Over the past few years, I’ve somewhat unintentionally become a “health consultant,” initially for my older relatives and later for my peers, including classmates.
Now, my clientele has evolved to a point where suggesting they hang from a bar for ten seconds, let alone perform any exercises on it, would be unrealistic.
The exercises for “improving the stomach” that they find on the internet often feel like a mockery to them. This is because the internet is flooded with energetic fitness instructors for whom “improving the stomach” means sculpting a six-pack.
However, for many of my current clients, improving the stomach means being able to see their knees without the aid of a mirror again—a significant difference indeed.
Therefore, when advising these victims of sedentary lifestyles and overindulgence, I must consider their physical condition to avoid sending them straight to the emergency room with a hypertensive crisis.
This means recommending the most “gentle” yet effective forms of physical activity (and of course, it’s always advisable to consult with a knowledgeable doctor who understands the specific parameters of an individual’s body and can advise on what is and isn’t permissible).
Nonetheless, the most universal, acceptable, and safe (yet effective) method I recommend for overall health improvement (including weight loss) is the simple act of walking.
If the goal is simply to improve health and achieve some level of physical fitness from a state of complete “shapelessness,” walking can suffice.
Dedicating at least an hour a day (but preferably two or more), covering four to five kilometers (but ideally eight to ten), without straining or injuring any muscles or tendons, and enjoying the process will soon show results.
Not immediately, but within a month, many health indicators, including mood, will improve, and within three months, you’ll visibly slim down, potentially losing about ten kilograms, even without adhering to any “strict” diets (though reducing intake of flour, sweets, and generally carbohydrates is always beneficial, even for healthy individuals).
Yes, walking can be a fully sufficient and comprehensive form of fitness, to the extent that it might not be necessary to engage in other physical exercises. Perhaps some light morning exercises, like arm swings and waist rotations, to get the blood flowing could complement it, but even these should ideally start with walking in place.
One might ask, “Why walking?” expecting a clear answer like “Five reasons.” Or perhaps even better, “Seven reasons.” Or even better still, “Ten reasons.”
But honestly, I’m not sure how many reasons I’ll enumerate—I’ll just start counting.
So, Why Walking?
Walking, or pedestrian strolls, emerge as the most suitable and beneficial form of physical activity for individuals worn out by years of sedentary lifestyle, significantly out of shape, having lost their former agility and posture, and now realizing that neglecting their health any further could lead to dire consequences.
First Reason: Relative Safety
It’s often argued that running is far more beneficial due to its intensity. True, for someone in their late forties who has been running all their life and feels great, there’s no reason to stop. However, for someone whose last run was a sprint to a university exam decades ago, weighing twice as much now as they did then, diving headfirst into running might not be the wisest choice.
Running imposes a significant impact load on the joints, even with proper technique—which is unlikely to magically reappear after a thirty-year hiatus. While joints can gradually recover and strengthen with physical activity, they do so much slower than muscles. It’s easy to find oneself with the agility but not the joint readiness for youthful leaps.
Moreover, running increases the risk of tripping, twisting an ankle, or pulling something, potentially sidelining any form of activity for a week (except maybe wrist exercises at best).
Therefore, even if planning to progress to more intense exercises, the first steps towards regaining physical condition should be literal steps—through the simplest, most unburdening walks.
And although I plan to dedicate a separate “article” to “proper walking” techniques (since our current sedentary lifestyle even unlearns us from that), for now, let’s just say: forget the notion of “brisk walking.”
Second Reason: Energy Expenditure
Contrary to what might seem “intuitively unbelievable,” walking is actually quite an “energy-intensive” activity.
It might appear too simple, seemingly exerting no significant load on the system, but let’s calculate the work done.
Consider a strength training session with a kettlebell.
Speaking for myself, I use a 25kg kettlebell (not all my former classmates prefer this weight, but it’s a nice round number for our purposes).
My standard 20-minute routine involves 40 kettlebell presses per arm, in sets of ten, totaling 80 lifts—approximately 30 centimeters high (starting from head level).
So, 25 kilograms, 30 centimeters, 80 times. Multiply and we get 60,000.
60,000 what? Units don’t matter here; we’re just comparing against another form of weight lifting against gravity—lifting your leg during a walk.
Focusing on the calf section below the knee, which, if not dragging feet, lifts about 15 centimeters with each step.
Average weight of this part, including a shoe? At least 5 kilograms.
At a moderate pace, one takes about 120 steps per minute, but let’s say 100 for a leisurely pace.
That’s 2,000 steps in 20 minutes.
Multiplying 5 kilograms by 15 centimeters by 2,000 gives us 150,000.
Did we get that right?
Yes, it seems so.
And with the kettlebell, we had 60,000 of these “simplified non-system units” for upward movement.
Walking is continuous, unlike kettlebell exercises that require breaks.
While strength training has its benefits, like increasing breathing rate and blood pressure to boost the system—something hard to achieve with measured walking—in some cases, the advantage of walking is that even the “heaviest office case” won’t get winded or risk a crisis.
In terms of work done and, consequently, energy expenditure, walking proves to be quite commendable compared to intense strength training.
And this calculation only covered lifting the lower leg. Walking involves much more work, including moving your entire body forward, torso stabilization by lumbar muscles, arm swinging, shoulder girdle activity, and even neck muscles… cumulatively, a significant amount of “bodily work” is performed.
The Third Reason: Activating Major Muscle Groups
Hence, the third reason for the preference for walking.
It engages nearly all the significant and large muscles in the body. Naturally, the leg muscles, but also the abdominal muscles, both oblique and straight (which lift the legs), the gluteal muscles (providing propulsion), and the entire core, stabilizing the torso to prevent it from collapsing.
Importantly, it activates precisely those muscles where fat tends to accumulate first.
