I have noticed that there is a consistent theme to my weeks. Those where I walk a lot are better than those where I don’t. This goes beyond my weight loss goals and also includes my mental health. Walking has many benefits but is often overlooked for the more ‘glamorous’ exercises. Nobody brags to their friends about this killer walk they did that day. No. We like to talk about our squat PR, our run split, or our workout on our trendy bike subscription (shots fired… at myself). I also never hear people say how at peace they feel from a walk. It is always a hike, meditation, or yoga. I feel people think of walking as the stereotype of our grandparents power-walking down the retirement neighborhood in their track jackets and wearing those sweet wrap around sunglasses (you get the picture). Well I am here to say walking is awesome… maybe someday I will also have a sweet track jacket and wrap around sunglasses.
Why is walking awesome? Let’s start with reputable sources as opposed to my anecdotal blabbing. The Mayo clinic talks about walking as an effective way to manage weight, improve mood, and combat common health conditions. Harvard Health also says it can improve immune function and tame your sweat tooth, among others. It just takes a quick google source to find all the information from people far smarter than me. So it seems the experts are aligned on it, and I agree with the experts. I am sure they have been waiting for my approval.
I often fall into this trap of thinking that the general movement has less impact than if I get a good workout in. I may think its okay if I don’t walk at all, as long as I get a ride in. I may be okay with this, but I am missing out on real opportunity. The biggest thing about walking is it is low impact. I don’t feel like I have truly strained myself and I am not sore after a walk. And the kicker is, if you make the walk active, faster than a stroll, it can give you real tangible benefits.
Let’s compare my most recent run and walk, as recorded on my apple watch. Before you judge, this is me. I am a slow runner who has been doing interval training to get myself to be able to run a 5k straight. Others do it faster and can have more calorie burn, but this is me and my journey.
The left image shows my evening walk last night and the right is my run this morning. The benefit of the walking route I take is that it starts off with an uphill, so if I initially start walking at a good pace then my heart rate can stay a bit more elevated throughout the duration of the walk.
I clearly burned more calories on my run, but I did not burn a crazy amount more. The walk, because I made it active and more than a stroll, had an awesome end result. There are clear and documented benefits to higher heart rates that higher intensity workouts can give you, but a walk with a lower heart rate, but still elevated, can still be a key. The biggest difference is how I felt. During my run this morning, I felt like crap. My whole body was achy and was just not feeling it. I also, because of my size, have had to scale back to 1-2 runs per week or else the impact starts taking a negative toll. I still do it because I like it, I have goals, and the feeling of accomplishment after you finish is amazing.
But walking. After that walk the most discomfort I had was sweat. No aches and pains. No angry hip or knees. Walking is a sneaky, silent health booster. I felt great. I took an evening walk, got to see the evening light, and it helped me decompress after my day. Think of the cumulative impact of a 20-30 min walk every day, that goes along with your more intense exercise routines! If I do it with enough movement, I can add 300+ calories burned to my day, every day, and not feel like I worked out. This translates to better attitude and crushing health goals.
This becomes all the more important having a sedentary job. The weeks where I get a morning walk in and an afternoon/evening workout are the ones where I achieve the most success and feel the best.
Do you have a sneaky activity that gives you these benefits? How do you fit subtle movement into your day?