If your idea of an effective cardio workout involves a long-distance run, a high-intensity bike ride, or a vigorous aerobics class, you’d be right, but you’d be missing out on a simple yet effective activity. . Brisk walking is a great cardiovascular exercise that can be done indoors or outdoors, at any time of the day or night, without the need for a gym membership or special equipment.
All you need to practice walking is a pair of comfortable, sturdy shoes and the motivation to put them on and get going. This article takes a closer look at the benefits of walking as a cardiovascular exercise and how you can improve your fitness and health by putting some energy in your step.
Is walking a good type of cardiovascular exercise?
Cardio is short for “cardiovascular,” which means the exercise engages the heart (cardio) and the blood vessels (vascular). The term “cardio” is also used interchangeably with the term “aerobic,” which means “with air.” Good cardiovascular exercise makes your heart pump harder and faster, allowing oxygen-rich blood to flow more efficiently to all the muscles, organs, and tissues in your body.
You may associate this blood-pumping action with running and wonder if walking is cardiovascular exercise. The truth is, any activity that works your heart and lungs, as well as large muscle groups, can be considered aerobic or cardiovascular exercise. A brisk walk does all of that.
What are the benefits of walking?
Walking has many benefits, in addition to improving your cardiovascular fitness. A regular brisk walking routine can help.
reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes
improve blood circulation
control high blood pressure
improve cholesterol levels
control blood sugar level
strengthen muscles and bones
improve your sleep
increase your energy level
improve brain functions
improve balance and coordination
Is walking better than running?
Brisk walking is considered moderate-intensity exercise, simply defined as activity that allows you to carry on a conversation, but is too strenuous to sing. Running, of course, is a much more demanding activity and is considered vigorous intensity exercise. Both walking and running provide the same benefits. A study published in a journal of the American Heart Association found that walking and running led to a similar reduction in the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.
Remember, though, that you need to walk for a longer period of time to burn the most calories and get some of the other benefits of running. But if you’re short on time or don’t want to participate in a 10K, walking may be a better option, especially if you have joint problems, injuries, or back pain.
Walking puts less stress and strain on your joints and feet than running. A 2016 study found that the impact force of running is significantly greater than that of walking, whether moderate or vigorous. This means there is less risk of joint injury when walking. Walking may be a better cardiovascular option than running if you have joint problems or injuries.
How fast should you walk?
As we mentioned earlier, the easiest way to gauge whether you’re walking fast, but not too fast, is to take the “talk test” and see if it’s easy to converse.
If you can talk comfortably enough with some shortness of breath, you’re probably walking at a moderate-intensity pace.
If speaking out loud is difficult for you, you’re probably walking briskly.
If you can sing along to your favorite song with ease, you’re walking at a low intensity. Try to pick up the pace!
Another measure is known as the Borg Perceived Exertion Scale, which rates how hard you feel your body is working for a given activity.
The scale goes from 6 to 20. A 6 corresponds to zero effort, as if you were sitting quietly reading a book. A 20 means you feel like you’re working “really, really hard,” like a burst of speed at the end of a run or some other effort you can’t sustain for very long.
For walking at a moderate-intensity pace, try aiming for 13 to 14 on the scale. At this rate, your heart rate and breathing speed up, but you don’t get out of breath. If you want to walk at a faster pace, aim for 15 or 16 on the scale.
If you are a beginner, try to maintain a brisk walking pace of 4-5 km per hour. If you are already quite active, aim for a pace of 5 to 7 km/h. And if you’re ready for the run, increase your pace to more than 8 km/h.
How often should you walk?
Try to get 150 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity, or 75 minutes or more of vigorous-intensity activity, each week for general health and to reduce your risk of disease. Based on these recommendations, you could do five 30-minute brisk walks per week. If that sounds a bit daunting, break your activity down into more manageable time periods. For example, you could do
three 10-minute walks per day
two 15-minute walks per day
To get the most benefit from your walk, try to do at least 10 minutes at a time.
To begin with, you can start by walking on flat ground. As your stamina and strength increase, you can begin to climb small hills.
Tips to start walking
Invest in a good pair of shoes
Before you take the first step of your new walking workout, make sure you have the right walking shoes. Your shoes should be lightweight, but strong enough to cushion the sole and heel of your foot. The shoe should have enough room in the toe box (front of the shoe) for your toes to be comfortable, but not so much that the shoe moves with each step.
wear breathable clothing
Loose-fitting clothing made from lightweight, breathable fabrics will help you walk more comfortably. Dry clothing that wicks away sweat can help keep you cool and dry.
Before heading out, warm up for a few minutes to increase blood circulation throughout your body and prepare your muscles and joints for movement. Here are some simple warm-up moves:
Stand on one leg and gently move the other leg back and forth 10 to 20 times. Then switch legs.
Do a set of squats while standing with your feet hip-width apart. Work your core, keep your back straight, and lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Pause briefly with your knees over your toes, but not past them. Exhale and stand up. Do this exercise 8 to 10 times.
Standing with your legs shoulder-width apart and your arms extended to your sides, do 10 backward circles with your arms, then 10 forward circles.
be careful outside
If you walk outside, be sure to use sunscreen and wear sunglasses and a hat. If you’re hiking in cold weather, pack several layers of clothing that you can take off when you get warm. Carry enough water to stay hydrated during your hike. You can also bring your phone in case you need help.
make it fun
Chances are you’ll stick to your walking routine if it’s something you enjoy doing. To up the fun factor, you might consider:
hike with a friend or two or join a walking group
walk your dog
listen to a podcast while you walk
listen to a playlist of your favorite songs that make you want to move
Use a fitness tracker or app to set goals and challenge yourself.
Tips for walking on a treadmill
If bad weather forces you to exercise indoors, or if you just want to watch a TV show while doing your cardio, a treadmill is ideal for your walk. Make sure you know how the treadmill works before you start using it. Also make sure you know how to stop it and how to change the speed and incline.
Ideally, use a treadmill with side handles, not just a front handle. This is especially important if you have balance problems. Try not to grab or lean on railings. Poor posture or an unnatural gait can increase your risk of injury.
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