You go to the gym, start your favorite playlist hopping on the treadmill, crank it up to 6 mph and pound out a runIf you're anything like I have been in the past, while your hustling for those miles you’re silently judging the person walking next to you.
Why would anyone come to the gym if they're just going to walk? What a waste of time!
OK...trainer confession...I've been 'that' girl!! Am I alone here? Wait for it...
The truth is, experts say we’re unfairly placing the form of exercise in the pointless category, AND you may be missing out on an extremely effective physical activity, not to mention a mental boost, by dissing walking. “Walking can be as good as a workout, if not better, than running,” says Dr. Matt Tanneberg, CSCS, a sports Chiropractor and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist in Phoenix, Arizona who works with elite athletes.
You may have experienced 'plateauing' a VERY common issue in fitness. I have clients who plateau from running ALL THE TIME. They run the same distance, speed and time, day in and day out, and wonder why there are struggling to see CHANGE in their physique and overall fitness. To change our bodies, we have to constantly switch up our exercise routines in order to get the maximum benefit for your health. Yes, running is more physically demanding, which leads people to label it a “better” workout, but walking is a really great form of exercise and can help you reach your fitness and weight-loss goals, quickly and safely.
As a former track athlete, who has marveled at race walkers (These Olympic walkers will blow your mind), I don’t scoff at walking anymore, in fact, walking is the suggested workout over running for most, especially those with knee, ankle and back problems and people who are overweight to obese. Walking is a lower impact exercise and can be done for longer periods of time, and there is no shortage of scientific research to back up the effectiveness of adding walking to your fitness routine.
The Physical Pros of Walking
"There are many reasons to walk for exercise,” says Ann Green, M.S., past heptathlon world athlete, yoga teacher and fitness studio owner. “Walking improves fitness, cardiac health, alleviates depression and fatigue, improves mood, creates less stress on joints and reduces pain, can prevent weight gain, reduce risk for cancer and chronic disease, improve endurance, circulation, and posture, and the list goes on…”
When comparing the data of the most recent National Runners’ Health Study with the National Walkers’ Health Study, researchers found that the energy used for moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running resulted in similar reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease over the study’s 6 year period. Which means when it comes to some pretty prominent markers of our health, walking can do the job just as well as running (as long as you’re expending the same amount of energy).
This is GREAT news if you're like me and you dread running. A daily walk can reduce the risk of stroke in both men and women, reduce the days spent in a hospital each year and can even lower your risk of death by up to 39 percent, and those who adhered to a walking program showed significant improvements in blood pressure, slowing of resting heart rate, reduced body fat and body weight, reduced cholesterol, improved depression diagnosis, better quality of life and increased measures of endurance.
And, as if that isn't enough to convince you...
The Mental Pros of Walking
While physical benefits are GREAT , the mental benefits from adding a walk to your daily workout regime is a more immediate BOOST. BOOM! Psychologists found that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout when it comes to relieving the symptoms of anxiety. Science shows that engaging in activities that allow our minds to wander promotes a mental state conducive to new ideas and epiphany moments.
Who wouldn't benefit from a mental lift??
I'm drinking the kool-aid!!
The act of walking is also a proven MOOD BOOSTER. One study found that just 12 minutes of walking resulted in an increase in joviality, vigor, attentiveness and self-confidence versus the same time spent sitting. Walking in nature, specifically, was found to reduce ruminating over negative experiences, which increases activity in the brain associated with negative emotions and raises risk of depression.
Walking has also been shown to improve memory and prevent the deterioration of brain tissue as we age, and psychologists studying how exercise relieves anxiety and depression also suggest that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout when it comes to relieving the symptoms of anxiety and boosting mood.
Ok, Ok, I get it...NOW what??
Turn your walk into a workout
You CANNOT set the treadmill at 3.5 walk for an hour and expect to see major results!! The power of an effective walking workout is at your fingertips, literally. You will burn the most calories by repeatedly raising and lowering the heart rate, as opposed to keeping the heart rate at one steady pace, whether that be high or low.
Not all walking is created equal however. Steady rate cardio is innefective for achieving the health benefits aforementioned. You will burn the most calories by repeatedly raising and lowering the heart rate, as opposed to keeping the heart rate at one steady pace, whether that be high or low. So, if you were to compare the heart rate fluctuations of someone walking up a mixture of steep hills and then add in variations of walking speeds, styles of walking (such as lunging, striding, side cross overs, etc.) to that of someone primarily running at a medium pace on a level gradient, you could see greater all round results on both your body's caloric burn and a greater degree of lower limb muscle groups being targeted.
Incline, or hill walking, as opposed to running on a level gradient, can enable you to BURN MORE FAT without attacking lean muscle tissue. Varying levels of incline, walking styles, speed, weights (ankle weights and/or hand held weights to work the upper body while on the move) and music choices to help encourage a variation in speed.
Here's my Go-To FAT TORCHING TIP to kick your walking workout up a notch.
The Incline Setting
Walking or running on a treadmill is meant to simulate how you walk or run outside. The incline feature turns what could be compared to walking or running on a sidewalk, into a motion more similar to walking up a hill, or like stair climbing, and has several benefits. Your workout intensifies as you're placing more demand on the body to keep up with the machine. The higher you set the incline, the more energy your body is forced to use to help activate your glutes, quadriceps and calves, all of which are engaged when you increase your incline.
This increase of energy burns more calories and depending on your weight and cardiovascular endurance can also burn more fat. Plus, it can be a better option for those with injuries or pain. Adding an incline is a great way to increase the challenge for your cardiovascular system and get the same kind of benefits that you can get from jogging or running without the same amount of wear and tear on your knees, one caveat: setting the machine to a pace that requires you to hold on. This takes away from muscle engagement and energy required to walk or run at the level of intensity required.
So where do you start?
The right place to start with walking intervals will depend on your current fitness level, but here's a treadmill interval template to test out and see what adjustments you need to make. Start by walking for 5 minutes at a comfortable speed, no incline to get warmed up. Once you're done, increase the incline to 5 percent for 3 minutes (no need to increase the speed when you're first starting out). After those 3 minutes are up, return to 0 incline for 1 minute of rest, while keeping the same speed. Repeat this for 3-5 rounds, depending on how you're feeling. Then you can adjust as needed: To add difficulty, you can increase the ‘work’ time that you spend on the incline, decrease the time you spend ‘resting’ at 0 incline or increase the pace of each phase. Find what works for you, and slowly increase your difficulty over time to keep making progress!
Bottom line, walking is far more effective than we give it credit for...so grab those shoes, turn up your favorite playlist and WALK your way to a better body AND improve your mental and physical health!!
If you'd like more info on treadmill workouts and or would like to join me for one, email me and I can help! email@example.com