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Did You Know Walking Is a Good Cardio Workout?

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Did You Know Walking Is a Good Cardio Workout?

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Brisk walking for 20 minutes a day is a good cardio workout. It pushes the heart muscles to work harder, which makes it stronger.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Atul Prakash

Published At August 24, 2019
Reviewed AtNovember 17, 2022

What Is Cardio Exercise?

Cardio or aerobic exercise helps work your muscles repeatedly, which pushes the heart and lungs to work harder. Thus, regular cardio exercise helps strengthen the heart muscles and makes it work more efficiently. A stronger heart pumps blood more effectively, which helps in lowering your heart rate and blood pressure at rest.

Exercise, in‌ ‌general, can also improve your mood, help you sleep better, reduce stress, keep your mind focused, improve memory, and increase stamina. Working out regularly can help maintain a healthy weight, improve cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of health conditions like diabetes, stroke, and cancers.

How Is Walking Considered a Good Cardio Exercise?

If you hate going to the gym, then walking might just be the best cardio exercise for you. Brisk walking has the same effect on the heart and lungs as any other cardio exercise.

What Are the Benefits of Walking?

Benefits of walking

There are a lot of benefits of walking. But for it to be effective, you have to walk briskly and regularly. Some of the health benefits include:

  • Better blood circulation.

  • Lowers risk of heart problems, diabetes, metabolic disorder, and stroke.

  • Controls blood pressure.

  • Boosts energy.

  • Manages blood cholesterol levels.

  • Keeps the blood sugar levels under check.

  • Enhances brain function, coordination, and balance.

  • Helps you sleep better.

Which Is Better, Walking or Running?

Running is more challenging than brisk walking, and is considered to be a vigorous-intensity workout. And brisk walking is a moderate-intensity exercise. The advantages of both walking and running are similar. It both reduces the risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart problems, and high blood cholesterol levels.

The only difference being, you have to walk for a much longer time to get the same benefits and burn the same amount of calories as running for the same time.

Walking is a better option if you suffer from knee or other joint pain, back pain, or any injuries, as it puts less pressure on the joints and feet as compared to running.

How Fast Should You Walk for It to Be Effective?

You should walk fast enough to achieve a pace where you start burning your fat. The speed of walking depends on your heart rate, age, and level of fitness, and is different for each individual.

During brisk walking, you should be breathing noticeably and speak complete sentences. Your pace should be between 13 and 20 minutes per mile or 3 mph and 4.5 mph. If you are fit, then this pace will only be a light-intensity workout for you, and you need to increase the pace to make it a moderate-intensity workout.

The easiest way to determine if you are walking fast or not is by taking the talk test. It is done by trying to talk while walking.

  • If you can talk comfortably and are slightly out of breath, then you are at a moderate-intensity pace.

  • If it is difficult to talk out loud, then you are at a vigorous-intensity pace.

  • If you can manage to sing your favorite song easily, you are walking too slow and need to pick up the pace.

The other method to measure is called the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion. It is calculated by how hard the body is working with certain activities.

How You Describe your exertion

Borg Rating

Examples

None

6

Sitting and reading a book or watching TV

Very, very light

7 to 8

Wearing clothes and tying shoes

Very light

9 to 10

Household chores that do not take much effort

Fairly light

11 to 12

Activities that require some effort but do not make you breathless

Somewhat hard

13 to 14

Brisk walking that speeds up your heart rate and breathing

Hard

15 to 16

Activities like swimming, cycling, etc., that require a lot of effort

Very hard

17 to 18

Highest level of activity that you can maintain for some time

Very, very hard

19 to 20

A burst of activity that you cannot sustain for long

For it to be considered a moderate-intensity workout, you should aim for 13 to 14 on the scale, and if you want it to be more vigorous, then aim for 15 to 16.

How Often Should You Walk?

For overall health and disease reduction, it is recommended to get 150 minutes or more of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 minutes or more of vigorous-intensity activity every week.

Based on this, the minimum walking you need to do it:

  • 30 minutes brisk walking for five days a week.

  • 10 minutes brisk walking, thrice a day for five days a week.

  • 15 minutes brisk walking, twice a day for five days a week.

Start by walking on flat surfaces and then start walking up small hills.

Walking Tips:

  • Increase the time you walk gradually - Start off with five 10 to 20 minute walking sessions a week. After 4 weeks, increase each session by 2 or 3 minutes per week until 30 to 45 minutes.

  • Walk as fast as comfortable - Walking fast burns twice as many calories as when you walk at a slower pace for the same time. Pick up your pace gradually.

  • Walk against the traffic - Always walk against the traffic so you can watch cars approaching.

  • Walk over hilly areas - Start by walking on a flat surface, and slowly start walking on hilly areas. Walking over hilly areas helps burn more calories and shapes your thigh.

  • Walk whenever you can - You can take a walk during your lunch break, or leave the car at home and walk to places that you can reach under 20 minutes. Take the stairs instead of elevators.

Safety Tips:

  • Wear walking shoes that fit you right. They should not be too tight or too loose.

  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, and breathable fabric clothes while going for a walk.

  • Warm-up for 5 to 10 minutes before you start walking.

  • Wear protective sunglasses if it is sunny.

  • Apply sunscreen lotion to protect your skin from the UV rays.

  • Keep sipping on water to keep yourself hydrated.

