How much walking is enough?
Updated: Apr 23, 2018
Walking is often the first exercise I introduce to my clients, especially if they haven't exercises for a long time or their fitness levels are low. Perhaps they have lost their confidence in how much they can move or what kind of activities they can engage in.
Usually, the first thing I have to do is to explain what I mean by walking, or rather what I don't mean. I don't mean walking around the supermarket, shopping in town or even walking the dog (unless your dog doesn't stops every few metres to sniff or leave a marking like my dogs do)
What I mean by walking is putting your trainers on and walking continuously a safe route, at a brisk pace for a certain period of time. Having a pedometer or walking app or fitbit can help to chart your progress as you gradually increase your pace and your distance and/or time and add a bit of competition with yourself.
In terms of improving bone density in menopausal women, an analysis of a number of studies showed a “significant and positive effects” in the bone density of the femoral neck of the femur (hip bone) with walking programs that lasted more than 6 months, but that walking on it's own as a “singular exercise” had none or little impact on bone density in the lumbar spine in peri-menopausal and postmenopausal women.
This highlight again how important it is to do a variety of exercises, and to include resistance/strengthening exercises in your routine.
How much we need to walk and how often we walk depends on the individual and what they're trying to achieve, but I recommend my clients to build their walking up to at least 30 minutes a day, every day come rain or shine.
NHS guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes weight-bearing exercising such as walking a week, which equates to 5 x 30 minutes a week.
I encourage my clients to do a bit more than that as walking improves a whole range of health conditions such as cardio-vascular disease, diabetes, obesity and mental health issues such as depression. Many of my clients also suffer from musculo-skeletal pain and find that walking is a great help in the management of chronic pain.
Walking can be a gateway to other activities and types of exercising because as you start to feel fitter, other activities that you used to think were not for you will now seem entirely possible, and a whole new world of exercise and activities will open up to you.