Some people go to the gym with the sole purpose of sweating it out. They lift the heaviest weights, squat till they can’t stand, and run on the treadmill at the fastest speed.

On the other hand, some people head to the treadmill and just walk at the same speed for an hour or more. Others choose to forego the trip to the gym entirely and just walk in place in their living rooms while watching their favorite show. 

There’s no reason to look down on those who walk rather than run, considering the many benefits walking offers. However, is there something to be learned from people who walk as a form of exercise while never leaving their house, or even their room?

Walking as a workout

Because other forms of exercise may be more physically demanding, the benefits of walking are often ignored. People who are overweight or obese and people who have ankle, knee, or back problems would do best to walk instead of run considering that walking is a low-impact exercise. This means that one can walk for a longer period without feeling too much pressure on the body’s joints, thereby reducing pain.

Walking not only improves mood, alleviating depression, and fatigue, but it’s also been found to reduce one’s risk of cancer and chronic disease. Walking improves one’s posture and circulation, and like other forms of exercise, it also prevents weight gain.

Researchers analyzing data from the National Walkers’ Health Study and National Runners’ Health Study found that walking at moderate intensity and running at vigorous intensity led to similar health benefits in terms of blood pressure and cholesterol. Walking might not be a weak man’s exercise after all!

Walking in place

It’s common for doctors to urge patients to lead an active lifestyle, no matter how little activity one does in a day. But what if the only free time you have is in between TV shows? 

A study that appeared in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal in 2012 found that walking in place, even if only during TV commercials, is an effective workout. The University of Tennessee researchers studied 23 men and women ranging from normal in weight to obese. They then had the subjects walk in place during commercials and walk on a treadmill to compare the two forms of exercise.

Walking in place for 25 minutes burned an average of 148 calories while walking on a treadmill for an hour burned an average of 304. Take commercials as cues to be active and get on your feet, but don’t expect to lose weight after a few minutes of half-hearted walking.

The Mayo Clinic recommends a target heart rate of 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate at moderate exercise intensity if you aim to lose weight. You could do this simply by walking in place for 12 minutes during each 30-minute TV show you watch. Doing this while also doing arm exercises can cause you to burn up to 100 calories more. 

Spice up your walk-in-place sessions by doing a few shoulder presses or bicep curls. You could even do tricep kickbacks while you’re at it! You don’t have to do any of these arm exercises with heavy dumbbells. Start light and work your way up to higher intensity.

At the same time, try not to stay at the same pace. Walk faster for a few minutes now and then to increase the intensity of your workout and burn extra calories. If you want even more variation, add leg movements to your in-place workout, such as high knee lifts.

Walking on a treadmill

The treadmill offers to measure and change two aspects of your exercise: your speed and your incline. While you can change the pace at which you walk without a treadmill, you might have difficulty measuring it and keeping it up. Similarly, you might not have a setup (that isn’t a treadmill) that allows you to walk on an incline and adjust it as you please.

Walking on a treadmill provides all the benefits of walking in general does but offers a few more. Being able to indicate the speed and resistance you would like to have while walking could lead to the development of more defined muscles. When you walk, you activate your gluteal muscles, hip flexors, calf muscles like your gastrocnemius and soleus, and thigh muscles like your hamstrings. If you contract your abdominal muscles while walking, you could exercise that area, too. Using all the specifications of your treadmill could put resistance on your muscles, making your time on the machine even more worthwhile.

Using the incline feature of your treadmill will work all those muscles in different ways and increase the calories you burn. For instance, your gluteal muscles and quadriceps get even more of a workout if you make the incline steeper. Because you’ll be working against gravity, you’ll be engaging more of your muscles than if you were to walk on a flat floor. However, utilize your treadmill’s incline only once you’re sure you want to increase your workout’s intensity.

The verdict

Both walking in place and walking on a treadmill can help you burn calories and keep active, but how effective they largely depend on what kind of person you are.

If you live a mostly sedentary lifestyle, don’t have enough time to exercise for long periods, and can’t afford a gym membership or a personal treadmill, there’s no harm in just walking in place. Some people would also just rather exercise in private. If you have an active lifestyle and a gym membership or your treadmill, there is also no harm in making the most of your treadmill’s incline feature.

The number of calories you burn or how effective your workout is isn’t dependent on the equipment you have. Work out all the muscles that you can by doing additional exercises while walking in place or walking on an incline, and you’re bound to see results.

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