Is Walking Cardio Exercise?

Lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, a reduction in your risk of diabetes, and improvements in weight management and mood are all benefits of walking. However, whether or not walking is good cardiovascular exercise depends on a variety of factors.

Walking at a brisk pace is a cardio exercise. (Image: mheim3011/iStock/GettyImages)

How Fast Should You Walk?

While some physical activity is better than none, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, you gain additional health benefits as your physical activity increases in intensity, frequency and duration. Aim for 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity exercise a week for substantial health benefits and vigorous exercise 75 to 150 minutes a week for the most health benefits.

When calculating the walking speed needed to lose weight, a 185-pound person needs to walk at 3.5 mph for one hour to burn 356 calories. The same person can burn 444 calories in the same hour by walking at a 4.5 mph pace, according to Harvard Health.

Tip

Walking at a brisk pace is definitely considered a cardio exercise. You should be indulging in some form of cardio activity every day of the week to achieve a better overall fitness level.

What's Not Considered Cardio?

Walking through the grocery store pushing your cart or going shopping at the mall do not meet the standards for moderate or vigorous exercise and do not provide enough cardio exercise to reduce your risk of serious disease. The Activity Guidelines call these baseline activities. While these activities have benefits, the extent of these has not been studied scientifically.

What's Considered Cardio?

Walking can be cardio exercise if it provides moderate to vigorous exercise that gives your heart, lungs and blood vessels a workout, making them stronger as a result of your efforts. People who engage in cardio exercise, such as brisk walking, have lower rates of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure than those who don't exercise in this way. Those who exercise beyond the minimum gain additional benefits, such as a lower risk of colon and breast cancer.

Moderate-Intensity Brisk Walking

Simple walking becomes brisk walking when you begin to breathe faster, develop a light sweat and feel some strain in your leg muscles. You should be able to talk during moderate exercise like brisk walking, says Len Kravitz writing for the University of New Mexico, but if you can sing, you need to pick up the pace and walk even more briskly, pumping your arms as you go. You can also use your own heart rate to monitor intensity by calculating your upper and lower heart rates and using a heart-rate monitor or taking your pulse.

Brisk walking meets government standards for moderate physical exercise. The Activity Guideline's scale of exercise intensity ranges from 0, an activity level comparable to resting in a chair, to 10 at the most intense, with moderate measuring a 5 or 6. Vigorous exercise would fall at a 7 or 8 on the scale. Both moderate and vigorous exercise fall into the "Health-enhancing" category.

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