You might be hooked on your HIIT workout, spinning routine or twice-weekly kickboxing sessions, but if you’ve overlooked your morning stroll in the process, it’s time to reconsider. Walking is a valuable form of exercise in more ways than one—it’s a tried and true activity, with our bodies having evolved through it.
By aiming for 60% of our waking day to be made up of low to moderate intensity physical activity (we’re talking walks around or to the office, from public transport to home, running errands or a burst of shopping) we can see more benefit long-term than engaging in a highly strenuous or exhaustive exercise session with more sedentary behaviour in between.
Studies suggest that while your morning run might kick-start the day and tick your workout off the to-do list, it will also encourage your body to reduce your fidgeting and unnecessary energy expenditure across the rest of the day—in other words, your body is desperately trying to cling to homeostasis (our stable state of being) and it doesn’t want you to burn off too much in a short period.
If you’ve ever completed a killer workout, you’ll know it can peak your hunger like no other, while walking at a moderate pace doesn’t have the same effect on ghrelin, our hunger hormone. You might even find that a 20-minute stroll will suppress your appetite rather than ignite it—and while this might not be the aim for everyone, it’s a useful tactic for those who intermittently fast with success.
When you’re exploring a new city, it’s likely you’ve seriously pounded the pavement until late in the evening and woken up to do the very same thing the next day. This is where walking becomes a serious, although less glamorous, player in the exercise stakes—walking can be done at length day after day with minimal lasting physical fatigue.
To wake up without any aches and pains (like you might get from a weight-lifting session) means you’re more likely to keep up your physical activity the next day, often without even thinking about it, and duration and consistency counts.
Dr Paul Batman, the director of the Fitness Institute Australia for over 15 years, notes: “While we should not eliminate vigorous exercise from our fitness programs, we should recognise that we need to be active all day, not just for 5% of our waking time. It’s like thinking, “vigorous exercise daily will offset the chronic problems of smoking.”
Ben Saravia, vegan nutrition expert, chef and PT notes, “Fast paced walking is a low impact exercise and can be done for longer periods of time, socially with friends and without risk of injury—making it more fun and more likely to be adhered to.”
Staying active with walking for more of your day will impact your sleep, digestion, circulation, hunger and mood, so it’s a worthy choice especially if you’re faced with a “something or nothing” day where you’re just not feeling the gym.
Your favourite form of exercise is so for a reason—a body goal, a way to indulge in your favourite foods regularly, a social activity or a stress-release, and you’ll make the most of your efforts by supplementing the hours in between with some extra steps.