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FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Is walking exercise?

Asked by FireMadeFlesh (14401 points ) 4 weeks ago

Let me say from the outset that I am one of those lucky people who are naturally slender. I’ve always been active, even back when I didn’t play sports or set aside time for exercise.

However I cannot understand walking for exercise. Maybe that is because I am naturally impatient, but the only time I have felt fatigue from walking was as a teenager, hiking 20+ km per day for a weekend with an 18kg pack. So when I see people walking around the block in exercise clothes, I wonder if it is doing them any real good, or if it is all placebo and feel-good.

So have you ever seen exercise benefits from walking? Has walking helped you lose weight, or improved your cardiovascular health? How long and how far did you have to walk to receive these benefits?

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32 Answers

hominid's avatar

The benefits of walking are well documented. But there is the issue of pace. As described here, the brisk walkers showed greater benefit. But as the article mentions, they’re not sure if the slow speed of the walkers resulted in less of a health benefit, or if the slower walkers were slower because they had “underlying health conditions that predisposed them to both a tentative walking pace and early death”.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Yes, it’s good for you. Obviously the faster walk is better cardio. It’s also got other benefits. My knees are bad, but the more walking I do the better they get, preferably on grass.
@hominid Nice light answer. :)

canidmajor's avatar

There are about a zillion medical situations that can impair most forms of exercise, but where walking is still possible and relatively pain-free. Walking helps digestion, and, as @hominid mentions, rate and intensity in varying degrees have more or less cardio, etc benefits. As a method of regaining one’s mobility and strength after illness, walking is just about the best form of exercise there is.
That you ask this question indicates that you are likely blessed with robust good health and ability. Do appreciate it, it’s wonderful. :-)

rojo's avatar

It had better be otherwise I am wasting my time.

marinelife's avatar

Moving your body through space takes energy, thus walking is good exercise.

poofandmook's avatar

Also if you’re going to walk, exercise clothes are typically more comfortable and often designed to wick sweat away from the body. Exercise clothes aren’t reserved for people beating themselves up at the gym…

Pachy's avatar

Absolutely! I do a brisk 2-mile walk 6 days a week and have strengthened my knees and improved my breathing. Also, I’ve managed to keep my weight within my desired range.

jca's avatar

It’s better than sitting on your bum and playing on the computer or watching TV. It gets your body circulating, moves your food down, all kinds of things. Use it or lose it.

zenvelo's avatar

Daily walking of about 3 miles was integral last year to my getting healthy and dropping a lot of weight.

At the beginning of 2013 it took me 45 to 50 minutes to walk just under 3 miles. By May I could cover the same distance in 37 minutes.

Starting just over a year ago, I started mixing in running with my walk, and now I run 3 miles or more five days a week.

So yes, it is exercise and it helps.

JLeslie's avatar

Yes. There is a study of much older adults that shows one of their healthy habits is walking or some other form of exercise that is not extremely intense.

By the way too much exercise, or over exercise, has a negative impact on life expectancy and so does not enough exercise. Moderation as always.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Yes. You said it yourself. You got tired when walking with an 18kg backpack. Look how much extra weight some of those people are carrying. 25kg? 35kg? more?
Maybe they are recovering from surgery and the walk helps their core. Maybe they are working on balance.
It does not matter. The fact is they are not on the couch eating potato chips. They are making a difference.

jonsblond's avatar

Walking helped me to lose weight after the birth of all of my children. We lived in a community that was surrounded by park land and walking trails. I walked all the time and the pounds came off easily for me. I walked my children to school, walked to the store, walked the dogs and walked the hiking trails in the woods.

Now that I live on a farm located right off a highway I have nowhere to walk. I’ve gained 25 -30 lbs since we moved here almost 4 years ago.

JLeslie's avatar

There also is the fact that people who live in very urban environments and walk all the time tend to be thinner. I didn’t think to mention it until I saw @jonsblond‘s answer.

livelaughlove21's avatar

Of course it’s exercise.

I also find it’s a waste of my time, though. I’d much rather lift and have my limbs feel like jell-o for the first 24 hours and fire for the next 24 hours. Or, if I must do cardio (blech), I’d rather do a “fun” and moderately intense routine and burn a crap load of calories. Walking doesn’t make me feel like I got a good workout in. If I lived in a bigger city where I had to walk a lot, I doubt I’d consider it a workout, even though it would certainly help keep me thin. Walking does burn calories and, depending on how fast you’re going, get your heart rate up. Therefore, exercise.

I said it before and I’ll say it again – weight loss happens in the kitchen. Unless you’re walking A LOT, you’re probably not burning nearly as many calories as you think you are. It’s extremely hard to out-exercise a bad diet. Walking will “help” with weight loss because you’re burning some calories, but it’s all about what you’re putting in your mouth when it comes down to it. Cardio is for your health, eating is for your waistline, and lifting is for ‘dem muscles. :)

LuckyGuy's avatar

@livelaughlove21 We are singing from the same hymnal. It takes an awful lot of walking and time to offset a 400 calorie donut! It is much easier to skip the donut.

And speaking extra claories burned…. Have you ever tried wearing wrist weights all day. Wow. Even a pound gets tiring at first. Walking, brushing your teeth, talking, moving your arms, running, going up stairs, reading, typing, yes – eating, etc. all take more effort. I sleep like a rock on the days I wear mine – under a long sleeved shirt so I don’t look too weird.
Remember to keep your arms bent a little so you don’t damage your elbows.

jonsblond's avatar

When I moved I had to find new doctors. I visited a new gynecologist and she suggested that I needed to lose 25–30 lbs before she would do certain tests that I thought I might need. She thought the issues I was having were due to me being overweight. She told me to eat a 1500 calorie diet, lose the weight and then come back to her.

