A low-impact way to improve your health is to walk. As a personal trainer and fitness instructor, I’m asked almost daily what the best tips or quick fixes are when it comes to health and physical fitness. And the answer is simple — Walk! You don’t need to train like a professional athlete in order to move better and feel stronger. Even though we often lump “walking” into the lame workout category, there really isn’t a more simple, accessible way to improve your health. Long walks are great exercise, so much so that all of us should add them into our routine.
Walking, even for as little as 20 minutes a day, is a wonderful way to invigorate your cardiovascular system and the fresh air can even help you clear your mind and de-stress. Whether you’re someone who’s just starting a fitness journey, or a seasoned gym rat looking to enhance your recovery, adding walking to your weekly to-do list is a must. Here are more reasons why walking is a must-add to your workout routine.
Look inside your closet and you probably have at least one passable pair of sneakers you can slip on and hit the sidewalk with. If you’re just starting a fitness routine, it can be overwhelming just to feel ready enough to begin. Clever marketing and Instagram tries to convince us that we need massage guns, CBD, and a full wardrobe of shiny leggings and matching scrunchies just to get in shape — that’s just not true. You don’t need much other than the willpower to leave your house and go for a walk.
Many of us have the connotation that a “workout” has to be an hour long and leave us drenched in sweat. Wrong! Incorporating walking as a part of your daily routine or commute is a smart way to get moving when you’re short on time. Remember, most health guidelines, including those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Heart Association (AHA) recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, which averages to just over 20 minutes per day.
When I work with clients who are brand new to movement, one of the barriers for many is feeling self-conscious or nervous about doing something wrong. While form and technique are vital to prevent injury during most workouts, walking is something most of us have been doing since we were babies. If you can put one foot in front of the other, you can do it! Be mindful of any alignment issues — if you’ve always had creaky knees, wobbly ankles, or any pain in your feet, it’s worth exploring orthotic inserts or, better, meeting with a physical therapist or podiatrist to check out your alignment.
Perhaps Elle Woods’ greatest contribution is making working out synonymous with getting endorphins — and endorphins make you happy! Sure, you’ll experience an extra pep in your step when you move a little more, but walking also gives us an opportunity to slow down and connect with our bodies. Since it’s not as strenuous as a run or clipping in on a spin bike, you’ll have more time to listen to your body and strengthen your mind-body connection. If getting zen isn’t your vibe, reserving a great podcast, audio book, or fun tunes for your walk is a wonderful way to strategically associate exercise with happiness.
Whether you run for 40 minutes at a steady pace or walk for 40 minutes, you’ll likely gain the same benefits. Both are forms of steady state cardio which helps promote endurance and recovery. While running gives a higher level of perceived exertion, your cardiovascular system is doing the same thing in both activities: building aerobic endurance. As a trainer, I understand there’s a certain satisfaction to finishing a work out drenched in sweat or hopping off the treadmill still breathless from a run but, one of the most common missteps in any training regimen is doing too much, too quickly and too intensely. Choosing a long walk over a steadily paced jog will still allow you to build cardiovascular endurance and have room in your routine to relax. Many times I see clients go too hard too soon and fall off the wagon because they either get frustrated or injured by a high volume of training. Walking keeps things simple, helps you recover faster, and will help you avoid workout burnout.
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About the author
Emi Gutgold is a PMA NCPT and NASM CPT based in New York City. Just like Elle Woods, she is also a gemini and vegan. When she's not teaching Pilates or lifting heavy weights, she's eating pita and hummus with her dog, Chickpea, and binging trash reality TV.