Is Walking a Good Workout?

Walking is a good idea

Walking can be the most convenient and accessible way to infuse activity into your day. In fact, it might be the simplest way to ensure you hit your Streak and double your cash back¹ with the Paceline Card every week. But is it a “good” workout? 

While the answer depends on your goal, approach, and effort level, intentionally walking for exercise can absolutely qualify as a good workout, according to Long Island, New York-based certified fitness trainer Adam Rosante

What’s more, as recently as this past spring, “Hot Girl Walks”—basically, taking a stroll while focusing on gratitude, life goals, and confidence—began to trend on TikTok, suggesting that walking may be good for the mind as well as the body.

Pacers, it seems, know this: There have been 1,119,492 walking workouts logged on Paceline in the past 30 days alone. And 107,149 Pacers have logged at least one.

Below, what you need to know about the perks of putting one foot in front of the other, plus how to make your next stroll count. 

The Benefits of Walking
Most people can say with utmost confidence that walking is good for you, but exactly how it benefits the body (and beyond) can be a bit more elusive. Here’s what science has to say:

  • It can support weight loss.
    Simply put, the key to weight loss is burning more calories than you consume. All aerobic activities—including walking—burn more calories than say, sitting on your couch. In practice, when German researchers set out to examine the effects of a calorie-reduction diet with and without walking in a 2017 study, they found that participants who walked just 2.5 hours per week (that’s about 21 minutes per day) lost a significant amount of weight and had more pronounced fat loss than those who solely cut back on calories. 
  • It can strengthen your muscles.
    While strength training is the gold standard for building muscle mass, aerobic activity like walking can help strengthen muscles by stimulating muscle protein synthesis and growth, according to a 2014 review published in Exercise and Sport Sciences Review.
  • It can benefit your heart health.
    According to Cleveland Clinic, aerobic exercise—like walking—reduces the risk of heart disease. It’s recommended that you get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. 
  • It can help you manage your blood sugar.
    There’s a reason why the American Diabetes Association recommends brisk walking: Over time, it can reduce blood glucose levels and increase insulin sensitivity. 
  • It can elevate your mood.
    If anyone’s ever suggested that you “walk it off” when you’re feeling angry, sad, or otherwise emotional, here’s why: Aerobic exercise stimulates a variety of neurochemicals that boost your spirits, according to a 2017 review published in Brain Plasticity

How to Make the Most of Your Walk
Setting out to achieve a designated goal—whether it’s losing weight, improving your muscle tone, or boosting your stamina—can help you optimize your stroll, Rosante says. You can also try the following techniques to level up your walk. (Just remember to progress gradually.)

  • Increase your speed/intensity. Research suggests you can obtain “profound” benefits walking faster than three miles per hour, according to the American Heart Association. Alternatively, the AHA notes that you can walk slower (think: two miles per hour) uphill (think: 3.5% incline on a treadmill) to expend the same energy. 

A heart rate monitor can also help you keep tabs on how hard you’re working while you walk. (And BTW, Paceline Card members can earn reimbursements² for the latest Apple Watch, up to a $429 value.) Rosante recommends shooting for 60 to 70% of your heart rate max. And if you don’t have a tracker? “You’ll know you’re at the right pace when you can carry on a conversation, but sound a little labored,” he says. “If you were on the phone with a friend, they’d probably ask you if you were in the middle of something after chatting with you for about a minute.”

  • Walk for longer. If you currently walk for 15 minutes per session, amp it up to 20, working toward 30 to 60 minutes per session, Rosante recommends. You might also consider going for distance instead of time: In a 2017 study that compared distance- and time-based walking/running, researchers found that introducing distance-based walk/runs was more effective than time-based walk/runs for reducing body mass and blood glucose levels among overweight adults.
  • Hold weights while you walk. Carrying a set of light dumbbells or kettlebells or wearing a weighted vest is a great way to increase calorie burn and strength gains, Rosante says. You can also opt for wrist weights—here are some of the best ones available, according to Runner’s World.

Walking Workout Tips

If your goal is to increase your fitness, Rosante says, shoot for a three- to five-mile walk at a brisk pace three to seven times a week. If you’re walking for mental health, research suggests that as few as 10 minutes of movement—think a quick walk around the block when you get off a stressful Zoom call—can provide the boost you’re looking for. 

And don’t worry about taking time off for recovery. “You can walk every day,” Rosante reassures. “It’ll not only improve your fitness, but help boost recovery from your strength training workouts.”

Recommended Walking Workouts
If you’re sold on the benefits of walking but need some direction to get started, choose one of Rosante’s suggested workouts below and, well, walk the walk.

Interval Walking

This one is meant to help you gradually increase your pace. Choose a total time to spend walking. Then, throughout the walk, pick up your pace to push the intensity for a predetermined length of time, like 10, 15, 30, or 45 seconds. Next, slow down to a recovery pace for twice that length of time. Keep alternating between two push/recover paces, or vary the push pace—for example, you could do 10-second bursts for the first five minutes and 15-second bursts for the next five.

Strength Circuit Treadmill Walking

Set a time—say, 30 minutes—and alternate between five to 10 minutes of walking and a strength training circuit, like 10 squats, 10 push-ups, and 10 bent-over rows. Then get back on the treadmill for five to 10 minutes. Continue alternating until your total time is up.

Meditative Walking

Ideally outdoors, set your sights on a time or distance goal, then sync your steps and breath as you walk. For example, inhale for a count of four steps, then exhale for a count of six steps. Continue for the duration of your walk.

Mindful Walking

During an outdoor walk, use your physical senses to be more present: Focus on one sense, like sound, smell, or sight, for five minutes. Then, switch to another sense for five minutes, and continue for as long as you want to keep walking.

The Final Verdict

So long as you’ve got clearance from your healthcare provider, there’s not really a downside to walking. Plus, it’s yet another activity that can help you hit your Streak in the Paceline app—and earn up to 5% cash back¹ on eligible Health & Wellness purchases with the Paceline Card.   

Is Walking a Good Workout? is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as financial advice.

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