Walking is highly underrated when it comes to cardio workouts, as most do not recognize the benefits. By increasing your pace and duration, walking can help maintain your heart healthy. To keep it interesting, walk with your friends or listen to blood-pumping songs while walking.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

Is Walking a Good Cardio?

Most people hate going to gyms or performing fast-paced exercises like cross-fit training, Zumba classes, or dancing activities. For such people walking may turn out to be a better cardio workout. Brisk walking has the same effect on the lungs and heart. Brisk walking daily reduces the risk of heart disease, improves blood circulation, and keeps the heart healthy by managing cholesterol levels.

2.

Why is walking the Best Form of Cardio?

Walking is considered the most basic and easy way to keep oneself fit. Brisk walking has the following benefits–
- Better blood circulation.
- Reduced risk of heart attacks, diabetes, metabolic disorders, and stroke.
- Helps in controlling blood pressure levels.
- Boosts energy.
- Manages blood cholesterol levels.
- Keeps the blood sugar levels in check.
- Enhances brain function, coordination, and balance.
- Improves the quality of sleep

3.

How Far of a Walk Is a Good Cardio?

Studies suggest that at least one and a half to two miles of brisk walking should be done daily. One can also note the number of steps to track their daily walking activities. Recently, smartwatches and fitness-tracking devices have been introduced that are accurate enough to track the number of steps a person walks during the day. A daily target of ten thousand steps can be achieved to reap the benefits of brisk walking.

4.

Is Walking 30 Minutes a Day an Enough Cardio?

Walking for thirty minutes is sufficient for people who lead a sedentary lifestyle. Walking for thirty minutes daily can definitely improve health conditions and maintain overall well-being. A minimum of thirty minutes of brisk walking is sufficient for beginners. It is important to understand even the little is good, but more is always better. One also needs to understand their own body limitations and take enough care not to get too exhausted or stressed while walking.

5.

Can A Person Get Fit Just by Walking?

Being fit does not necessarily include only physical fitness but being fit also includes having better physical as well as mental well-being. Walking will naturally help in getting close to being fit. Brisk walking daily will naturally reduce the risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, boost energy levels, enhance brain function, keep sugar levels in check, and improve sleep quality. Thus, walking naturally helps one to be physically fit.

6.

Is Brisk Walking an Enough Exercise?

Cardiologists suggest walking is equally a good form of exercise as other exercise activities. About thirty minutes of walking daily can help one achieve weight loss targets and fitness goals. It is also a comfortable and convenient exercise that can be done by anyone and everyone. Brisk walking does not require any special equipment and is a very convenient form of exercise. All one needs to do is take out time and get started. However, increasing walking targets or other forms of exercise are beneficial if one wants to achieve better results. Brisk walking alone can help one regulate basic body functions and help one achieve basic health benefits.

7.

Should One Walk Faster or Longer?

A longer walk may take longer, but a fast yet short walk may increase the risk of injuries or cause severe exhaustion and tiredness. Walking longer lowers the risk of injury and provides mostly the same health benefits as walking faster. A longer walk helps build endurance so that one can eventually cover longer distances in a brief period.

8.

Is Walking a Better Cardio Than Jogging?

Running and walking are both excellent cardiovascular exercises, but the best choice depends entirely on the person’s fitness goals. If one wants to burn more calories or lose weight quickly, jogging and running will help one achieve those results faster. Walking may also seem a good option if one cannot jog or go for a run due to other underlying factors.

9.

Can One Do Walking Cardio Every Day?

Yes, one can definitely do walking cardio every day. According to the studies, performing ten minutes of cardio exercises is recommended to gain the most benefits. Engaging in medium-intensity workouts, such as a brisk walk, doing them for 30 minutes daily can help them achieve various benefits.

10.

How Long Should It Take for a 65-Year-Old to Walk a Mile?

An average healthy person aged 65 years should take about twenty minutes on average to walk a mile. However, it does depend on the other factors and underlying medical conditions. People suffering from medical diseases like obesity and other factors due to which they cannot walk may take longer. Most fit people may take less than twenty minutes to walk a mile.

11.

What Are the Disadvantages of Walking?

Walking, as such, has no negative effects if done within the body's limitations. However, excess walking could cause –
- Decreased performance.
- Depression.
- Elevated heart rate.
- Increased irritability.
- Appetite and weight loss.
- Nagging body pain.
- Chronic injuries.
- Persistent fatigue.
- Persistent heavy, stiff, and sore muscles.

12.

Why Is Walking the Best Midlife Exercise?

Walking is the best midlife exercise as most heart-related diseases can be prevented by walking if started at this age. It has been known to –
- Improve blood circulation in the body.
- Reduce the risk of heart attacks, diabetes, metabolic disorders, and stroke.
- Helps in controlling blood pressure levels.
- Boosts energy levels.
- Manages blood cholesterol levels.
- Keep diabetes in check.
- Enhance brain function, brain coordination, and balance.
- Improve the quality of sleep.

13.

Does Walking Around The Room Count as an Exercise?

Yes, walking back and forth in the apartment can be considered a form of exercise and is recommended to keep the body moving and to increase the metabolic rate (one would tend to burn more calories by walking instead of just sitting). However, depending on the person’s fitness level, this type of exercise may not provide the cardiovascular and strength benefits of a more intense exercise regime. Walking around the room could be considered a light-intensity exercise.
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Dr. Atul Prakash
Dr. Atul Prakash

Orthopedician and Traumatology

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