Cardio Doesn’t Have to Be so Hard: Why Walking Should Be in Everyone’s Training Schedule

Since the pandemic broke out in March of 2020, many of us have grown accustomed to venturing out of the gym for a stroll a time or two a week — and according to studies, we shouldn’t stop. While strength-training is a must (Don’t forget to use resistance at least twice a week!), scientists believe that walking at a brisk pace may be the only type of aerobic exercise we need. That’s because, aside from popular belief, walking isn’t a “wimpy” excuse for a workout. It actually reaps some startling benefits that just might make you rethink your training schedule:

It makes you live longer. Believe it or not, getting your daily dose of moderate cardio, specifically walking, can add quite a few years to your life — which kind of makes sense when you consider that the exercise prevents and helps manage some of the top health risks we face today: heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and others. In a recent study by Mayo Clinic, researchers discovered that brisk walkers (clocking roughly 20-minute miles) could expect to live 15–20 years longer than slower walkers (recording 30-minute miles) and even longer than people who did not walk at all. And the craziest part? The weight of the participants didn’t even matter. Walking, and walking quickly, made all the difference.

It enhances brain function. What is that phrase? Think smarter, not harder? Well, walking helps us do that in more ways than one, research suggests. The first is by increasing executive function — the ability to plan, organize, focus, regulate emotions, and practice self-control. For instance, in a study of sedentary, older adults, walking regularly over the course of 6 months altered their executive functioning significantly, for the better. Likewise, Harvard University students and professors found that while some aspects of aging cannot be prevented, memory issues are not one of them. Walking can generate new brain cells, neurons, and synaptic connections, thereby improving memory, complex thinking skills, and reducing the risk factors associated with dementia.

It helps with weight loss. We’d be lying if we told you that walking in and of itself will make you lose weight. Unfortunately, you can’t workout and eat whatever ya want and hope it does the trick. (Losing weight requires a calorie deficit, more energy out than energy in, so monitoring intake is still important.) But it most definitely can — because what many people don’t know is that walking on average burns 250–400 calories an hour, depending on pace. That’s a lot of calories! 1,750-2,800 a week, in fact, that can go a long way in helping you not only shed but keep off the pounds. And in the right places! Walkers also tend to have shorter waist circumferences, making them less at risk for disease.

Pro tip? If you’re hitting a weight loss plateau, continue eating healthy meals, but try adding in a 30-minute walk each night! You’re sure to notice a difference.

It lowers levels of anxiety and depression. “Take a walk.” Ever heard someone say that in a tense situation? As it turns out, maybe you should listen after all. Walking has been found to reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and even hostility again and again. Recently, an experiment charting the precise mental wellness scores of physically healthy adults between the ages of 20–45 confirmed exactly that, that walking is a natural antidepressant. Walking 40 minutes a day 4 times a week did a number (literally) on participants’ scores in the best sense, whereas participants who did not walk saw little to no change.

And if you walk outside? Bonus points! Walking in nature has an even more profound effect on your brain, increasing all the feel good-chemicals. So, um, what’s holding you back again?

It’s free! Oh, and let’s not forget the other perk of walking…You don’t have to pay for it, and there’s no equipment needed. But is there a right way to walk? To get the maximum benefit, health professionals recommend walking for about 40–60 minutes 3-4 times a week (or more) at a pace of 3 mph+.

Go ahead and order those walking shoes! It’s time to take the first step towards a healthier you. And when you’re not walking, make sure you’re using the right kind of iron to get the right kind of results, like our XPO Trainer, a fitness sled that can’t be beat!