Why Walking is Necessary for Good Health – Even If You Are Extremely Fit and Lean

June 14, 2009

I use to think that walking was just for people who weren’t fit enough to do any “real” exercise. I figured that any activity that 99% of the population can easily do, just can’t be tough enough to make a real difference in health. Walking just doesn’t seem to challenge the body like “true” exercise (intervals, circuits, HIIT). I am first to admit that I have been wrong when it comes to this line of thinking. Not only do I admit my thinking has been wrong, I’m immediately going to do my best to walk daily. Some recent studies have proven how valuable walking is to long-term health.

young couple walking

[A picture of a young couple walking down a path near the River Thames in London. Walking can be a blast if you are in a scenic place with lots to see. I need to get to London and walk around to look for great pubs. Kind of a walking and beer sampling tour.]

Intense Fat Burning Workouts Aren’t Enough!

You would think that getting lean by eating a clean diet and working out intensely 3-4 times per week would be enough. I mean, if someone is aerobically fit and is lean and gets all of their daily vitamins through healthy whole foods…you would think it would be enough. If you think that is enough for ideal health, like I used to, you would be wrong.

Too Much Time Spent Sitting Increases Your Mortality Rate

Even if you workout hard 4-5 times per week (or more)…if you spend too much of your “non-exercise” time sitting, you are more likely to die from chronic disease. Here is an abstract from a study published last month: Sitting Time and Mortality from All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and CancerThe American College of Sports Medicine – May 2009

“Conclusions: These data demonstrate a dose-response association between sitting time and mortality from all causes and CVD, independent of leisure time physical activity. In addition to the promotion of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and a healthy weight, physicians should discourage sitting for extended periods.”

Note: I found more info on this study that was interesting. Apparently, the people they followed who spent 3/4 of their day seated were 36-47% more likely to die than those who only spent 1/4 of their day sitting (higher death rate during the 12 year study…someone pointed out that we are all going to die…just wanted to clarify).

Walking Reduces Inflammation – Intense Exercise Does Not

Here is a study that shows the health benefits of walking. Walking, Vigorous Physical Activity, and Markers of Hemostasis and Inflammation in Healthy Men and WomenScandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports – December 2008

They found that walking 30 minutes per day significantly reduces both inflammation (leading to hardening of the arteries) and hemostasis (sluggish blood flow). This leads to better cardio vascular health. Vigorous exercise was only shown to reduce hemostasis, but not lower inflammation.

There Are Still Many Benefits to Intense Activity

We know that intense exercise (intervals, HIIT, circuits, etc.) lowers body fat, improves endurance, increases the metabolism, increases HGH, and controls blood sugar…so obviously I’m not suggesting that people stop doing intense exercise. What I am suggesting is to add walking to your daily routine. If you sit at a desk all day, you really need to do go out of your way to get some walking time in.

Some Terrible Advice I’ve Read in Fitness Magazines

Here are some words of wisdom I’ve read in the past in a few bodybuilding magazines when it comes to gaining muscle – “Why run when you can walk. Why walk when you can sit. Why sit when you can lay…” If you are interested in your long-term health then you will certainly want to avoid this advice! Want even better advice? Avoid “getting big” in the first place! Focus on staying somewhat lean while getting strong and improving your endurance to gain a natural amount of muscle. One more thing…do what it takes to walk at least 30 minutes per day!

Note: I’d love to hear comments from people who walk 30 minute per day. I’d also like to hear how you plan on adding walking into your daily routine if you are a serial-driver like me. Just need some ideas!

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Rusty Moore

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{ 96 comments… read them below or add one }

Dennis July 22, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Currently I’m deployed & at the small FOB we are stationed at as there at most FOB’s there is a bus system that gets you around to where you need to be. It amazes me how many will rather take the bus rather than the short walk (other FOB’s can be a much longer walk of several miles) to the chow hall, the PX, or the laundry facility even when it has cooled down. I simply refuse to do so & will walk everywhere instead of taking the bus. Been here for over 9 months this time have only riden the bus maybe three or 4 times.

