How Beneficial Is Walking And Can It Replace Cardio?
You work hard in your strength training, and you want to keep all your muscle gains, but you’re still looking for ways to shed off some body fat to get your beach body in full swing. When you think about extra calorie burn, you likely start to have nightmares of a time-consuming, long-distance cardio workout. At least this is where most gravitate to in order to get those final stubborn pounds of body fat off. What if I told you that a low-intensity walking session, may just do the trick?
The fact is, a better route may be to incorporate more brisk walking. Now I know the cardio police may be ready to go crazy but I’m not saying walking will burn more calories than high-intensity aerobic exercise. I’m not even saying it will burn more than moderate-intensity cardio, but the difference may be less than you think.
Why A Walking Workout Works.
Personally, I love walks. It’s not necessarily for the caloric expenditure but more for what it doesn’t do that may outweigh the calorie-burning differences. If you’re already strength training to build muscle mass and exercise hard, how much more calorie-burning do you really need? There are certainly advantages to walking so let’s understand some good reasons to walk.
- It’s a low-impact activity for the body. It will not interfere with intense weightlifting and has minimal, if any, impact on your joints. All pluses in my book.
- Walking won’t contribute to overtraining. If you are training your lower body hard, adding strenuous or long-distance aerobic exercise may contribute to overtraining. You may even require additional time required for recovery.
- It won’t burn too many calories. If you are already in a calorie deficit, this could cause muscle loss. This is the exact opposite of what you want. When training to retain as much muscle mass as possible this is important.
- You can hold a conversation with others. I enjoy walking as physical activity with my wife and kids. Being able to converse during our walks is also more enjoyable.
- If you want to go on a long walk, because it is just so darn nice out, you can sustain walking for longer periods and not harm or impede strength gains.
- Getting outdoors on a walk will get you some much-needed sunlight and just make you feel better.
- It burns more calories than you think – see below.
- It is very simple to incorporate into your exercise routine.
- You do not have to worry about when you train your lower body next time or did you allow enough time before your next training session.
What Does The Research Tell Us?
A study conducted by scientists at California State University found that participants who ran a 10-minute mile, (close to an average mile speed), burned 190 calories vs. participants who walked a 19-minute mile (again, about average), which burned 111 calories. That is only a difference of ~80 calories. The walking participants did have to walk for 8 extra minutes but who’s counting? To further put these numbers in context, you can compare these results to research conducted at Colorado State University that calculated a 20 min HIIT workout (4 x 30-sec intervals w/ 4 min rest) burned an average of 226 calories over the course of the day. I say over the course of the day as HIIT exercise will burn extra calories after the end of your session, just like weight training.
When you compare a 19-minute walking mile vs. a 20-minute HIIT Cardio session, which can feel like a lot when you are already weight training 4-5 hours a week, they only burned an extra 115 calories. When you want to retain as much muscle as possible, I am not sure that is worth it. Of course, that decision is up to you and your specific fitness goals.
The most critical aspect of your weight loss or fat loss is always going to be how many calories you burn vs. what you take in. If you are already lifting weights and following a sound nutrition plan, you should not need to crush yourself for two hours on a treadmill. This is especially true when it might hinder your strength or muscle gains. If you find yourself always hungry you can try adding a nice 30 – 60 minute walk as this will allow you to consume an extra 150 – 200 calories. This usually helps curb some of the difficult hunger times and makes your deficit easier to adhere to. So walk yourself to better heart health and cardiovascular fitness and keep those hard-earned muscle gains.