Walking Vs. Going to the Gym

If you're trying to decide between walking every day and visiting a gym regularly, you must consider the benefits and disadvantages of each. Walking is convenient and free, but it may not be the most effective option if you have serious fitness goals. On the other hand, gyms offer many exercise options, but they cost money.

Gyms feature many exercise options. (Image: UberImages/iStock/Getty Images)

Gym

The major advantage of going to the gym instead of walking is that you can choose from a variety of exercises. If you want to develop muscle, you can lift free weights or use resistance machines. If walking outdoors is difficult or unpleasant due to bad weather, you can walk on a treadmill or use an elliptical or stair stepper machine. If you're tired of exercising alone, you can take a group-exercise class. Typical classes include dance-based aerobics, high-impact aerobics and kickboxing.

Walking

The advantage of walking is that you don't need to pay expensive fees or travel to a distant gym. Instead, you only need an open area and quality walking shoes. Walking in a scenic location gives you a chance to experience the outdoors. If you own a treadmill, you don't even need to leave your home to walk. If you set up your treadmill near your favorite entertainment devices, that might help motivate you to walk more often and for longer periods.

Considerations

The disadvantage of walking is that there are more effective exercises. Walking is pleasurable, but your fitness goals might require a more intense activity that burns more calories. A 130-lb. person who walks at 2 mph, a casual pace, for an hour only burns 118 calories, according to the American Council on Exercise. One way to deal with this problem is to intensify your walking. That same person would burn 295 calories by walking for an hour at 4 mph, a very brisk pace.

Achieving Your Goals

To make the right decision for you, you'll have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each in light of the type of exercise program you need. For example, if you want overall muscle tone, you'll need to perform resistance exercises. While you can perform many of these exercises at home, the extensive equipment available at a typical gym makes the task easier. Also, gyms often have professional trainers available to help tailor your exercise program to your fitness goals.

Expert Insight

If joining a gym isn't feasible, walking 30 minutes a day is an effective way to maintain a basic level of fitness. England's National Health Service recommends walking 30 minutes a day over joining a gym. The organization argues that walking is easier to integrate into a daily routine than going to a gym, yet still offers many health benefits, such as cutting the risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other serious medical conditions.

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