Markus Kislich August 13, 2009 at 11:28 am

Hey Rusty!
Name‘s Markús, I‘m an Athletic Strength Coach up here in Iceland….Top of the World !;-)
I like your stuff, makes for a nice, refreshing change. The Fat-Burning advice is 1st class.
About walking: I live(literally)right on the beach, and I walk there near every day(at least in the Summer !;-)playing with my Doggie.
It‘s surely at least a half an hour on average per day total, and while I have no scientific back-up for this I should say that my health is excellent, at least that‘s what it feels like.
Making good progress with the Eat-Stop-Eat Fasting System, keep up the Good Work,
Thanks,

Markús.

Christina Collett August 13, 2009 at 2:57 pm

Hi,

I have a buddy that runs about 10 miles a day, but doesn’t really do a whole lot of walking. I understand that you have to have intense cardio to reduce fat, but if running so much, do you need to add walking in there as well? Is there a difference between running and walking fitness wise? And does running have the same effect on your health as walking does?

thank you!

Physique Bodyware USA August 24, 2009 at 8:22 am

I do walk everyday for 20-30 mins in a garden, I have a gym just below my apartment but I don’t like to walk on a treadmill. Early in the morning, listening to nature, breathing fresh air is so refreshing.

Paul T. September 26, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Rusty, I am very busy and don’t know if I have enough time to add walking into my schedule, do you think the cycling I am already doing might have some of the same benefits of walking?

Kylee November 9, 2009 at 4:41 am

Dear Rusty my name is Kylee and I live in Victoria, Australia.
I am glad that you brought walking up because I love walking.
In fact where I live they call me “The Walker” because that was the main exercise I used to lose 40 kilos in 1 year (I have 3 kids but I looked like I’d had 3 + more kids…lol)
Anyway walking gives me time to think, relax, it makes me happier when I walk, plus on top of that I haven’t needed to see a doctor in a year and a half seeing I haven’t gotten sick, I chuck on my mp3 player,crank it up and away I go.
I usually throw running up and down 5 flights of stairs every second day but it really has changed my life regards Kylee Celik.

brittany May 1, 2010 at 6:28 pm

im 19 and i work at chipotle(currently in cosmotology school as well) and im a cashier so im on my feet all day. and from how busy we are all the time im fast walking all over the place and my shifts are about 6-8 hours long. so maybe thats what keeps me healthy but my feet kill me so bad if i work 5 days out of the week. we have to wear specific shoes (shoes for crews) so its not like i can get some special shoes for my soar feet or back. and id love to actually work out but my feet are always hurting too bad. any suggestions?

jump program September 7, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Being on shape doesn’t mean you are already fit. You still have to do the simplest exercise which is walking. Walking helps you move every part of the body and stays you on condition.

Chris October 1, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Dump the car! I know some people need a car, but a lot of people only think they do. The rise in obesity is not just about poor diet, it is directly in line with the rise in car ownership. Motorists have a lot in common with disabled people in wheelchairs, they both get about without the use of their legs. In fact, a car is just a wheelchair with an engine.
I passed my driving test many years ago, but I have lived a full and enjoyable life without ever owning a car. Walking really makes me feel alive.

robert November 26, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Walking is a moderate aerobic exercise. It increases breathing and heart rate, improving circulation, and increasing muscle and bone strength. Walking is also a low-impact exercise….it is easy on the joints in the ankle and knee, and since the body stays balanced and its momentum is in control, walking is mostly an accident-free exercise

Zoe March 8, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Hi Rusty,

Just so you know a walking pub tour is fondly known here in England as a Pub Crawl, some places also call it a Beano !!

Darren@Moreprimetime.com June 10, 2011 at 5:03 pm

I’ve also noticed that people who live in “walking” cities like New York tend to be in great shape. More walking and less driving!

Vaclav Gregor September 6, 2011 at 6:53 am

Interesting article. I think it’s a good idea to just walk everywhere and always use stairs. For ex.: I always walk to the gym, which takes me about 15 minutes to get there and another 15 minutes to get back home.

Niko - noeXcusefitness December 9, 2011 at 9:52 pm

I always walk for 30mins during my lunch break at work. It’s a healthy way to get out of the office and get some fresh air. I still eat clean and train with intensity 5 times per week, but the walking really clears my head.

