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Does walking directly improve fitness?

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  • Does walking directly improve fitness?

    Having read an article on MDA about all the benefits of walking or other low-level aerobic activity, I noticed there wasn't a mention of anything directly related to fitness. Sure, walking helps regulate the metabolism, reduce inflammation, reduces stress, and tones muscles and joints...all good stuff. But for a while now, I have been walking at an intensity to keep my heart rate at the top of Mark's recommended range of 55-75% of max. I'm beginning to wonder if there is any real benefit to being there as opposed to the lower end of the range. I had assumed that the higher my heart rate, the more improvement I'll see in my lung power, endurance, and other fitness measurements. I probably also assumed that I was burning more fat at 75% vs 55%.

    I'm asking about this because to achieve 75% of my max, there is no steady pace I can move outside. I have to go to a treadmill and put it at the right incline. The boredom is starting to get to me. I would rather be outside and relax. But outside, if I jog continuously, my heart rate gets too high. If I walk continuously, my heart rate never gets high enough. So I'd like to know if I really should be at the upper level of the heart rate range, or if I'd be good with just a 2 mile or so casual walk every day (with little regard to my heart rate). If it matters, I do engage additional activity in the form of weekly sprints and 3-5 days/week of strength training.

  • #2
    Well, I think you may be over thinking it just a wee bit, but I'm OCD like that
    too..... so ANYWAY!

    What *I* do outside, cuz I can't stand the treadmill very long either, is to do intervals:

    3 minutes at 3mph, then up to 4.5mph for a minute to get the heart rate up to whatever is
    75% of your max, then back to 3mph for three minutes - repeat.

    It's a little tedious to keep track sometimes, BUT, if you want to get even more kray-kray OCD,
    you can always make yourself a little music mix on your ipod or whatever and put 3mph beats
    on there and then a 4.5mph beat song on......

    Anyway, just my suggestions.



    • #3
      Originally posted by atmetal View Post
      The boredom is starting to get to me. I would rather be outside and relax.
      Your answer lies within the quote above ^. Screw treadmills, I love my 3mile runs with my dogs in the black of night.


      • #4
        There's some benefit to exercising at 180 - your age beats per minute. This will be fairly low.

        You could also alternate jogging and walking to keep the heart going in range.

        You could seek out some hills for your walk. Even overpasses are hills, although not as pleasant as quieter streets. Stadium steps are another option.

        You could just walk at a purposeful pace and enjoy the outdoors and not care about your heart rate. I honestly believe that walking at a human pace out in the sun, out in nature, is one of the healthiest things you can do for your mind and body.
        Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.


        • #5
          Its still better than doing nothing at all
          My fitness improved while walking every night, at a reasonable speed (unsure on heart rate though).


          • #6
            Everything is relative, if you are used to do nothing and start walking for half an hour per day then you will improve fitness. And if you are used to do fast running for half an hour per day and changes to walking the same time then you lower your fitness, so it depends...
            "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

            - Schopenhauer


            • #7
              The answer to your question is not very much. If someone is totally sedentary and they start walking then yes it will improve fitness. Its going from nothing to something. Walking alone isn't going to give you that fitness that sets you apart from your peers as time rolls on. They key is brief, very intense bouts of exercise followed by adequate recovery. This is what sets one up metabolically to maintain their youth in spite of the calendar.
              Then, activities like walking are beneficial in other ways like stress relief, mind clearing etc.

              My advice is to have the foundation program that builds total body strength, cardio and metabolic conditioning. Done properly, you needn't plan out other activity. You will however find that you want to go out and do things. You'll have that energy and drive to be active without stressing over it.


              • #8
                Originally posted by canotryss
                answer lies within the quote above ^. Screw treadmills, I love my 3mile runs with my dogs in the black of night.
                You could try throwing on a pack with a bit of weight in it...


                • #9
                  I'd still like to know if I would see any difference between keeping my heart rate at 75% vs 55%. But I like the suggestion of adding weight. I'll look into that.


                  • #10
                    You are really playing with minutia. Go for your walk and have some fun. At one time I was into racing my bike and was consumed by all the data. It all became more fun when I stopped wearing a HR monitor and ditched the cycling computer. I can tell by your question that you are focusing on the data, just as I did on my bike. Just let it go. Your not going to live a second longer by the way you walk.
                    Some of you may die, but that is a risk I'm willing to take.


                    • #11
                      Yeah a walk is not going to do much for your fitness if you're already relatively fit. I presently only walk as part of my work commute but when I have a lot of shit on my mind/heart I like to go for a longer walk. I've been toying with the idea of going to a different train stop that's further away so that I walk more in the mornings. I'm not expecting it to do shit for my fitness, but it's a nice way to start the day and get some outside time. I'm pretty fit/active so if I was looking to do something "for my fitness" while outside I would sprint and/or do calisthenics, etc.

                      So, if there's something else you think is going to be more beneficial then just do that. If you're fit enough to, then by all means. I'm looking at the morning walks as "me" time, not fitness improvement time. However, I'm not saying walking is detrimental to fitness (on the contrary) but it's not going to improve your lifts or your mile time, either.
                      I used to seriously post here, now I prefer to troll.


                      • #12
                        Not much difference between 55% and 75% except increasing fat usage over glucose usage as your intensity gets towards the lower end.

                        Humans evolved walking. Sure there are some fitness measures that come from it, but most of the improvements gained from a daily walk are not measurable as they have to do with proprioceptive feedback loops, neurology, and general health of the entire system.

                        But like Einstein said "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." So don't miss the forest for the trees when your talking about movement (particularly walking) and fitness.


                        • #13
                          I guess there's one last thing I need to know. So far, my schedule has been so busy during the weekdays that I have to make walking a scheduled part of my routine (35 minutes a day exactly). This was done mainly to spread out the boredom of walking on a treadmill. It's a real shame considering that the command that I'm based at has over 20 miles of trail on a former rice plantation. The problem is that the trails are all very easy, with no real elevation change. Since the general consensus here seems to be that keeping my intensity higher is doing nothing for me, I am now willing to utilize the trails so I enjoy the walking more (perhaps strapping on a weight vest in the process). However, the amount of time it takes for me even get out to those trails would be too much. Again, I stress how much time I don't have during the week. But I do have plenty of time on the weekend. Let's say my goal was to achieve the 3-5 hour recommendation of low-level cardio per week. At my current 35 minutes a day, I am achieving it. Would it be exactly the same if I were to walk only 2 days (the weekend) for a longer duration so that it adds up to the same weekly time?

                          I know I'm over-thinking this. I'm used to people reminding me of that with every thread I start. But when you're in the military, you have to make efficient use of what little free time you have. And efficiency is impossible without a plan.


                          • #14
                            You are clearly over thinking this! You say you have little time? Walking is the least efficient way to fitness. You'd be FAR better off doing one brief, intense full body workout and one sprint interval workout a week. This would take you less than an hour a week. Then you could do whatever the rest of the time. What I just suggested would go much further than walking for hours a day every day.


                            • #15
                              But I already do all that. I strength train 5 times week and sprint one, sometimes twice a week. I have recently taken to long periods of stretching and foam rolling to increase hip mobility. All this and I still think I need to walk. Why? Because I spend upwards of 14 hours a day in a classroom. I am not exaggerating my lack of time.