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.
[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 Cancer – The 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 Women – Scandinavian 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!