As we all get busier and busier in today’s world, sometimes it can be difficult to make an appointment at the gym. For those of you who are dread lifting weights, doing cardio, or get easily intimidated when you see people doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), have no fear, this blog post is for you. In this blog post, I am going to be telling you all 5 benefits of walking and 3 easy ways to increase your step count.
1) Walking is the BEST form of cardio
Yes, you did read that correctly. Walking is the BEST form of cardio. But let’s define that a little because “best” can be subjective. After all, many people swear by HIIT cardio, where you go all out in intensity for 15-30 seconds and then you rest for a few minutes, followed by another round of full-out exertion, and more rest. Repeat this the desired number of times, and you have HIIT cardio. Many gym influencers will say it is the “secret” to getting in shape. But here is what they don’t tell you.
- HIIT Cardio is intense! As such, it will take a wear and tear on your body
- Your body can only handle 20 minutes at a time (depending on how physically fit you are)
- Joint pain can increase as a result of HIIT Cardio due to the high intensity
- The “after-burn” effect is a load of crap when it comes to weight loss
Now, why is walking the best when compared to this regularly toted “fat-loss” secret? There are a few reasons:
- First and foremost, anyone can walk. The accessibility of it is through the roof. An obese person cannot do HIIT cardio for fear of having a stroke, an obese person can certainly walk though. Moreover, you can do it anywhere. If it’s snowing or raining outside, yet you want to get steps in, just pace around the living room. If you were to try sprinting or running around the living room, it wouldn’t really work that well, would it?
- Longer duration = more calories burnt. Because walking is so effortless, you can do it for a sustained period of time. If you asked individuals to do cardio until they couldn’t do it any longer and one of them is doing walking and one of them is doing sprinting, who will last longer? Let’s say we even give the sprinter a minute between each sprint. How long is that person actually going to last before they give up? My guess not that long. However, the walking person will continue going and going like the energizer bunny and thus burn more calories in the long run. Or, should I say “long walk.”
- Less Fatigue on Your Joints. Walking puts relatively little strain on your joints, whereas running or sprinting can really damage knee joints. Because a part of a healthy lifestyle is also incorporating some exercise into your routine as well, it’s wise to have as little wear-and-tear on your body as possible and save that for the gym (if you can get there).
- EPOC means nothing. EPOC stands for Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. Essentially, it is the “after-burn” effect that many people who do HIIT cardio claim is the benefit of it. Sadly, it doesn’t really account for much. According to research, it only burns an excess of 6-15% of the calories burnt. So, let’s say you did some HIIT for 20 minutes and you burned 200 calories. Awesome. With EPOC you burned now 212 calories – 230 calories. Do you know how easily that can be gained back through a bad diet? Have one tablespoon of peanut butter and its 96 calories…
- Walking isn’t dangerous. As almost anyone can walk and there is no real “thinking” or “planning” that one needs to do before going for a walk, it is safe. Safe is a good thing. It means you can continue it day after day after day. It means you can incorporate it into your lifestyle. It is something you can grow to enjoy, not something you “have” to do or “get done” like HIIT cardio. How many of you HIIT people out there actually get excited for it? My guess is less than a handful. Walking, on the other hand, is super chill and you don’t need much planning around it. Just do it. And you won’t have to worry about injury most likely.
Note: I want to mention one thing here before we move onto the next benefit. If you’re a busy individual and cannot walk for thirty minutes to an hour or so, then HIIT might be a good choice for you. If you still want to increase your cardiovascular performance but don’t have time, then do it. However, know that it doesn’t really burn more calories in the long walk. Next, many people think that HIIT increases longevity, and there is some truth behind that, as better cardiovascular health has been associated with that, but also just know that eating in a caloric deficit and not over-consuming calories can also help you live a longer, healthier life as well.
2) Walking is easily measurable
Compared with other forms of cardio, walking is relatively easy to measure the caloric output. For every 1000 steps taken, a normal individual burns around 40 calories. Walking 10K steps per day means you would burn around 400 calories. Now, while the “smart” watches on our wrist aren’t all that smart when it comes to tracking calories, they do an incredible job at tracking step count. And because we can easily track our steps, it is easier to know how many calories we are burning through this type of cardio versus swimming or boxing. For individuals who are looking to gain weight or lose weight, walking and setting a step-count goal for yourself may be a surefire way to make sure you are not being overly active or lethargic.
