Everyone is encouraged to engage in some form of activity to avoid sedentary lifestyles, one of these activities is walking. Walking is great, it is an extremely important functional movement for quality of life, so it essential to be able to walk, but is it right for you as a sole means of exercise? If walking outdoors is your sole source of exercise then please read on for the pro’s and con’s.
Reasons why people just ‘walk’
- It’s very easy
- They don’t know what else to do
- They think the only way to get fit is to run and so they walk instead because running is too hard (agreed!)
- Gym memberships are too expensive and/or they feel uncomfortable going to a gym
- Buying exercise equipment is too expensive
- Improved blood and lymph circulation
- Great for stress relieve and mental health
- Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Save fuel by walking instead of driving
- Great for active recovery if you are sore from other forms of exercise
- Walking with others can improve social interaction
- Maintain healthy cognitive function
- Specific rehabilitation
- It’s really easy compared to most other forms of exercise
*Walking along flat ground*
- Out of all exercises, it probably burns the least amount of calories / hr
- It won’t really increase muscle mass
- It won’t drastically improve your fitness levels
- It isn’t generally great for improving overall bone mineral density
- It won’t improve your range of motion of joints
- It can potentially increase musculoskeletal pain if you walk with imbalances and incorrect footwear
- Getting swooped by magpies in their breeding season (this is the main con!)
Our body is very efficient at walking, it’s one of those things that is designed to conserve energy like back in the day when we were hunters and gatherers, walking for very long distances. It’s basically controlled falling where all you need to do is be able to hold yourself up and maintain some coordinated movement patterns. This is why you shouldn’t use it as a main activity to improve your fitness, strength and mobility, it doesn’t challenge or overload the body like other exercises do.
Tips to Progress
- Use walking as a way to get moving or as part of a warm up
- Go hiking instead
- Utilise hills to challenge your body (and hills/stairs increase glute contraction strength!)
- Join a gym
- Use a treadmill where you can maintain speed, incline and heart rate (HR) at a desired level for effect.
- Seek the guidance of a fitness coach to teach you other ways you can enjoy exercise (this doesn’t have to be an ongoing expense)
- Break up your walk with staggered body weight exercises, eg, every 200 m do 20 squats.
- You can work your entire body if you purchase a set of gymnastic rings ($50-$100) and have somewhere to hang them!
There are a lot of benefits to walking, there is no doubt, but what is your goal? First things first, have a clearly defined goal and when you want to achieve it by. Secondly, if you don’t know how to achieve it, seek guidance. At the end of the day, it’s still better than doing nothing!