One of the absolute best parts about walking is that it’s so easily accessible. You don’t need a gym membership or a fancy piece of home workout equipment. You don’t need expensive exercise clothing or accessories. All you need to walk is a good pair of shoes and a little self-motivation. You can walk inside or outside, around your office or around the park, and you can adjust your speed and intensity as you see fit.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in America for both men and women, taking roughly 600,000 lives each year. However, many of the risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and obesity, are preventable and treatable, and regular cardiovascular exercise is one of the best ways to improve heart health.

Interval training is more intense than simple aerobic training. It's a very effective way to increase your fitness level (remember stroke volume and mitochondria activity!), but it's tough, and so I recommend holding off until you build up to 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise. The idea to intervals is to set up work to active-rest ratios (work:active-rest), and as you get more fit, decrease the active-rest interval and increase the work interval. The work interval of the ratio is a speed that is faster than what you usually do, and the active-rest interval is your usual speed. To do it, you start at your usual speed for five to eight minutes, then increase the speed to the work interval for one to three minutes, then slow down to your usual speed for a few minutes to catch your breath (this is the active-rest interval), and then you repeat the cycling for the duration of your workout.


As we age, our risk of unsightly varicose veins increases—it's just not fair. However, walking is a proven way to prevent those unsightly lines from developing, says Luis Navarro, MD, founder, and director of The Vein Treatment Center in New York City. "The venous system includes a circulatory section known as 'the second heart,' which is formed by muscles, veins, and valves located in our calf and foot," he explains. "This system works to push blood back up to the heart and lungs—and walking strengthens this secondary circulatory system by strengthening and preserving leg muscle, which boosts healthy blood flow." If you already suffer from varicose veins, daily walking can help ease related swelling and restlessness in your legs, says Dr. Navarro. "Also, if you are genetically predisposed to have varicose and/or spider veins, walking daily can help delay the onset."
Can you up those numbers? The more you weigh, the more calories you’ll burn, no matter the activity—that’s because it takes more energy to move more weight. If you’re specifically looking to up calorie burn, adding a 20-pound weighted vest would up your calorie burn to 8.7 and 15.1 per minute for walking and running, respectively. It’s simple physics: “The majority of calories burned in running [or walking] comes from supporting body weight while moving up and down,” says Hunter. “With more weight, there will be a greater energy cost in doing this due to a greater gravitational force.”

These electrons have powerful antioxidant effects that can protect your body from inflammation and its many well-documented health consequences. For example, one scientific review published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health concluded that grounding (walking barefoot on the earth) could improve a number of health conditions, including the following:14


If you haven’t been active for a while, you may find walking is an easy way to get started. But it will also be important to keep your motivation. Begin slowly and gradually increase how much walking you do. You might find it helps to set yourself goals. There are lots of apps that can count your steps, or you could use a pedometer, so your goals can be specific and measurable.
You burn more calories per mile at very low speeds because you are basically stopping and starting with each step and your momentum isn't helping to carry you along. Meanwhile, at very high walking speeds you are using more muscle groups with arm motion and with a racewalking stride. Those extra muscles burn up extra calories with each step. Running may burn more calories per mile as there is an up and down motion lifting your weight off the ground as well as moving it forward."
Nina Barough is well known to power walkers in the UK. She founded the Walk the Walk Charity in 1999, and organises events, including The Moonwalk, a unique power walking marathon. The annual walk, which starts and ends in Battersea Park, London, attracted 15,000 walkers in 2003 and is in the process branching out worldwide. Nina lives in Finchampstead, Berkshire.
Walking doesn't burn calories as quickly as a number of other aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming or riding a bicycle. Walking, however, is a low-impact exercise that is ideal for a wide range of people, including those who contend with joint pain and aren't physically able to perform more up-tempo exercises. If you choose to use walking as your main source of aerobic exercise, set your weekly schedule to allow for a minimum of 2.5 hours of walking.

Try to make walking a routine – for example, try to walk at the same time each day. Remember, you use the same amount of energy, no matter what time of day you walk, so do what is most convenient for you. You may find that asking someone to walk with you will help make it a regular activity. Some people find that keeping an activity diary or log also makes it easier.

