times as many calories as when they are walking at a faster pace on a flat surface. Climbing stairs can also challenge people who are already in good physical shape since the activity is about twice as vigorous as weight lifting or walking on an incline.
While stair climbing can have a lot of health benefits, it may not be right for you if you have a heart condition, or knee, hip, or ankle issues. Consider these factors before beginning a stair-climbing routine, and remember to use caution when you are walking downstairs, as the joints in your knees and ankles are being subjected to additional stress.
17. How often should I buy new walking shoes?
Once you find a walking shoe that is right for you, you can stick with that model shoe as long as you replace it when necessary. Walking shoes have a limited lifespan because you are breaking them down just a little bit with every step that you take in them.
After traveling for 500 miles, most walking shoes need to be recycled. In fact, a typical athletic shoe is built to only last for about 350 miles. But if you are walking and not running, you are not pounding your shoes as hard. This can lengthen the life of your shoes to 500 miles, but it is important to not go past that point.
You should also take your weight into consideration. Your shoes will wear out faster if you weigh more. If you are walking an average of about four hours each week, be sure to replace your shoes every six months. Buy shoes more frequently if you are walking more than this each week.
Remember, your shoes begin to age before you even start to use them. Walking shoes are glued together, and the glue dries out. The cushioning also slowly dissipates with time. Often, shoes that are on sale have been around for quite some time and may give you less use before they begin to wear out.
Need help choosing the right walking shoes? Check out our reviews on the Best Walking Shoes for Women and Best Walking Shoes for Men
18. How many calories do you burn walking 10,000 steps?
So, what makes 10,000 the magic number of steps that you should take each day? Aside from being a nice, round number, 10,000 steps is also widely known to be a good goal for fat loss.
In order to burn fat, you have to burn more calories than you consume, creating a caloric deficit. One pound of fat is equal to about 3,500 calories, so if you have a caloric deficit of 500 calories per day, that creates a 3,500-calorie deficit each week, allowing you to lose one pound each week.
Taking 10,000 steps each day may help to achieve this goal because it has the potential to burn 3,500 calories. It is important to note that this claim is a generalization that applies to only a certain number of people. But it is a general guideline that people can follow.
To understand why this is true, it’s helpful to know the estimations that this claim originates from. If you are 180 pounds and walk at three miles per hour, this estimation is likely to be about right. However, if you are a different weight and vary your speed and intensity of walking, this number will certainly change.
No matter how many calories you are personally able to burn by walking 10,000 steps, it is important to remember that you cannot out-exercise a bad diet. So, while you may burn an optimal number of calories with 10,000 steps, it will not be an effective way to lose weight if your diet is not working hand-in-hand with your exercise routine.
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A Walking Habit that Works for You
It is hard to get started on an exercise program. Maybe you don't know where to begin, or you think that exercise is complicated and you don't feel motivated to learn how to do it. It can certainly be confusing to hear other people talking about their exercise routines if you do not have one yourself.
Let me assure you that as soon as all of your questions and concerns are answered, you will be able to create a routine that will eventually turn into a habit. Walking for exercise will no longer be something that you dread doing. It will become something that you look forward to every day because it will make you feel better.
People who are just starting out with a new walking exercise routine often have a lot of questions and concerns. Sometimes the number of questions that people have actually kept them from getting started in the first place. Rather than answering these questions individually, I want to address them all together so that anyone who is looking to begin walking for exercise can have all of their questions answered in one place.
Getting exercise certainly does not have to be complicated. Even doing something that you already do every day by taking a brisk walk can improve your health. For example, going for a quick walk each day can help you:
What's more, the faster and farther you walk each day, the more health benefits you will get.
Walking is a very important part of keeping your body in top physical shape. It helps to keep your blood circulating in a healthy way, and it requires you to put into action the muscles that will be needed for your long-term health and wellness.
So, what are some of the lesser-known benefits of walking? A few of them include:
Consider your shoes so you are able to be comfortable during your walks. Also, remember that changing up your pace and your incline, and even walking backward can help keep your muscles guessing and increase the number of calories and amount of fat you are able to burn.
Get your walking over with in the morning so you can continue on with your healthy habits for the rest of the day. Start small, but work your way up to longer walks as you get accustomed to the exercise.
Final Thoughts on Walking as Exercise
I give you my best wishes in creating and maintaining a walking habit that works for you. While it may seem overwhelming at first, these are some great questions to consider and to keep a note of in case you need to reference them after you have started your walking routine.
To help you get started, check out these walking apps to help you track your steps, manage your weight, and record your walks.
Do you have any comments or additional questions about walking for exercise?
If so, write them in the comments so other people who may have the same questions can get firm answers as well. Often, reading other people's questions can help people discover new information that has not yet occurred to them.
Share your experience with walking and what has worked for you in the past to help keep you going and maintain this healthy habit. Help others discover why they should be using their ability to walk to their advantage as well!
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