Many people think that you have to push yourself really hard in order to get fit, no pain no gain, so walking is often seen as ‘not really exercise’ but the truth is, walking can be just as good as, if not better than, running especially if you’re a complete beginner! Here’s why:
- Done right, you can work up a sweat easily!
Years ago, I started a walking club for women who weren’t ready to join my running class. I thought that as a fit runner, this would be really easy for me, I’d barely notice it. However, I soon discovered that I was wrong! Turned out walking can be just as challenging as running. We did a lot of interval training and there always came a point where I felt like it would be easier to start running than it was to keep on walking at that pace. I got out of breath and sweaty in every class — it felt good. This rarely happened in my beginners’ running classes because we kept the pace so slow but I was not used to walking fast so it really challenged me! So walking can be really good exercise when it’s done right. Often the problem is simply that people walk too slow for their aerobic fitness to benefit from it.
2. Walking is suitable for all levels
One thing about walking that’s better than running is that anyone can do it. No matter how unfit you are, as long as you are physically able to walk, you can do it as exercise. It is easy to tailor a walking plan to any level. For example, usually, I start my beginners’ plans with 30-minute walks. However, I have had many clients who are not able to walk for that long so then we just start where they’re at. Simple. We walk for as long as they can, with some that might be just 5 minutes, then we take a break, sit down on a park bench until they’ve recovered, then walk again and so on, for 30 minutes total. As long as you’re pushing yourself a little bit, your fitness is going to improve and before you know it you’ll be walking for 30 minutes nonstop.
3. Walking is safe
Another reason why walking is better than running is that because it’s low impact, your risk of injury is far lower. This is great news if you have any problems with your joints, especially knees, hips or ankles, or have a history of shin splints or any other injuries — walking is likely to still be safe for you. If you’ve recently had a baby, it can be a while before running is safe for you (I recommend 3 months after a natural birth and 6 months after a c-section) but you can start walking as soon as your GP gives you the all-clear. Walkers also don’t have to worry about over-training as much as runners do and you’re less likely to develop typical runners’ injuries such as shin splints, IT-band syndrome or runners’ knees.
4. Walking is easy to fit in anytime, anywhere
Because walking requires less preparation and you don’t necessarily need to change your clothes for it — you don’t need to put on a running bra and you can walk in jeans or a skirt quite comfortably, whereas you wouldn’t run in them — it can be easier to fit in than running. You can go for a walk at your lunch break, walk to and from work or walk to the supermarket, even walk to the pub to meet your friends. You can walk on holidays even in hot locations (just walk barefoot on the beach) or if you’re somewhere snowy just put your snowshoes on! So there really is no excuse not to walk and therefore it can be easier to keep it up long-term than running is.
5. Walking is a fun social activity
Although it is possible to run and chat with friends at the same time, the problem often is that first you have to find a friend to run with and then you might find talking while running too challenging.
Walking with friends, on the other hand, is really fun. It’s not hard to find someone to walk with and it’s far easier to manage your pace and breathing while walking and talking. Walking together also tends to make people relax and open up and connect with their friends on a whole new level.
Join our next beginners’ WalkFit online course here