Not so much. In fact, running more than doubles the amount of energy you expend versus walking, according to research published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. A 140-pound person burns 13.2 calories per minute running, according to the American Council of Exercise. That same person would burn 7.6 calories per minute walking. I’ll do the math for you: For a 30-minute run, that works out to 396 calories burned running compared to 228 calories burned while walking for 30 minutes.
One program created by Dr. Hiroshi Nose and colleagues at the Shinshu University Graduate School of Medicine in Matsumoto, Japan consists of repeated intervals of three minutes of fast walking, aiming for an exertion level of about six or seven on a scale of one to 10, followed by three minutes of slow strolling. As reported by The New York Times:13

You can use the cue "warm and slightly out of breath" to gauge your aerobic activity, or you can get more precise and use heart rate. I recommend the heart rate reserve method for calculating a target heart rate. The formula and an example of the method for someone 27 years old, assuming a resting heart rate of 70 beats per minute (bpm), and a training range of 70%, may be found below. Aerobic exercise falls in the range from 40% to 85%. You can plug in your own values to find your aerobic range.
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Colon cancer. Research is clear that physically active men and women have about a 30%-40% reduction in the risk of developing colon cancer compared with inactive individuals. It appears that 30-60 minutes per day of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity is needed to decrease the risk, and there is a dose-response relationship, which means that the risk declines the more active you are. Breast cancer. There is reasonably clear evidence that physically active women have a greater reduction in risk compared with inactive women. Like colon cancer, it appears that 75 to 150 minutes per day of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity is needed to decrease the risk, and it is likely that there is a dose-response relationship as well. Prostate cancer. Research is inconsistent regarding whether physical activity plays any role in the prevention of this cancer. Lung cancer. There are relatively few studies on physical activity and lung cancer prevention. The available data suggest that physically active individuals have a lower risk of lung cancer; however, it is difficult to completely account for the risks of active and passive cigarette smoking as well as radon exposure. Other cancers. There is little information on the role of physical activity in preventing other cancers.
Walking is an accessible and easy way for us all to get more active. Brisk walking that raises your heart rate and makes you warm and slightly breathless is a great form of aerobic exercise. Doing this regularly helps you to get fitter so you will find it easier to be more active and get tired less quickly. You may feel more tired in the first week or two after you start. But if you keep it up, you’ll probably find you soon have more energy than when you were inactive.
Your heart rate rises during aerobic exercise. It can rise from 70 beats per minutes (bpm) at rest to as high as 170 bpm or even higher during exercise, depending on the intensity of the exercise, your fitness level, your age, and other factors. Whether you're training is aerobic or anaerobic is determined by the intensity of your workout, and monitoring the intensity is the key to know which one you're doing.
For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity. The guidelines suggest that you spread out this exercise during the course of a week. Also aim to do strength training exercises of all major muscle groups at least two times a week.
Can you up those numbers? The more you weigh, the more calories you’ll burn, no matter the activity—that’s because it takes more energy to move more weight. If you’re specifically looking to up calorie burn, adding a 20-pound weighted vest would up your calorie burn to 8.7 and 15.1 per minute for walking and running, respectively. It’s simple physics: “The majority of calories burned in running [or walking] comes from supporting body weight while moving up and down,” says Hunter. “With more weight, there will be a greater energy cost in doing this due to a greater gravitational force.”
The good news is that weight-bearing exercise, including walking, can help maintain and even build bone density, reducing the likelihood of osteopenia, osteoporosis, and fractures. The thing to keep in mind is that the bone-saving benefits only occur in the bones and muscles being forced to work against gravity to bear weight. For instance, walking can help maintain bone density of the legs, hips, and spine, but won’t improve bone density in the shoulders or arms. You would need to add other exercises, such as pushups, to your exercise routine to do so.
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Barough has devised different training programmes for beginner, intermediate and advanced levels, for weight loss, and for those with distance goals. I am in training for the Moonwalk marathon this summer (2005), but I started using this book when I was a complete novice and it has held my hand all the way through. I am still referring to it to remind myself of things I have forgotten, for information that is relevant to me now but wasn't when I started, or for the extras I can focus on now that more of my routine has become automatic.