3) Walking improves heart health
While mentioned obliquely in point 1, walking improves our heart health. It is recommended that individuals perform 150 minutes of cardio every week if they want an optimal functioning body. Guess what? Walking can be your form of cardio. Seriously. What does this look like? Well, to get the basic benefits of this, it would be as simple as taking a 30-minute walk, 5 days per week. If you want higher health benefits, challenge yourself to do a little more every day. A good goal is the 10,000 step mark, but research has shown that it doesn’t even need to be that much. 8,000 steps every day is a good baseline number if you want to optimize your heart health and avoid doing the crazy forms of cardio you see people performing in the gym.
4) Walking increases energy and helps decrease cravings
Because walking has been shown to help with fat-loss by creating more of a caloric deficit (see point 1), it will also increase your energy. Let me explain. If your body weighs less, then it will require less energy to move it from point a to point b. This frees up more energy for other bodily functions. Moreover, by incorporating walking into your daily routine, you can fight back against sweet-tooth cravings and lethargy. Try walking the next time you feel like you need a snack or something sweet. Most likely, after a casual twenty-minute walk, you will have forgotten about those cravings that you had. You can do the same thing for that 2 p.m. struggle when you’re feeling exhausted at your desk. Get up and go outside for a brief walk (or pace around your office!). It will help increase your energy and improve your mood.
5) Walking improves creativity
Walking out and about has been linked to more creative thinking. A study that included four experiments compared people trying to think of new ideas while they were walking or sitting. Researchers found participants who performed this task better were the ones who were walking, especially outdoors.
As a result of this study, researchers postulated that walking frees up the mind and a flow of ideas can enter our brain. You can read the full study by going to this link here.
6) Bonus tip! Walking is easily scalable
What I mean by this is that you can easily increase the intensity of walking, much more so than running. Using a treadmill, for example, instead of walking just at 3 speed, maybe you eventually increase it to 3.5 and then to 4 and then even maybe to 4.5. When that gets too easy, go back down to 3 and then start adding incline to your walking and see just how many more calories you can burn.
This is a secret method of cardio I know most body builders do. I, also, stand behind it as a super-easy and super-hack when it comes to cardio, which is why I included this as number 6, and a bonus tip to all of you. Just remember this, 12/3/20. If you want to create the same caloric deficit as HIIT cardio, yet you do not want the same level of fatigue, set the treadmill to 12 incline, 3 speed (kmph), and walk for 20 minutes. If this is too easy for you, scale up in speed or incline—most treadmills can go to an incline of 15. Yes, you can always increase the difficulty of your run, too, but that will lead to exhaustion much faster than increasing just the speed of your walking.
There are many more reasons why you should walk, but hopefully you don’t need any more to see why it is important to start incorporating it into your lifestyle. Instead, you may be wondering how to put it into your lifestyle in a way that is less obtrusive and the easiest to stick to. Well, here are 3 super simple (and often overlooked) ways of putting more pep in your step.
- Walk between sets. One of the most overlooked periods of cardio is the “rest” during each set. Many of you reading this probably do your body injustice by only resting 30 seconds to 1 minute in between each set, thinking that this is standard. Let me tell you something, it’s hogwash. This approach may be good if you want to do cardio, but if you’re into weightlifting and getting stronger, your body needs more time to recover because you should have just gone harder than last time with the weights that you chose. I rest around 2 to 3 minutes every set in the gym and during this time, I pace around the gym to increase my step count. Because I do this every time, I don’t need to spend an extra 20 minutes or more in the gym afterwards doing “cardio” as I will have already finished it during my workout.
- Walk while you’re talking. How many of you just sit down to catch up with friends and family? I used to be one of these individuals. I’ll still do this occasionally if I need to jot down notes or something. Now, however, I usually walk and talk at the same time. I’ll call my friends on Skype while I am out for my morning stroll and having something to do while I am walking. Some of my catchups with my friends can last an hour or more, so walking during this time allows me to gain 5K-7K steps while putting in no extra effort.
- Walk while reading. I didn’t think I would be a fan of audiobooks, but I have grown to like them quite a bit to be honest. If you haven’t considered trying out audiobooks, give this a go and listen to your favorite novel, podcast, or self-help book while taking a leisurely stroll throughout the community. (If you’re wondering what books to read, check out my recent blog posts on the top 5 fiction books and the top 5 non-fiction books to read—or listen to—on your next walk.
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