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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Thanks for reading all these years!



 

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather June 16, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Wow, you sure answered pretty quick, lol!

Jason G June 16, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Rusty,

Have not been to Costa Rica. It is definitely on my to do list. I went to Olympic Rain Forrest when I was younger-I love the moss on those trees! However the vampires up there are a little emotional for my taste and probably should work on not being such pansies with women.

Jennie June 16, 2009 at 8:35 pm

I just went for a walk by the river Thames! On my way back from the pub!

Norbi June 16, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Rusty,

yeah I can understand why one would want something different from Hollywood after a certain age, it’s certainly very active, crazy and busy here, not a very relaxed place. I’m rather in the process of settling down, but I already really like the place – it’s just got this overall very hip atmosphere to it.

Evan June 16, 2009 at 9:19 pm

I’ve always enjoyed walking and would walk a few hours a day during my overweight teenage years and early twenties. I credit my awesome calves and lack of visceral fat despite getting up to 260 pounds to walking. Walking is the best (and only) way I’ve found to break through fat loss plateaus. Creating that magical 500 calorie deficit is as easy as walking 2 hours a day. You don’t need to be watching crap on TV or surfing the net anyway.

Apart from the physical benefits, it calms me down and ensures I get a great night’s sleep. For added benefit, I walk for hours in my Vibram Five Fingers and practice maintaining the abdominal brace — two ways to greatly improve your posture! And if you’re interested in parkour you can surely find some structures to play with along the way.

Evan June 16, 2009 at 9:20 pm

Whoops, that first line should read “walk a few hours a week.”

Glowworm June 16, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Hi Rusty-
I want to thank you for everything. I am always amazed and inspired when I log onto Fitness Black Book. You are truly an amazing inspiration, and I don’t just mean physically. You have made a huge commitment to helping people that you will never meet, you strive to change outdated thinking and to help people help themselves all in a great, open, honest format. Words cannot express my gratitude! I am sure you are bogged down with life’s issues that we all face, I just pray that you never stop posting regardless of what cards life deals you. Thanks again!

sangita June 17, 2009 at 2:35 am

I live in India Rusty, in the state of Maharashtra and in the city of Pune. And when you guys (u and your girlfriend) come here I promise you a good time. I’ve got it all planned out. You are going to get blown away! Not to mention all the delicious food I’ll be cooking!

Jonavan June 17, 2009 at 4:21 am

I thought this might be a related entry. It’s a blog of how to put together a standing desk. I don’t know if this qualifies as walking, but I’m sure it is better than sitting.

http://webworkerdaily…how-to-build-a-standing-desk/

Matt June 17, 2009 at 9:59 am

Thanks for the encouragement Rusty! I’d like to add that of the 60 lbs I’ve lost since the beggining of 2008, more than half of it occured over the last 2 months since I discovered your site and Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat. I can’t thank you guys enough…

I’ve done the post-HIIT treadmill walk twice this week – both times I’ve increased the incline every 30 seconds so at the 15 minute mark it’s maxed out – then I decrease it every 30 seconds till I’m back to 0. Even at a walking pace it kicks my butt!

Juan Pablo June 17, 2009 at 10:28 am

Hi Rusty!

I´m a 33 years old guy from Madrid (Spain). Maybe I´m your first international reader, who knows (I´d be honoured, i´ve to admit!).

Just wanted to congratulate you for your excellent site and body of work. I´ve training for 5 or 6 years now and avidly reading a lot of related stuff (in the Internet, scientific and technical literature, etc.) and I´ve to say that your articles deserve a privileged position among all I´ve come across during all these years (and it´s been a lot, ranging from the Venuto system, to more sports and less bodybuilding focused books like Anita Bean´s, Melvin Williams and many, many others (including the Abs System, designed by the chief editor of Men´s Health).
To summarize a little bit, I fullt agree with all your statements as they proved them right with me (i did it naturally, without any prior advice till I found your “system” materialized in text). My height is 190 cms and I weight around 73-75 kgs (can you perform the conversions here for the rest of the readers, please?) and do body weight lifting at home (pull ups, push ups, dips, shoulder raises and stationary bike). I usually have 2 raw eggs for breakfast, legumes with lean protein at lunch, and a salad for dinner, as well with some lean protein (chicken breast in most of the cases). I eat a lot of veggies, and almost none fruit (because of the fructose, but I´m a convinced follower of the low GI type of foods, and it happens that the majority of fruits have a very low GI. I also read the “Glycemic Revolution”, a very recommendable manual).
I do have a cheating day (apple pie, ice cream, Godiva…), and on weekends the lean protein use to be sirloin steaks.

Well, too much stuff for now, sorry for the typos and errors, and, again, two thumbs up for your excellent site.

All the best from Spain,

Juan Pablo

Brad June 17, 2009 at 11:57 am

Long summer days = long summer walks!

browngrl June 17, 2009 at 7:01 pm

totally agree!
I think intervals are great and should be part of everyone’s excercise regimen but even more important is just being active as much as possible – walking is great for this AND it doesn’t cause as many injuries as running AND it is interesting AND fun (I live in a big city and walk everywhere and this is how I have really come to know my neighbourhood)AND you don’t need special training or equipment AND you can bump up the intensity easily but walking up hills and stairs on your walk and stopping for push ups,lunges etc – all around winner

admin June 18, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Heather,

I happened to be online right as you commented. Good timing on your part.

