The Best Walking Workout for Non-Exercisers

Walking for exercise

Have you been keeping an eye on your Cardio Fitness Score? It’s not just for über-fit athletes. Quite the opposite, actually: Mounting evidence shows that people with low cardiorespiratory fitness are at a greater risk of dying from heart disease, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). In other words, it’s the least fit who should be trying to improve their score the most.

Exercise Works

High-intensity exercise is touted as the most efficient way to boost fitness levels, but those types of workouts aren’t always realistic for people who rarely exercise. So researchers analyzed multiple studies on the effects of lower-intensity exercise and uncovered some good news.

First, moderate-intensity exercise (not just high-intensity exercise) can also improve cardio fitness levels among the unfit.

Second, people with the lowest levels of cardio fitness stand to reap the biggest rewards: More than half of the reduction in all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality takes place when you move from the least-fit group to the next least-fit group.

That means a person who goes from being sedentary to active will experience a greater reduction in their risk of dying from heart disease than someone who’s already fit and gets a little bit fitter.

You don’t have to do crazy amounts of exercise to get these results, either. After analyzing walking-intervention studies, the AHA concluded that sedentary individuals who begin following current exercise guidelines—150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking, a week—can boost their cardio fitness by 10 percent.

And that’s not all. In one meta-analysis, the brisk walkers also reduced their body weight 1.4 percent, their body fat 1.9 percent, and their systolic and diastolic blood pressure a total of 2.8 percent—all without changing their diet.

These results are “modest but meaningful,” say UK study authors and are “likely to result in greater ease of performance of everyday physical activities and improved quality of life.”  

4 Heart-Friendly Walking Rules

Ready to get started? Now that you know all the reasons why walking for exercise is so important, it’s time to put that research into practice. Here’s how:

  • Aim to briskly walk about 150 minutes a week. That translates to about 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
  • You can do these walks in one continuous session or in multiple sessions throughout the day.
  • During these walks, your average heart rate should be 50 to 70 percent of your max heart rate, or in your Fitbit tracker’s fat burn heart rate zone.
  • If your overall volume of exercise consistently falls below 150 minutes a week, you’ll need to do those walks at a slightly higher intensity to see results: 70 to 85 percent of your max, or in your Fitbit tracker’s cardio zone.

When these workouts get too easy, ease into intervals—intense exercise is still the best way for fit individuals to keep improving their cardio fitness score.

Related Content:
Walk This Way. (No, Really. Walk Exactly Like This.)
The 5-Minute Stretching Routine That Will Keep You Walking Strong
How Weekly Challenges Can Lead to Weight Loss

4 Comments   Join the Conversation

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Hi: I’m currently in the city of Munich and will be here for the next five days. I have lost my Fitbit charger and am unable to record the number of steps etc in my exercise routine. Can you p,ease let me know where I can go in Munich to purchase a batter recharger?

  • Just got my Fitbit charger 2. Charger it seems to be calculating steps that I’m not actually taking. Does it take time to adjust to your stride or is there something I need to do or not doing correctly that is throwing the steps off?

  • I am an expertise lover. But in the past years i have been diagnosed with neuropathy. Plus muscle spasms. I was in a head on collision in 1991. I was told I would never walk again. I proved the doctors wrong. With strong commitment iI did 1/2 MARATHON IN 2005. My problem is when I sleep at night when its gets bad. Have you any suggestions , to improve my walking with our back problems and muscle spasms. Very frustrated

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