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Here’s What You Need to Know If You’re Banking on Walking to Get in Shape

Here’s What You Need to Know If You’re Banking on Walking to Get in Shape

Cropped shot of a woman tying her shoelaces in a gym

If you spend any time researching ways to lose weight or simply be more active, you’re likely to come across this recommendation: walk more. And sure, that’s easy enough to do, no matter your fitness level. But is walking really effective enough to be your primary source of exercise?

“Walking is fantastic because practically everyone can do it, practically anywhere, and it gets us outside in nature and requires very little equipment,” Mike Siemens, an ACSM-certified personal trainer and corporate director of exercise physiology at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, AZ, told POPSUGAR. “It can also burn a great deal of calories for weight loss or weight control.”

For walking to be really beneficial, you need to focus not only on quantity of movement, but also on quality, Mike explained. When it comes to cardio, quality translates to intensity — specifically, working out hard enough to reach 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. “As such, for most fit people, walking on flat ground is not intense enough to optimize fitness improvement,” he said.

Apart from that, walking only improves cardiovascular endurance. It doesn’t contribute to muscle strength, flexibility, or balance and agility. That’s why Mike recommends people walk four days a week, then add in two to three days a week of strength training, as well as a few minutes of flexibility work after each walk. You can also make it a habit to stop every four to five minutes during a walk to do 10 or more reps of strength training exercises like push-ups or squats

Can Simply Getting More Steps Help Boost Your Metabolism? Here’s What Experts Had to Say

Metabolism is that almost mythical process that converts food into energy, and while there are lots of things that won’t boost your calorie burn (like eating hot peppers or drinking coffee), moving more — even if it’s just to get your steps for the day — may help rev it up.

It ultimately depends on how in shape you are, Natasha Trentacosta, MD, sports medicine specialist and orthopedic surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, told POPSUGAR. “Your fitness level directly affects your metabolism. Fit, active individuals who participate in daily exercise burn more calories both during exercise as well as afterwards compared to their sedentary counterparts,” she said.

“For most people, walking for extended periods of time each day can have an overall positive effect by providing a boost in your metabolic processes,” said Ty Stone, an NASM-certified personal trainer at Anatomy in Miami, FL. However, that surge will end when you stop walking, unless you develop a consistent workout regimen to help change your basal metabolic rate (BMR), or the number of calories required to keep your body functioning at rest, Ty explained.

While ramping up your cardio can help — “A more brisk pace for a longer duration of time or a more difficult course will result in a bigger boost in metabolism than a slower, shorter walk,” Dr. Trentacosta said — muscle building has the greatest impact on your calorie burn.

How to Build Muscle and Boost Your Metabolism

Both Dr. Trentacosta and Stone recommend resistance training and high-intensity interval training(HIIT) to really power up your metabolism. “Moves like squats, lunges, rows, presses, or any other resistance-based exercises produce a stimulus that will keep your metabolism elevated for hours post-exercise,” Stone said.

Here are a few workouts that incorporate HIIT and resistance training. Do one of these, in addition to a walking workout, to help boost your metabolism and maximize your calorie burn.

  • Metabolism-boosting workout
  • Bodyweight HIIT circuit
  • Weighted circuit workout
  • 40-minute HIIT workout
  • Beginner’s 4-week strength-training program

Keep in mind that everyone’s body handles resistance training differently. “Some people will respond better to longer periods of cardio or shorter intervals with resistance training,” Stone explained. “And people who are new to training will see significant changes within the first six to 10 weeks, while those who have been training for years may have to do a lot more to achieve the same results.”

Dr. Trentacosta agreed, adding that genetics and other factors including age, weight, and sex play a role in metabolism and how effectively you can change it.

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