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Walking For Fitness – Is It Really Enough?

Walking often gets a bad rap when it comes to fitness. A lot of fitness pros may even scoff at the idea of a walk being a “true” workout. You may even find yourself feeling like a bit of a slacker on the days you choose to walk rather than run or do a higher intensity workout. 

But, many experts do agree that not only does walking yield a ton of health benefits, it also improves your overall fitness too. 

So, before you go ditching those comfy walking shoes, let’s learn how the experts are weighing in on the link between walking and better fitness.

Walking & aerobic fitness

When it comes to improving your heart health, look no further than a brisk walk around the block.  

In fact, one study showed that walking briskly for only 30 minutes a day can significantly improve V02 max – this is the maximum amount of oxygen the body can use during exercise. [1]  

In addition to improving aerobic fitness, walking has also been shown to reduce risk factors linked to cardiovascular disease. Reduced blood pressure, BMI, waist circumference and overall body fat were among some of the benefits to adopting a regular walking routine. [2]

Short on time? You can still reap the cardiovascular benefits of walking by performing 3 bouts of 10-minute intervals. Basically, every little bit counts, so keep that body in motion whenever you can!

Walking for strength gains & strong bones

While walking certainly isn’t going to give you the shredded muscular physique of a bodybuilder,  it still packs a big punch when it comes to maintaining your muscle mass. 

One study looked at the benefits of walking amongst older adults and its impact on muscle mass.  

Researchers found that those who performed higher amounts of moderate to vigorous physical activity (such as walking) significantly reduced their risk of sarcopenia — a condition defined as the loss of muscle mass and function (muscle wasting or “frailty syndrome”), commonly seen in older adults. [3]  

There’s also evidence that walking can keep your bones strong too. Because walking is a weight bearing activity, it helps maintain bone density and strength. [4]

Intensity matters!

While walking is hugely beneficial for overall health and wellbeing, we may need to pick up the pace.  

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) recommends adults between the ages of 18-64 perform 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous exercise. [5]

Brisk walking is one of the many activities recommended, but as CSEP outlines, the intensity is also important.  

“Moderate-intensity physical activities will cause adults to sweat a little and to breathe harder. Vigorous-intensity physical activities will cause adults to sweat and be out of breath.”
~ Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology 

Keep an eye on your intensity by using ‘the talk test’. You should be able to talk, but carrying on a conversation may be challenging. If you’re able to talk at leisure, it’s time to up the pace 😉

Make the most of your walking workout

You can get the most bang for your walking workout by making just a few small tweaks:  

For example, try varying the terrain of your outdoor walk or even adding hills to your usual treadmill routine.

And, the best way to get results from a walking program?

In one word, consistency.  

If you can’t fit in a “formal” workout, focus on walking as much as you can, whenever you can.  

Make walking part of your everyday routine and you’ll reap those fitness benefits in no time. You can also increase the heart healthy benefits of walking by adding a few key nutrients into your diet. 

We’ve come up with a super easy, fresh tasting Balsamic Vinaigrette recipe that’s filled with heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fatty acids and fresh garlic to help protect against heart disease.

It’s a healthier alternative to the sugar- and salt-laden store bought salad dressings that are chock-full of preservatives. Plus, it’s packed with flavour and takes only minutes to make… even if you’re slow! Bring on the fast ‘n fancy salads 🙂 

RECIPE 

Heart Lovin’ Balsamic Vinaigrette 

Ingredients 

½ cup of extra virgin olive oil

½ cup balsamic vinegar (beware of added fillers and preservatives)

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp of honey, unpasteurized

1 tsp sea salt

½ tsp black pepper, fresh cracked

¼ tsp onion powder

1 clove of fresh garlic, pressed & minced (or 1 tsp garlic powder) 

Preparation 

Place all ingredients in a mason jar and close the lid tightly.  

Shake the ingredients until well blended.

Drizzle 1-2 Tb(s) on your favorite salad to add a savory heart-healthy nutritional punch. 

REFERENCES 

[1] Science Direct – Preventative Medicine Journal (January 2005): The effects of short- vs. long-bout exercise on mood, VO2max, and percent body fat 

[2] Science Direct – Preventative Medicine Journal (March 2015): The effect of walking on risk factors for cardiovascular disease: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised control trials 

[3] Age and Ageing Journal (September 2016): Physical activity and incidence of sarcopenia: the population-based AGES—Reykjavik Study 

[4] National Institutes of Health (NIH) Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center: Exercise for Your Bone Health 

[5] Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP/SCPE): Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults 18-64