Walking is underrated and overrated

Some people should be walking more, and some should be walking less. Here's why.

Chase Morlock

If you have been around Rise or have been reading along, you know we are huge advocates for walking. Such a simple activity can add so much value and benefit to your goals, especially weight loss goals. One of our foundational pillars for success is daily movement. And a daily walk can go a long way in your overall health. 

The average American is getting in about 3,000 steps a day. There’s no question that adding another 7,000 steps a day would do amazing things for an average person’s health. So, why do I claim that walking can be both underrated and overrated? Simply put, it’s because some people need to be reminded that walking is extremely valuable and will help them achieve their goals, while others need to be reminded that walking alone will not get them to their goals. 

Walking is underrated

Walking is a major success pillar for Rise because it is a form of movement that is available to most people, it’s cheap, and it reduces your risk of comorbidities like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression. Walking 10,000 steps a day will also certainly help you toward a weight loss goal. This extra activity will have an impact on your overall caloric expenditure. I was just chatting with a Rise member a few weeks ago who has a significant weight loss goal and he mentioned that he has noticed that the weeks when he does not lose his 1-2 pound goal are the weeks when he does not do his daily walks with his wife. 

Walking is also the perfect recovery activity. It allows you to get outside and take a break from the busyness of the day, to get sunlight in your eyes (which plays a major role in overall health - a topic that can be covered in another blog), to have an opportunity to invite family, friends, pets, spouses, etc. along with you on your walk, and it will improve your healthspan. Healthspan is the length of time that a person is healthy, not just alive.

Oftentimes, people will want to add in more “hard workouts” in order to achieve their goals. They will see an initial spike in progress and results when they begin working out, and suddenly they think that in order to continue their progress, they have to do all kinds of hard, extreme workouts. The reality is that for most people, 3 well-programmed strength training workouts per week, adequate hydration, the 80/20 rule for proper nutrition, and a daily walk will be what gets them to achieve their goals. We have to keep in mind that most of us aren’t training for Ironmans, marathons, professional sport competitions, and so forth, and even those who are have very strategic, well thought out, periodized strength and conditioning plans that factor in lots of recovery. So as a rule of thumb, remember that more is not always better. Consult with your trusted fitness professional on a healthy plan for you to achieve YOUR goals, not someone else's. 

One final reason why walking is underrated is that walking is easy to progress. You can add more steps to your regime with very minimal risk. You can also challenge yourself to add a weighted pack on and “ruck.” Rucking hasn’t seemed to take off around our area yet, but I have many friends on the east coast, west coast, and further south, who have shared that rucking is a big deal where they live. I believe it will become more common in the Midwest soon as more and more people begin to learn about the benefits of rucking.

Walking is overrated 

Now let’s take a look at why walking can be overrated. 

I’ll caveat this part with this: If you are doing nothing at this point, walking is an incredible first step (pun intended) and will always be better than nothing. 

However, walking can be overrated because if you are truly looking to improve your longevity, healthspan, accomplish weight loss goals, pick up your grandkids when you are 85, get up and off the ground easily when you are 70, carry your groceries into your house, live in your own house, get on and off the toilet without assistance in your later years, climb stairs, go on hikes, and all of the amazing things you can be doing well into your 80s and 90s and beyond, then you need strength. 

Your muscle mass is going to be a critical factor in being able to reach the goals you have set for yourself, and walking will not get you there. To dramatically increase the odds that you will be able to live the life you want in your later decades, it is imperative that you focus on your muscle mass, mobility, and overall strength and power - things that walking simply does not impact.

You lose strength and power very quickly every year after the age of 40 if you are not counteracting it with a good strength and conditioning program. If your current fitness routine consists solely of walking, I encourage you to seek out a personal trainer who can help you incorporate a proper strength training plan into your walking regimen. I suppose that walking may be sufficient for some people depending on their goals, but after a decade of being in my field, I’ve yet to encounter someone who doesn’t have goals for their 70s, 80s, and 90s that include things like traveling, being active with grandkids, and living independently - things that all require strength. 

One final thing to note is that if you are walking with poor form and movement quality, you can wind up with overuse injuries. Walking will always be much less invasive than running, but make sure to check out a trusted physical therapist if you seem to be getting injuries from walking. You may have a gait form breakdown that can be addressed and helped. 

You need both walking and strength training if you are desiring to be as healthy as you can be. I do believe that 10,000 steps a day is a great goal to shoot for, but as always, it depends on who you are and what your goals are. But in general, shooting for 10,000 steps a day is a great goal. 

In our day and age, you can easily check how many steps you are hitting each day with smartwatches and smartphones, so try tracking your steps for a few days to get a baseline. If you are in the range of 2,000-3,000, begin by adding 1,000 steps in per week and work your way up. 

Remember to keep things simple with the Rise Foundational Pyramid for success with your health and fitness: 

  1. Take charge of your mindset

  2. Eat clean

  3. Train smart

  4. Recover well

  5. Prioritize movement

When you are ready to talk with a personal trainer about your goals, head here, and I will be happy to help you.