Why We’ve Fallen in Love with Walking

Last month, we were ready to double down on any quarantine fitness challenges and streamable workouts we could get our hands on. We felt pressured to come out of this period of downtime with something to show for: a personal best, some extra muscle tone, a fully-tackled marathon training program. We thrive on pushing ourselves, and we love a good challenge. But sometimes, there’s just as much to be said for taking it easy and giving your body–and your mind–a break. 

If you’re getting burned out by the thought of keeping up with your fitness routine, especially when the fate of the world in general seems to be up in the air, you’re not alone. Our favorite way to move our bodies and keep our anxiety at bay has been by going on long walks. If you’re used to more high-intensity workouts, counting walking as exercise might feel a bit like cheating. It’s not–here are a few reasons why walking can be the best low-impact addition to your exercise routine.

Mental Health Boost

A study found that exercise, particularly outdoor exercise, has been clinically proven to reduce anxiety and depression, and can also extend your life and lower your risk for disease. Harder exercise doesn’t correlate to greater benefits–walking achieves similar results to jogging or even running. If you do want to give your body a little bit of an extra aerobic push, you can get the same benefits with 6-10 minutes of easy jogging. If you want to take it in the other direction, the study also lists gardening as a suitable exercise to boost physical health and keep stress at bay. With gyms closed and more reasons to be stressed than ever, walking can be a bit of a magic bullet–you’ll get in a day of active recovery, and you’ll calm your mind while you’re at it.

Better fat burn

Exercise scientists don’t all see eye to eye on this one–because running burns calories more quickly than walking, it would follow that running is more efficient when it comes to burning excess weight. But this isn’t quite true. Running, like virtually all exercise, causes a hormonal reaction in your body that releases glucose into the blood, giving your body access to plenty of energy. One of these hormones is cortisol, which is essential to energy production, but can also cause the body to store an excess of abdominal fat (if you’ve ever gained weight after a prolonged period of stress or lack of sleep, it’s likely due to increased cortisol levels). Because strenuous exercise causes a greater cortisol spike than easy or moderate exercise, it can sometimes also cause unwanted weight gain. Lower-impact exercises like walking don’t cause cortisol levels to spike the same way, so your body is able to burn fat stores more efficiently. Studies even show that walkers tend to have a lower BMI and waist circumference than those who don’t walk.

Exercise without injury

If you’re currently trying to heal an old injury, or you’re hoping to reduce the wear and tear on your body, walking can be an excellent interim exercise. Our bodies are built to walk long distances without significant strain. Exercises like long distance running, weight lifting, and studio fitness can be excellent ways to boost your fitness, but they can sometimes be counter to what our bodies are designed to do. One study found that runners have a 25% rate of injury, while another found that those who do Crossfit regularly have a 30% rate of injury. Walking, on the other hand, has around a 1% rate of injury.

How have you been getting your exercise during quarantine? Let us know!