Walking, is it Exercise?

My knee jerk reaction to this is a resounding “Are you kidding me? No, seriously. Did you just say that?”

Remember, this comes from a guy who runs a training business and prides himself in getting people lean and fit as fast as possible. Walking on my hierarchy of exercise for fat loss is right next to sleeping, pretty close to the bottom.

First I want to give you my off the cuff, top of the head, spiel before I get into the geeky stuff and include some external viewpoints.

Walking, to me, is locomotion. It is how we get from one place to another. It is part of our lifestyle not something we should be seeking out to do as exercise. We should be walking because we need to get from one place to another and really enjoy the feeling of moving upright.

Having lived in Europe for many years, I had the unique opportunity to spend significant time with people in a different culture. Walking, to the Europeans, is an everyday part of their life. They don’t have to make a conscious effort to get their walking in, they do it to get from place to place. They walk to the train, they walk to the bus, or they walk to the store.

Quick side note: If I did ever see anyone out walking for exercise they had these goofy walking sticks and they definitely were not walking for pleasure. They were also ridiculed mercilessly in my mind because of the ridiculous looking sticks. Walking sticks are one thing if you need them because of a bad knee or balance issues or if you happen to be a shaman climbing a mountain, flat ground on the other hand should require nothing of the sort. 🙂

Seriously? Walking sticks? 🙂

The United States is different because many of our daily activities are so spread out that we need to take a car from point A to point B. Plus, it gets really cold here in the winter. All of this I realize, but this still does not discredit the fact that walking for thousands of years has been man’s primary form of locomotion. We are born to walk upright.

My personal opinion is that walking should be done as much as possible but should not be one’s sole form of exercise. I am going to talk more about that later but first lets take a quick scientific approach to walking.

Walking Defined

To decide whether or not walking is exercise we must first think about how we define exercise. According to freedictionary.com exercise is “the activity of exerting your muscles in various ways to keep fit.”

I don’t think walking really fits the bill. Yes, we are exerting our muscles but we exert our muscles when we lift the remote to change the tv channel and I know we can all agree that that is not exercise.

Health Benefits vs More Strenuous Exercise

Let’s take a look at walking in terms of health benefits. True exercise provides numerous benefits to our health. If walking is indeed exercise, it should elicit similar health benefits to other forms of exercise, most notably moderate aerobic training. No, not Jane Fonda in leg warmer aerobics exercise but rather think running at a moderate pace.

According to a study from the University of Alberta “Traditional Aerobic Fitness Training Trumps Pedometer-Based Walking Programs for Health Benefits.”

The researchers compared a walking-based group and a supervised fitness group over a six-month period. After comparing the two groups, the supervised fitness program saw greater reductions in their systolic blood pressure, rating of perceived exertion during submaximal exercise, ventilator threshold (where breathing starts to become progressively more difficult), and peak VO2 (a measurement of peak oxygen uptake, higher VO2 equals someone in better shape).

These are all normal responses to a good exercise program but if you are not convinced here is another study to give you some more food for thought.

Please don’t go screaming from the mountaintops that Trevor is anti-walking. Walking is a great “lifestyle” activity.  In a sedentary society like ours people should try and increase their daily activity.  Don’t take the closest spot at the supermarket.  Race your kids to the door or try taking the stairs instead of the elevator.  All in all, utilize your ability to walk upright.  As a matter of fact I am going to take a quick lap around the house after writing this.

The Conclusion

I think people should spend MORE time walking and less time sitting, but don’t confuse walking with a proper exercise program.

Walking can be a great transition for those who are severely obese or sedentary to a structured exercise routine but in the end you need to push yourself harder than a leisurely stroll.

Exercise should raise your heart rate, make you sweat a little, and breath harder than normal. I think you will be surprised at just how hard you really can work. Step out of your comfort zone every once in a while and push yourself.

I guarantee you won’t be disappointed with the results.