Nieves Zedeno January 26, 2012 at 9:33 am

I’ve been doing intense cardio/weight training (1/5-2 hrs) 3 times a week, or alternating intense and weight training for an hour each day (4-5 times) and was not going anywhere.

So now, I do intense cardio/training for 2 hours every other day, and walk my dogs for 3.3 miles (about 1 hour) on my off days. Rest one day. It[‘s been a month and I’m beginning to see a difference. For one, my knees and feet aren’t as stiff or sore any more (Im 49 yo, 5’1, 126#)

Rainer January 30, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Exactly what I used to say, “Walking is for sissies, overweight people and those who can’t do a ‘real’ workout. Well guess who’s walking 3 miles a day – and enjoying it? Yeah, me.

I came out of a hard core, extreme training environment ever since I was a young teenager. I made it onto two Olympic teams but I paid a dear price. I just had my eighth (that’s 8) surgery and am now re-training my body to walk without a limp for the fifth time.

This time around, I am waiting a lot longer before I go back into the gym to hit the weights. In the meantime, I have discovered walking. Even that wasn’t so easy at first but it’s really done wonders. It also gives lots of time to think.

Maybe I’ll have to reconsider yoga now too!

Rainer January 31, 2012 at 8:07 am

January 30, 2012
Rainer said:
Exactly what I used to say, “Walking is for sissies, overweight people and those who can’t do a ‘real’ workout. Well guess who’s walking 3 miles a day – and enjoying it? Yeah, me.
I came out of a hard core, extreme training environment ever since I was a young teenager. I made it onto two Olympic teams but I paid a dear price. I just had my eighth (that’s surgery and am now re-training my body to walk without a limp for the fifth time.
This time around, I am waiting a lot longer before I go back into the gym to hit the weights. In the meantime, I have discovered walking. Even that wasn’t so easy at first but it’s really done wonders. It also gives lots of time to think.
Maybe I’ll have to reconsider yoga now too!
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seo January 31, 2012 at 9:54 am

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Jeff G August 7, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Rusty, love your site. I have been following since novmeber 2011. In that time i have literally lost 60 pounds from lifting weights (as you recomend, eating right, and doing hiit. My wife has lost 35 pounds). We came to waikiki for a month long vacation, rented a tiny studio apartment. We have been no gym, though mixed in some body weight exercise work, and basic cardio ( running along the beach beats the hell out of any tredmill from a motivation standpoint), though nothing as intense as hiit. The only difference is we walk everywhere here with no car, probably average 3 miles a day. My wife is down a size in clothes in 2 weeks, and my shorts are falling off me. My point is i believe walking is a great help, for health and fat loss that is not a lot of intense work. Your site is amazing, anyone who disagrees does not know what they are talking about.

nicole January 3, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Hi,
This post worried me a bit, I work out 4-5 times a week, but work at an airport which consists of me sitting for 8 and half hours! I do love to walk, it is just my jobs restricts me of this.
Have you got any tips of how I can work around it?
Thanks

Leigh February 13, 2013 at 10:38 am

Nicole:
A lot of people have desk jobs in which typically they sit for an avg. of 40 hrs /week. You do get a lunch and breaks throughout the day (required by law) – take advantage of these to walk. Also consider a standing desk. You can buy one or make it yourself inexpensively. Your company cannot “require” you to sit all day.
Leigh

Richard March 13, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Good stuff Rusty! I sit a great deal while at work. I walk up/down flights of stairs every day. Gets my stubborn calves stimulated too!

pomegranate5 March 18, 2013 at 3:39 am

I started taking 2000 steps daily in the last few weeks, I then increased it to 4000. I pushed myself a little bit and reached 6000 steps in one hour. Six thousand steps is 4.83km I can now walk 1000 steps in 8minutes. I aim to reach 10000 steps. I try to walk daily. My lower back feels better with the walk and daily asanas/stretches/yoga for the back. I noticed the hourly walks led to better sleep, feeling lighter upon waking in the morning. It’s like I have a spring in my step.

Do not force yourself, increase the steps gradually.

I weigh around 53-55kg. I am slim but have some abdominal fat. I hope the daily walking helps shed the fat and am able to get a lean belly. I know a healthy diet is essential combined with the walking.

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