‘Aerobic’ exercise refers to exercise that requires the consumption of substantially more oxygen than at rest. It is of a light to moderate intensity, and can be undertaken for a prolonged duration (many minutes to several hours) without excessive fatigue. Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, jogging, swimming or cycling at a steady pace. Another example would be dancing or ‘aerobics’ classes.Regular exercise causes your body to make adjustments that result in improved health and physical functioning. Continuing with regular exercise enables your body to maintain these benefits. Regularly doing the right types of exercise at the correct intensity, and for an appropriate duration, results in the most benefit.The benefits of aerobic exercise can be broadly categorised as either ‘fitness’ (physical capacity) or ‘health’. Fitness and health are linked, and most forms of aerobic exercise will help you achieve both.Fitness — including increased cardiorespiratory fitness and endurance (stamina)Regular aerobic exercise improves your cardiovascular fitness by increasing your capacity to use oxygen. It does this by increasing your heart’s capacity to send blood (and hence oxygen) to the muscles. This is mainly achieved through an increase in the size of the heart’s pumping chambers (ventricles), which means that your heart doesn’t have to beat as fast to deliver the same amount of blood. This is evident in a slower resting heart rate, and a slower heart rate for the same exercise intensity.As you get ‘fitter’, particular activities (such as walking or jogging at a specified speed) will become easier.You’ll also be able to undertake the activity for longer (known as endurance), and/or at a higher intensity (e.g. jogging at a faster speed). The same applies to activities such as cycling or swimming, but it should be noted that fitness tends to be specific. So jogging will provide only limited benefits to your swimming fitness and vice versa. However, a side-benefit you may notice is that you also have increased stamina for the everyday activities of life, not just for exercise.Other fitness improvements occur in the exercising muscles, and are specific to those muscles being used in the mode of exercise (e.g. walking, running, cycling, or swimming). These include an increased capacity for the muscles to take up and use the additional oxygen being delivered by the heart.Reduced risk of certain health problemsRegular aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer and breast cancer. It can lower blood pressure and improve your blood cholesterol by reducing the levels of LDL-cholesterol (so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol) and increasing the amount of HDL-cholesterol (so-called ‘good’ cholesterol). It can also reduce anxiety, stress and depression, as well as instilling a general sense of well-being. Regular aerobic exercise has even been shown to have the potential to increase your lifespan.Low-impact aerobic exercise such as swimming is valuable for improving general health and fitness in people who have arthritis or other conditions that limit their ability to do weight-bearing exercise.Importantly, whereas fitness tends to be quite specific, many health benefits can be gained from any form of aerobic exercise. Additionally, the health gains can be achieved from relatively moderate amounts of exercise — moving from a lifestyle involving no exercise to one that involves some exercise can lead to substantial improvements in health.Weight controlAerobic exercise burns up energy (calories). Regular sessions of 30 to 60 minutes of low to moderate intensity aerobic exercise (at around 55 to 70 per cent of maximum heart rate) can be an important part of a weight loss or weight management programme that is also mindful of the energy (calories) consumed as food.However, many of the health benefits associated with aerobic exercise occur independently of weight loss. Evidence from large studies has shown that active, overweight people do not have a greater risk of many diseases than inactive people who are not overweight. From a health perspective, it is of course best to be both active and a healthy weight, but if weight reduction is a problem, it doesn’t mean that the exercise is having no benefit.Improved bone and muscle healthYour risk of osteoporosis (excessive bone thinning as you age) can be reduced by regular weight-bearing aerobic exercise such as brisk walking.By stimulating the growth of tiny blood vessels in your muscle tissues, aerobic exercise has also been shown to lessen the pain experienced by people who have fibromyalgia or chronic low back pain, as the oxygen supply to the muscles is improved and waste products are removed more efficiently.Social benefitsRegular aerobic exercise can have social benefits too, whether you walk with a friend, play tennis with workmates, or form a social cycling team. Exercising with friends can also be the most effective way of ensuring that you do it regularly.Aerobic exercise precautionsAs with any form of exercise, be aware of over-exercising, either by doing aerobic exercise too hard, for too long or too often. This approach can lead to injury, and abandoning of your fitness programme. Remember to build up gradually from your current activity level, and not to progress too rapidly. If you are new to regular aerobic exercise, several weeks of low to moderate intensity aerobic exercise are usually advised before introducing more vigorous aerobic exercise sessions.If you have existing health problems, are at high risk of cardiovascular disease, or have muscle, bone or joint injuries, check with your doctor before undertaking an aerobic exercise programme. Also, men aged over 40 years and women aged over 50 years who have not exercised regularly in the recent past should check with a doctor before undertaking a programme of vigorous physical activity. Last Reviewed: 11 January 2010
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