There’s a common fitness myth suggesting that localized exercises don’t matter for fat loss, claiming it’s an “overall process” and only creating an “energy deficit” is essential to make the body start burning fat.
This is nonsense.
In reality, the intensity of the adjacent muscles’ activity significantly influences the rate of lipolysis. This is because the temperature increases and fluid turnover accelerates in the active area. Even a slight increase is enough to make fat in those areas burn a bit faster.
Therefore, fat tends to accumulate in areas least involved in physical activity for a given individual.
Walking targets these areas: thighs, waist, belly.
For significant “defatting” of these areas, simple but regular walks are sufficient. Just five kilometers a day can produce a noticeable result in a couple of months. And the fat loss won’t be too abrupt, avoiding “shar-pei” like sagging skin folds, which can be an unpleasant side effect of rapid weight loss. Everything will harmonize nicely.
The Fourth Reason: Enhancing Circulatory Health and Reducing Visceral Fat
The fourth reason, stemming from the third, is that walking, by engaging the core muscles, has an optimal effect on the abdominal cavity’s contents.
And those contents are crucial.
Walking massages this vital liver, stimulating circulation in all the essential “guts.”
Circulation, the body’s logistics, is key to everything. When it’s impaired, and tissue supply is insufficient, no medication can help if it can’t reach the affected area (and when circulation is normal, medications are often unnecessary in many cases).
So, beyond “fat burning,” walking provides a general health boost to the kidneys, liver, and intestines.
Returning to “fat burning,” there are two types of fat in the body.
Subcutaneous fat is one thing, but excessive visceral fat is another, more concerning issue.
Exercises recommended by fitness trainers online for strengthening the abs indeed help shed subcutaneous fat. But dealing with visceral fat is more challenging.
Hence, it’s possible to see individuals with seemingly developed abs and some definition, yet with a protruding belly resembling a pregnant gymnast (in both men and women). That’s because while the outer layer of fat is reduced, the visceral fat remains, barely affected by crunches and twists.
Walking, however, effectively shakes and “dissolves” precisely this visceral, “internal” fat like few other activities.
The Fifth Reason: Weight Loss
It’s often said that in weight loss, the main thing is not physical activity but eating less.
I’d argue that all elements are intertwined, forming parts of a whole, and are equally crucial.
Certainly, treating exercise as a license to overeat won’t be effective.
But spending an evening in torment, drooling over the next meal, suffering from hunger, and doing nothing else (unable to even sleep on an empty stomach) is also dubious pleasure.
Humans can indeed learn masochism, deriving pleasure from their suffering, as evidenced by individuals with anorexia, but why go to such extremes?
On the other hand, if you feel hungry in the evening but know it’s better not to eat before bed, a walk is a great idea.
First, it distracts from idleness that breeds futile thoughts about the vanity of existence; second, it tires you out just enough so that upon returning home, you can simply collapse and fall asleep.
Thus, abstaining from culinary excesses and walking as physical activity complement each other perfectly, achieving complete harmony.
The Sixth Reason: Walking Can Be Enjoyable
The sixth reason for favoring walking is that it can be enjoyable.
Yes, for those unaware, the purpose of our existence is to derive pleasure.
Only the profoundly misguided would dispute this fact, not realizing how absurd they appear.
Indeed, humans, being complex in mental and emotional capacities, can find pleasure in a wide array of sources.
Physiological pleasures are obvious: delicious food, stimulating substances, massages of sensitive body zones.
But we also derive pleasure from:
- Listening to pleasant music and poetry
- Creating music and poetry
- Receiving approval from others
- Proudly distinguishing ourselves from others
- Gaining personal benefits
- Sacrificing personal benefits
And millions of other reasons, catering to every taste and habit.
On a physiological level, the act of experiencing pleasure is quite simple and uniform—endorphins are released, affecting corresponding receptors.
If we deny ourselves the usual pleasure from tasty (but increasingly harmful) food, we need to compensate with another form of pleasure, or life becomes too dreary.
Fortunately, physical activities, even moderate ones, automatically contribute not only to the release of endorphins but also to the improvement of their production and an increase in their baseline levels.
This is, in fact, a natural state for our species, who used to cover tens of kilometers daily in search of food, rewarded not just with the food itself but also with the production of endorphins in response to regular physical activity.
The state of sitting in a chair and starving oneself might be “typical” for an office worker deciding to lose weight, but it’s not exactly natural from an evolutionary standpoint.
Meanwhile, simply standing up and starting to walk, unhurriedly but steadily and rhythmically, will naturally increase endorphin levels after about twenty minutes. Soon, you’ll even forget about feeling hungry.
However, many people are deterred from enjoying walks by the notion that it’s a “purposeless waste of time.”
They grow tired of admiring the same old birches and squirrels, and spending an hour or two daily on strolls seems like an extravagant luxury.
Well, I’d argue that spending a couple of hours daily commuting to work is the real “waste.”
Yet, people have long found a solution by inventing “pocketbooks” and occupying themselves with reading during commutes (when not driving).
But with walking in our era, the possibilities are even more promising (not in the sense that excites certain legislative bodies).
Now, you can wear headphones and listen to any music or literature.
You’ll be amazed at how much new content you’ll discover—things you previously didn’t have the time or inclination for.
Imagine absorbing a symphony a day or a novel every half month; your head will spin with the influx of culture, but it’ll be a delightful dizziness.
Not to mention the benefits for learning foreign languages—but that deserves a separate post on selecting audiobooks.
These are, perhaps, the six main advantages of walking that come to mind.
Of course, the list is open-ended.
With every step taken, walking proves to be a powerful ally in our quest for health and happiness. It’s an invitation to step away from the complexities of life and find peace, pleasure, and health in the rhythm of our steps.
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