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Is Walking Cardio Exercise?

author image Susan Lundman
Susan Lundman began writing about her passions of cooking, gardening, entertaining and recreation after working for a nonprofit agency, writing grants and researching child development issues. She has written professionally for six years since then. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.
Is Walking Cardio Exercise?
friends on exercise walk Photo Credit: tyler olson/iStock/Getty Images

Lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, a reduction in your risk of diabetes, and improvements in weight management and mood are all benefits of walking. Whether or not walking is good cardiovascular exercise depends on a variety of factors. While some physical activity is better than none, according to the “2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans,” the report also explains that you gain additional health benefits as your physical activity increases in intensity, frequency and duration.

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Cardio Exercise

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. The Activity Guidelines report that 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. Walking at a very fast pace gives you the additional benefits.

Government Guidelines

The Activity Guidelines recommend exercise levels based on scientific calculations measuring the amount of oxygen you take in per minute for each kilogram of body weight. This formula translates to a recommendation of 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity exercise a week for substantial health benefits and vigorous exercise five hours a week for the most health benefits. When calculating the walking speed needed to lose weight, a 200 pound person needs to walk at 2 mph for one hour to burn 227 calories. The same person can burn 345 calories in the same hour by walking at a 3.5 mph pace.

Walking That Is Not Cardio Exercise

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, according to the 2008 Activity Guidelines.

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, but that if you can sing, you need to pick up the pace and walk even more briskly. 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.

Exercise Intensity

Brisk walking meets government standards for moderate physical exercise. The Activity Guideline’s scale of exercise intensity ranges from 0, a 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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