Walking: An Exercise or Activity?

I’m often asked “Is walking good for you?” In short, the answer is YES but the rewards and drawbacks of ‘walking for exercise’ depends heavily on the individual.

For example, are you are free of injuries or impairments that would cause you to walk with a correction?

Do you have a sore heel causing you to put more weight on one leg?

women walking

Do you experience pain while walking or after?

Do you have poor balance and at times worried you might fall?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, it’s important that you minimize risk. Injury will take the benefit out of any workout.

What are the primary benefits of walking?

For me, walking is an activity that can be fun (who doesn’t love a social walk with a friend on the waterfront.)

Walking gets the body moving.

Increases blood flow which contributes to a healthy heart and brings greater fluidity to lower body joints.

Walking challenges your weight bearing bones to help fight osteoporosis.

In general walking is a low-impact activity that has minimal “wear and tear” on your joints. Walking is free, can be done most anywhere and is one of the best things for your mind & body.

The downside to walking: it won’t on its own build muscle.

Walking gives you a great cardiovascular boost but offers little improvement in muscle strength. As we age (after the age of 25) we start to lose muscle mass, this is called “sarcopenia”. It becomes fairly critical that we continue to build muscle mass as we age. Walking alone will not give you everything you need to be fit for the long run.

I like to think of walking as an “activity” rather than “exercise”. I think any type of sport or recreational movements are in the same column. Activity in my opinion still has many benefits (physical, as well as psychological and social) but if you really want to play or engage in an activity with less chances for injury or “wear and tear” on your joints, then you need to do the fundamental work called “exercise”. I highly suggest weight training using machines or free weights, yoga, pilates, and body-weight training movements (squats, push ups, planks).

Exercise is the hard work, and activity is the fun!

In summary, walking is great. It’s just not the “be all and end all” of a complete fitness program. If walking is the one thing you do, good for you. You are moving! That’s better than a lot of people! If you are keen to experience the benefits of true fitness try adding exercises that build muscle. You will soon discover an ability to enjoy all types of physical activity safely and with greater ease.

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