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Did You Know Walking Is a Good Cardio Workout?

Written by
Dr. Sneha Kannan
and medically reviewed by Dr. Atul Prakash

Published on Aug 24, 2019 and last reviewed on Nov 25, 2019   -  5 min read

Abstract

Abstract

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

Did You Know Walking Is a Good Cardio Workout?

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?

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.

 

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Last reviewed at:
25 Nov 2019  -  5 min read

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