Just yesterday morning I stopped at an Upper East Side Diner for breakfast. Sitting at the booth in front of me were two men of a certain age, friends. They just sat down to order and were reflecting on their morning experience prior to arriving. One man proudly said to his friend, “I’ve already been to the gym.” Excited to share his dedication to being fit. His friend lifted his head up from the menu and replied, “I just walk.” As is his way was the way and walking is all you needed to do to stay “fit.”
Is Walking Enough?
Walking is a motor pattern engrained in the brain. As infants we progress from rolling to crawling to walking. It’s a necessary movement pattern that allowed us to stay with the tribe, follow the herds around and keep up alive. It is so primitive that no matter what goes wrong with the body orthopedically, the brain will figure out an alternative way to move the body in gait. Walking in essence is-survival.
But in modern day society, we tend not to move in the other patterns that are/were necessary for survival. Those being:
Gait is the seventh primal movement pattern, but in & of itselt, walking is not enough if you want to remain functional. By functional I simply mean it helps you do things better or what Dan M. Ritchie, PhD and Cody Sipe, PhD (authors of Never Grow Old) call “doability”. Your ability to clean the house, do yard work, hike a mountain trail, hit a tennis ball, ski down a mount or carry luggage with greater ease and less discomfort. To do all that we want to have a mastery of ALL the 7 fundamental human movement patterns.
Now don’t get me wrong. Walking is great. It’s movement. I love to walk. In fact I think that’s one of the best benefits of living in a city like New York. You can and should walk everywhere. My job gives me the opportunity to walk 7-10 miles/day. BUT, I still need to exercise!
And when I say execise I am referring to doing things that allow me to maintain the following bio-motor abilities:
- cardio-vascular efficiency
What About My Cardio?
First of all – all forms of exercise are cardio. Cardio simply means you are using your heart and lungs. What you are really thinking of is aerobic exercise, which means you are in the aerobic (with oxygen) energy system. In laymens terms, aerobic exercise means you are exercising at a low intensity. Low enough that you can talk while you’re doing it.
“Huff and Puff”
The myth that aerobic exercise is the best way to get ‘fit’, lean and healthy still exists. But the reality is you get a lot more bang for your buck in many ways when you alternate between aerobic (not out of breath) to anaerobic (getting out of breath). This style or training (known as interval training) simply means pairing periods of higher intensity (getting out of breath) with periods of lower intensity or complete rest. The periods of higher intensity don’t have to be long. They can run anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds, but the goal is to get you to “huff and puff” and then recover. This type of cardiovascular training will improve aerobic conditing faster than steady-state aerobic condioning alone. And it burns more calories after the exercise is over as well as helping to preserve lean muscle mass.
“If the exercise does not get you to an uncomfortable level it’s not going to make changes in your body. You need to get out of your comfort zone.” _Brett Cohen
Brett’s Bottom Line:
All physical activity can be beneficial of course, it’s just that some are more beneficial at preventing loss of physical capacity due to aging than others. If you haven’t exercised in a long time, you are overweight, or recovering from an illness of some type, then it certainly makes sense to begin an exercise program with walking.
Is Walking Eough?
I think walking is a terrific form of aerobic exercise. Walking is great for health and reducing stress. But it’s not a great strategy for fat loss, the prevention of muscle loss and it’s certainly won’t help you lift objects off the floor, climb a flight of stairs with your laundry basket or get up off the floor after playing with your grandchildren. Those activities require functional strength.
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