Walk this way

Words byHayley Hayley

Aerosmith and Run DMC were on to something when they serenaded us, encouraging us to ‘walk this way.’ No matter what you do or how active you are, chances are you walk at least a little bit each day. Whether it’s your walk to work, the catwalk or the walk of shame, you’re likely to be pounding the pavement each and every day.

And just because it’s a cheap and convenient mode of transport doesn’t mean it can’t be effective for getting fit. In fact, walking is one of the easiest forms of exercise. It requires no special equipment and no real skill. Now how many Pilates classes can you say that about?

Though we wish it would, we can’t exactly promise that shuffling from the sofa to the fridge is going to boost your fitness and count as cardio. Sure, it’s a little bit of movement, but we wanted to know when walking could actually form part of our workout regime. You already know how to walk – you put one foot in front of the other and shift your body weight side to side as you pivot over your leg’s fulcrum – so we imagine you are curious too.

The first thing to understand is what exactly constitutes cardio. Cardiovascular exercise, better known to most of us as cardio, is any activity that requires oxygen to meet your body’s energy demands. That means that anything you do that increases your rate of breathing and your heart rate as you move large muscles in a rhythmic and repetitive way can be viewed as cardio. That means that climbing the stairs in your office building and having sex (yay!) both count.

So when you consider those qualifications, you’ll start to see which types of walking qualify. A leisurely stroll through mall won’t likely get your heart rate up – unless you are fighting for the last pair of shoes in your size – but a brisker walk at a more intense pace can certainly challenge your cardiovascular system. This will create an increased demand on your heart and your muscles, which, we promise, is a good thing!

Wondering which variables are important for turning your walk into a workout? That would be pace, distance and intensity. You need to consider how quickly you’re walking, the distance you’re walking, the length of time you’re walking and how intensely you do it. All of these things will factor into your body’s response to the walk.

But to really get the benefits, it must be considered moderate physical exercise. This will get your heart rate up a bit and affect a change in your body’s cardiovascular demand. You may or may not sweat, but you will definitely still be able to hold a conversation. All the better for having a walking buddy! For most people, this is a pace of about 5 kilometers per hour. If you’re walking any faster, there is no doubt that this can be seen as cardio!

Want to pump up the volume a bit? Try wearing ankle and wrist weights to increase your cardio burn. You’ll also get in some strength training while you hoof it!

And no matter how you do it, you can be happy knowing that walking is great for you. It’s beneficial for all bodily systems, including your mood, and is effective in warding off chronic diseases. You can do it no matter the day, no matter your age, and it’s fun, particularly with a friend. So, slip on your sneakers and get those legs moving. Your body and mind will thank you.