Disadvantages of Walking as an Exercise

Woman hiking up hill in forest, profile view
A woman is walking outside. (Image: FogStock/Vico Images/Erik Palmer/FogStock/Getty Images)

Walking provides an easy, convenient form of exercise that requires no practice or equipment. People with busy schedules might be able to fit short walks into their routine, and frail or injured people might be able to handle this gentle form of exercise more easily than running or jogging. Walking has its drawbacks, however. If you are healthy enough for more vigorous exercise and can fit it into your schedule, consider adding higher-intensity exercise to your weekly routine.

Low Intensity, Limited Results

Walking provides a low-intensity workout that does not elevate your heart rate as high or use as much energy as higher-intensity forms of exercise. In order to improve your cardiovascular health, you must exercise at an intensity that increases your heart rate and causes you to breathe more rapidly than you normally do. Walking at 3 to 4 miles per hour can provide a moderate-intensity workout, but not a vigorous-intensity workout.

Duration vs. Intensity

In order to meet the minimum exercise requirements recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you must spend at least 75 minutes exercising at vigorous intensity or 150 minutes exercising at moderate intensity each week. You can meet these exercise totals much faster with vigorous-intensity exercise. With 15 minutes of vigorous exercise five days a week, you can fulfill the CDC’s minimum exercise requirements. If you exercise at moderate intensity by walking, you must spend 30 minutes exercising on at least 5 days of the week.

Smaller Calorie Burn

Walking does not burn as many calories as higher intensity forms of exercise. Walking briskly at 3.5 mph for one hour can burn about 298 calories for a 155-pound person, according to Harvard Health Publications. At this rate, 30 minutes of walking each day would burn only about 1,043 calories a week, enough to lose one-third of a pound. If your goal is weight loss, 1 to 2 pounds per week is a realistic and satisfying rate to slim down. You'd have to triple your walking time to reach that goal.

Higher Impact Builds Bones

Walking provides a low-impact form of weight-bearing exercise that is less effective for building strong bones than higher-impact types of exercise such as jogging, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

Low-Risk, Not No-Risk

Walking long distances on concrete or asphalt can cause shin splints, which is an injury to your lower leg. Walking in worn out, uncomfortable or improperly fitting shoes can also cause shin splints as well as foot pain and blisters. If walking is your exercise, be aware of safety precautions because a daily stroll isn't risk-free.

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