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Is walking exercise? 7 things to know about your daily walking routine

Starting a walking exercise routine is a simple way to promote good health. But how many steps should you aim for, and how often?

Tayla Holman
April 01, 2024
Walking is an often overlooked form of exercise that can support your health.

Getting and staying healthy involves some form of exercise — and you have plenty of options to choose from. If you're new to building an exercise routine, you may want to start with a low-cost, low-impact activity that's easy to work into your everyday life. Fortunately, there's a simple, effective workout you might have overlooked: walking..

Is walking exercise?

Walking is a basic function, but it's also a form of exercise. Walking increases your heart rate, which can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. Walking briskly — about 3 to 4.5 mph — is considered a low-impact, moderate-intensity workout. And you don't need to overexert yourself to get results.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity (or an equivalent combination) each week. Taking a brisk walk five times a week for 30 minutes a day meets these recommendations.

Does walking help you lose weight?

Walking helps you burn calories, so it can aid weight loss. However, it may be difficult to lose weight from walking alone. Eating mindfully and adding in other exercises, such as strength training, can help.

If you want to increase the number of calories you burn while walking, you can try:

  • Adding running intervals
  • Walking vigorously (5 mph or faster)
  • Walking on varied terrain
  • Walking uphill
  • Wearing a weighted vest

How many calories does walking burn?

The number of calories you can burn while walking depends on several factors, including your weight, your speed and the duration of your walk.

For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a person who weighs 154 pounds can burn 140 calories in 30 minutes of brisk walking. That same person can burn 230 calories in 30 minutes of vigorous walking.

How many steps should you walk in a day?

You might've heard that you should walk 10,000 steps a day, or roughly five miles, to promote good health. However, the average American only walks 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day. Taking fewer than 5,000 steps a day is considered sedentary, which means most Americans aren't walking enough.

Here are some simple ways to get more steps into your day:

  • Park farther away from building entrances.
  • Schedule time to take a walk each day and set a reminder on your phone.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Go for a walk during your lunch break.
  • Walk while on the phone or waiting for an appointment.

What is a good walking heart rate?

Heart rate can help you maximize your workout, but it's also important not to let it get too high. You want to push yourself but not so much that you start to feel ill or weak. Your maximum heart rate — the upper limit of what your heart can handle during physical activity — is 220 beats per minute minus your age, so be careful not to exceed that number.

For moderate-intensity exercise, aim for a target heart rate of 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate. The target heart rate for vigorous physical activity is about 70% to 85% of your maximum heart rate.

What are the best shoes for walking?

If you plan to start a walking exercise routine, make sure you have the right shoes. There's no one-size-fits-all walking shoe since everyone has a different foot shape and size. However, consider factors such as the terrain you plan to walk on and whether you need extra cushioning or arch support. Getting a shoe fitting is the best way to find the right shoe for you.

Does walking build muscle?

Walking mainly works out your lower body, such as your calves, glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps. It can help build some muscle but not to the extent you'd get from a gym workout. That's because walking doesn't stress your muscles enough to break them down, which is what stimulates muscle growth — the body has to repair the microtears. Instead, walking creates leaner muscle tone throughout the body, especially in those lower muscle groups.

Simple steps to promote good health

Walking isn't just a way to get around. It's also a simple way to get more exercise into your day, especially if you're just starting out. Making small tweaks to your daily routine can help you get more steps in during the day, and every step you take brings you closer to improving your health. So lace up those sneakers and start walking!

April 01, 2024