It really pissed me off that she assumed I was overeating. I wasn’t. My diet is the same as it was when I was fit. The only difference between then and now is that I don’t exercise. I’m going back to my old gynecologist even though I have to travel an hour to see him. He doesn’t make ignorant assumptions.

Overeating is not the only cause of weight gain.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@LuckyGuy “Have you ever tried wearing wrist weights all day.”

Nope. I have a personal rule against wrist and/or ankle weights, especially for an extended period of time.

Michael_Huntington's avatar

Yes, but hardly interesting. I’d much rather do keg runs, yokes, or prowlers
As for the benefits, I can’t say.

Coloma's avatar

Walking is one of the BEST exercise routines one can do. Low impact on joints, running is brutal and you can severely injure your joints, knees, ankles.
I had a 3–5 mile walking loop I did for years, interspersed with short bursts of jogging. My area has lots of hills in a rural foothill setting and walking up and down hills is a killer workout, also walking backwards up hill. Your impatience has nothing to do with the benefits of brisk walking, that’s something you need to work on.

I lost 10 lbs. in the 1st 3 weeks of doing a 3 mile daily walk, firmed up and after a few months I had the worlds best legs. Walking is a supremely beneficial exercise routine.

rojo's avatar

@Michael_Huntington so would I but first I must get the joints and muscles back into shape. Too many times in the past I have started out pushing myself from the outset only to have a stupid injury, one due to starting out too fast and too hard (and probably too little prior athleticism), knock me back to square one. And, an injury gives one an out.

I had to give up running because of a recurrent knee injury. I didn’t so much like the training but I enjoyed the camaraderie of the organized runs on weekends. It has been several years since, the knee still gives me twinges but between the walking and weight training I hope to one day be able to run again for at least a 5k.

Coloma's avatar

^^^ Shin splints suck, I was pushing myself too hard last winter and ended up in some serious pain. Gotta start slow, 10–15 minutes when you’re out of condition.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Walking is fabulous exercise. It’s weight-bearing, which keeps your bones strong, but there’s minimal strain on your feet and joints.

But, I believe that there’s little to no benefit from strolling around while shopping. The walking needs to be brisk – about 4–5 mph – and it helps to keep your arms bent at 45 degree angles and pump them with each stride. Also, it’s better to walk outside rather than on a treadmill; you get the benefit of walking up and down inclines, plus the treadmill’s belt doesn’t give you a boost and do some of the work for you.

jaytkay's avatar

My ex can get pretty heavy and pretty skinny. When she loses weight her only exercise is walking. Lots and lots of walking.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul 5mph is more jogging (or even running for some) than walking. It’s a 12-minute mile.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@livelaughlove21 I can do 5 mph without switching from walking to jogging (i.e. I always have one foot in contact with the ground). It’s fast-paced speed-walking, which might be just one level below race-walking (about 10 minutes per mile). I’d guess that 4 mph is more typical.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul I used to walk 4mph when I walked for exercise (thankfully those days are over), and I constantly got comments like, “there’s no need to run” or “would you slow the f*ck down, you Yankee.” Southern folks walk slower in general. I walked with my mother-in-law a few times, went slower on purpose because she’s only 5’ tall, and she still had to ask me to slow down periodically, and she’s not out of shape or anything. I think height has a lot to do with it. 5mph for a person that’s 5’ would definitely not be walking – and if it was, it sure would look goofy.

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

I spent my whole life being active. I was lean and lovely. There was an accident which left me mobility impaired. Now I look like Jabba The Hut. Walking WOULD benefit me a lot, if I could, and because I can’t, the results can be clearly seen, in my weight gain, my raised blood pressure, and losing my breath just getting to the bathroom.

kritiper's avatar

Yes. When walking, the large leg muscles of the legs pump blood which rests the heart. I walk three miles a day! (Dr.‘s orders for 30 min. of exercise a day.)

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@livelaughlove21 “I constantly got comments”

Once, I was super-speedwalking through my neighborhood. A woman, driving by, stopped her car and asked me if I were “all right.” She must have thought that I was fleeing from danger or maybe in a panic to get someplace quickly.

I wasn’t appreciative. My exercise clothes and shoes were obvious, plus I was pumping my arms as I walked. It didn’t take a genius to see that I was exercising. I looked at her as if she were insane and asked, “What would make you think I’m not all right?” She hit the accelerator and left quickly.

jaytkay's avatar

Ha ha! Dave Barrie once wrote about speedwalking as the competitive sport of Walking Like a Dork.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

^^^ I hereby clarify that I was speed walking, not race walking! I’d have no idea how to that odd-looking hip and pelvic rotation.

Let’s be fair and give a nod to any race walkers out there. I know that race walking is a long-distance athletic event that requires both endurance and technique. To those of us who don’t know the mechanics, however, the movements seem very unnatural.

Stinley's avatar

I’ve lost 50lbs in the last 18 months through a calorie controlled diet, and walking for exercise. I walk fast enough that I get a bit hot and a little breathless but it’s not full on. I can do walking in my lunch hour without having to shower or change clothes, I get the health benefits of doing some form of exercise, and I burn more calories. I hate all forms of exercise like gyms and running and sports except walking and cycling. I have found that I can easily stick to my goal of exercising every lunchtime and for me that’s what counts. I know that if I said I will run 3 days a week I would run twice then never again. But I’ve kept up the walking for this length of time and it’s only ever been external circumstances that have kept me from going for a walk, not motivation.

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