Anyone who appreciates the undeniable pleasures of a good walk has at some point asked the question ‘is walking cardio?’ After all, even those who enjoy the torturous rigors of high-intensity training sometimes like to mix it up with a different speed, and more than any other physical activity, walking offers something for everyone, regardless of skill level. fitness. .
However, can we really classify walking as a cardiovascular workout? Whether you’re planning to make the most of those balmy summer nights or looking for best walking treadmills (opens in a new tab) to make sure you take your steps no matter the weather, you want to be sure that walking benefits you with gains commensurate with the time you spend on it.
What is Cardio?
According to Department of Health and Social Services (opens in a new tab), cardiovascular activity is defined as any activity that works your heart, lungs and large muscle groups and studies show that walking at a pace of 5-8 miles per hour is definitely considered moderately strenuous physical activity . This offers a wide range of benefits, including developing aerobic fitness, reducing body fat and resting blood pressure, and improving blood pressure control. Walking also fights weight loss, depression and cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in PLoS One (opens in a new tab) showing that even intermittent walking programs can have positive effects on body fat levels.
“The king of cardio? I would say it has to work,” says Ryan McLean, fitness consultant and personal trainer, “other forms of cardio [such as running or cycling] are beneficial for many other reasons, but I would say they have a lot more specificity behind why you would want to do them. When considering the benefits of walking over other forms of cardio, what stands out is its simplicity and the indisputable ease with which accomplishments can be achieved.
How fast should you walk for a cardio workout?
Keep in mind that achieving certain health goals depends on walking intensity. Large-scale research, such as that conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine and published in the European journal of the heart (opens in a new tab), found that reducing a walk below a brisk pace was three times less effective in improving fitness levels or slowing the inevitable effects of aging. In short, it’s not just about taking those 10,000 steps a day, but rather How? ‘Or’ What you get them in this area if you’re looking to have a positive impact on your body that compares to other cardio-intensive activities.
Although walking requires greater supervision to ensure its effectiveness than other cardio workouts, such as using one of the best exercise bikes (opens in a new tab), that doesn’t necessarily make it an inferior activity compared to more strenuous alternatives: after all, how easily walking can fit into our lifestyles undoubtedly counts for something. “It is clear that we are not going to run everywhere, we are not always going to be sitting on a bike and a swimming pool is not always easy to access, explains McLean, but we are always standing! You’re not going to cover the same distance as someone who runs or rides a bike, but at least you won’t have to dedicate a set amount of time or special equipment to do so.
How far should you go when exercising?
So, given the importance of intensity, how far should you aim to go? According to McLean, it all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish: “If a person is trying to lose body fat, the most common reason someone does cardio, 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day is a good starting point. If a person is trying to gain weight, for example trying to build muscle mass, probably a little less than that. If you’re aiming to get in shape for a walking event or take up running, aim to take between 12 and 15,000 steps a day.
Again though, there are other factors to consider. A 2019 study published in the Women’s Health Journal (opens in a new tab) on female walkers found that walking continuously for 30 minutes, five times a week, resulted in higher intensity performance than walking in shorter, more frequent bursts. This in turn led to bigger increases in health benefits, which means you should aim to get those stages totaled in big chunks whenever possible if you want to extract the maximum gains.
Other ways to increase the intensity of your workout
Of course, there are other ways to increase the intensity of your walks than just making them longer, although that’s always an option. We all lead busy lives and time can sometimes be a factor, but a little advance planning can ensure that your walk will put your body in an aerobic state, even if it’s short. “Walk with more incline on a hill or just pick up your pace,” says McLean. “Walking with extra weight in a bag is also an option but should be carefully considered before attempting. I would not recommend changing the intensity of a walk with extra weight for the first time. Potentially you could add weight in a bag on your usual hike after completing it several times.
With key studies proving the effectiveness of walking as a cardiovascular activity, the science is firmly behind you, whether you choose to prioritize heels over wheels, weights or a trip to the pool. As Ryan McLean says, “Walking is good, it’s easy, it’s accessible and the risk of injury is low. I strongly advocate that people who want to lose that bit of body fat, get in shape, or take on the challenge of conquering a hill or mountain should just get out there and walk. Just be sure to invest in one of best water bottles (opens in a new tab) to make sure you stay hydrated!