3 Walking Workouts, According to Experts

These walking workouts may help reduce your risk of heart disease risk and boost your mood.

It's easy to take walking for granted as a form of exercise. After all, it's how we move around in the world every day. Sometimes, it's hard to believe walking will knock off pounds or improve well-being. 

Research has found that walking is a surprisingly strong health and fitness strategy. Our bodies were made for walking. But there's more than one way to get the most out of those daily steps. 

Health spoke to three experts with different approaches to a rewarding stroll so that you can choose the best method for you. Whether you're time-pressed or want to ease into running, the following experts have got you covered.

Walking Workout Health Benefits

First, here are just a few reasons to incorporate 150 minutes of walking or more into your weekly routine. Walking regularly can yield several health benefits, including:

  • Reduces risk of heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, and certain cancers
  • Lowers LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels
  • Improves sleep
  • Boosts energy
  • Decreases the risk of depression and anxiety 

What the Research Says

One study published in 2017 in the Turkish Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation found that a 12-week moderate-intensity walking program decreased belly fat in overweight and obese women.

The walking program also increased maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max), a fitness level marker. How do you know if you're walking at a moderate intensity? For people aged 21–40, other evidence suggests taking 100 steps per minute.

Walking can even help prevent some serious diseases. Per one study published in 2020 in the Journals of Gerontology, taking a quick five-minute walk every thirty minutes may improve metabolic health, lower blood sugar levels, and reduce blood pressure.

Also, a study published in 2013 in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology found that walking at a decent clip reduced people's risk of high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar as much as running.

And to solidify those positive effects, a meta-analysis published in 2013 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that strolling outdoors with walking groups can improve quality of life and lower the risk of depression.

So, now that you know why you should walk, here's how you should walk, according to three exercise professionals.

David Kirsch, Celebrity Trainer

Even the fittest people can benefit from walking more, David Kirsch, a celebrity trainer, told Health.

"From a purely physiological standpoint, walking raises your heart rate and burns calories," said Kirsch. "But it's also a great way to increase your mind-body connection, focus on your breath, spend time in nature, meditate, and de-stress."

Kirsch's go-to walking workout: For beginners, it's all about working up to 10,000 steps a day, which is the preset daily goal on most fitness trackers. Ten thousand daily steps is a good target for keeping your heart healthy and managing weight. But after you've mastered that, challenge yourself to hit 15,000 to 25,000 daily steps.

"Ten thousand should become the bare minimum," noted Kirsch. To amp up the intensity of your walks, try a hilly landscape or wear two- to three-pound ankle and hand weights.

Incorporating toning exercises every few minutes, like jumping jacks, walking lunges, squats, or squat jumps, can also help, suggested Kirsch. Adding those moves in intervals will help you build muscle, improve heart health, and increase endurance.

"Walking is so good for you," said Kirsch. "It's a great start and supplement to any wellness program."

Amy Rothberg, MD, Endocrinologist

"Walking is one of the best tools for weight maintenance," Amy Rothberg, MD, an endocrinologist and clinical professor of internal medicine in the division of metabolism, endocrinology, and diabetes at the University of Michigan, told Health. "It's aerobic, it engages some of the biggest muscles, and it's feasible for most people."

Dr. Rothberg's go-to walking workout: Walking for at least 30 minutes per day, five days a week, helps maintain a healthy weight, said Dr. Rothberg. What's more, you don't have to log a half hour simultaneously.

"You can do your 30 minutes in 10-minute bouts throughout the day," said Dr. Rothberg. "And those add up."

Plus, walking for short periods goes by quickly, which may be even better for you than strolling for 30 minutes straight. Short, vigorous activities can help increase your overall fitness level. And even low-intensity exercises, like fast-paced walking, can help burn some of the body's stored fat.

Walking in chunks of time can give you little boosts of confidence to keep you motivated, too.

"Whether it's parking farther away or walking to meet a colleague, you get a sense of accomplishment," said Dr. Rothberg. "It's these little successes that end up establishing good habits."

Jeff Galloway, Running Coach

Adding running intervals to your walks can help you burn more calories, Jeff Galloway, a running coach, told Health. Plus, easing into running like that allows you "to go farther while feeling better and avoiding injury," added Galloway.

Galloway's go-to walking workout: To introduce fast segments into your walks, start by jogging for five to 10 seconds per minute for 10 minutes, gradually working up to 30 minutes. Once you've conquered that goal, add more extended periods of jogging until you can jog for 30 seconds per minute for 30 minutes.

Eventually, you can build up to short walk breaks. For example, walk for 30 seconds, then run for 60 seconds. That method can help you train for a 5K or even longer race, noted Galloway. 

If you're a regular runner with a 10-minute mile average, alternate 90 seconds of running and 30 seconds of walking, suggested Galloway. If you average a 12-minute mile, try alternating 60 seconds of running and 30 seconds of walking.

Other Walking Workout Ideas

In addition to these three methods, here are other techniques to keep walking interesting:

  • Switch up your pace.
  • Walk at an incline in a gym or add elevations such as hills or stairs to your route.
  • Walk outdoors.
  • Ask a friend to join you.
  • Listen to music.
  • Try a walking meditation.
  • Keep track of your progress.

A Quick Review

Walking workouts are an excellent way to get or stay in shape. You can walk anywhere with little equipment. And once you get into your groove, there are plenty of ways to amp up your routine and get and stay fit.

In the meantime, you'll reduce your risks of a list of chronic health conditions and improve your mental and physical well-being.

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10 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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