Jason G,

Yeah, “Twilight” was geared more towards teenage girls, but still entertaining. I like my generation’s teen vampire movie, “The Lost Boys”, a bit better…but that is just probably because I was a teenager in the 80’s…it certainly wasn’t the acting.

Jennie,

It is a small world. That is hilarious. Hopefully the beer was good!

Norbi,

Hollywood certainly has its great points. I’m sure you will have a blast.

Evan,

You are making me feel lazy! Two hours of walking per day…I need to work my way up to that. I did walk to the grocery store today for food, but that was only 45 minutes round trip.

Glowworm,

I will never stop posting. I really appreciate the positive feedback from you as well as many others. I could be watching TV instead, but I really get a lot more out of helping people. This is really fun and rewarding for me. The nice thing is that I have made contacts all over the world. How cool is that?

sangita,

Indian food is delicious and the country does look amazing. I’m sure it would be a culture shock, but me and my girlfriend would love to visit. When we do, we will contact you. Thanks for offering to be a great tour guide.

Jonavan,

That looks great. Someday, I would like to have a standing desk as well as a seated desk. I’m not sure I would want to stand the whole time, but part of the day would be great.

Matt,

I’ve done a very similar routine while walking on the treadmill. That is a great strategy. At some point this will become too easy for you, but by then you will have lost even more weight. Thanks for the compliment…and yes, Brad Pilon obviously gets my highest recommendation. His material is outstanding.

Juan,

This site does get quite a bit of international readers, but the more the merrier! I love the fact that we can communicate for free from across the globe. I really think the Internet is an amazing thing! So you are about 6’2″ and 165-170 range. Sounds like you are lean and have a similar build to a pro-beach volleyball player. Very good…sounds like you are very educated in staying in great shape. I am humbled that you compare my site to these established fitness guru’s…I know the methods I talk about work extremely well, but I still appreciate each and every compliment.

Brad,

I am going to really work hard and develop a walking habit this summer when the weather is nice. By the time winter hits, it will be a habit so it won’t be hard to continue. I really do look forward to long summer walks with my girlfriend!

browngrl,

I have come to realize that it will be easier staying lean by simply moving around more. Besides that, walking is a good staple to a healthy lifestyle. I have done pretty well this week and still trying to add in walking whenever possible. I have to admit, it has taken a bit of effort to get over my habit of grabbing the car keys every time I leave the apartment.

Great comments!

Rusty

Sagheer June 19, 2009 at 2:34 am

Hey Rusty

Been reading your blog for a while and I love the fact that you are not afraid of trying things which are different and at times may be at odds with your method of training.

I was 80kgs (5’8″) when I decided to work out as my job as an equity analyst is long drawn (15 hr days) and with little exercise. I dropped down all the way to 63kgs (11% BF), then decided to buff up a bit. Thanks to all those fads I overate and now I have 17% BF, 70kgs. I think your method of training makes sense to me. I do not aspire to be built like a pro wrestler. I want a Tom Cruise kind of physique, so working towards that. My main fight is with my diet. Indian food is carb rich and not exactly very healthy! HELP!

PS: recommended your Fitness Black Book on my blog!

Studio Element Personal Training June 22, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Walking has almost become a lost art. It’s a great way to get active during a workday and you can walk anywhere. We have become so reliant on cars and other modes of transportation. Walk or ride a bike next time.

Jeff June 22, 2009 at 10:40 pm

Someone once said “The two best doctors I have are my left leg and my right one.”

Helene June 26, 2009 at 6:52 am

Thanks for your contribution to Take Care of Your Health Care Carnival. Walking is an excellent exercise that is very natural for the body.

LisaR June 29, 2009 at 12:20 pm

I agree and so does award winning cardiologist Dr. Morgadam. He says intense exercise too often actually INCREASES your CAD risk by over a thousand percent.

Yummy July 2, 2009 at 1:17 pm

I’m a little late, but this is a GREAT post. Thanks so much for the info!
I try to walk at least 30 minutes a day. I also try to walk to work on most days. It’s great take a stroll first thing in the morning or right after dinner. Go with your lover, your friends, your dog, or your ipod! Smell the roses! 🙂
Once you get in the habit it becomes a nice, relaxing part of your day.

pjnoir July 7, 2009 at 6:24 pm

Remember- the 30 min walk is in ADDITION to a good HITT or cardio workout. Simply walking is great to reduce stress, grease the joints and keep the body parts in motion (see Satch Paige) but if you are diabetic and/or need to control weight by increasing calorie burn-a HITT/cardio workout with a strength training program is still the front line.

katie July 17, 2009 at 11:03 am

I guess I better start walking on my lunch break!

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 !!

[email protected] 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!
Permalink • Reply to this

seo January 31, 2012 at 9:54 am

Thanks for a marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading it, you will be a great author.I will always bookmark your blog and may come back from now on. I want to encourage continue your great writing, have a nice afternoon!

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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