It’s a myth that cardio is a ‘no pain, no gain’ endeavour. Naturally, you’ll get fitter if you’re charging through six-minute miles in a weighted vest. But if your goal is more general health than elite-level endurance, schlepping to the supermarket and back can offer multiple benefits, too.
Namely, ‘improved cardio-respiratory fitness, blood glucose, improved lipid profiles and insulin sensitivity’, says Dr Clara Russell, a GP and founder of brain health specialists Noggin.
A study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that walking for three to four hours per week reduced cardiovascular mortality by half – a separate study showed that moderate exercise might be more efficient for clearing harmful fat deposits than more intense workouts.
More and more research points to the dangers of long periods of unbroken sitting. ‘Being sedentary is an independent risk factor for heart disease,’ explains Dr Russell. ‘Any way you can incorporate movement into your daily routine will help.’
Taking regular walks could even help you in the gym, too. Dr Russell explains that a brisk stroll strengthens the upper and lower leg muscles as well as supporting the muscles of the lower back and core. Joint flexibility and posture are both improved by regular, rhythmic strides.
As for calorie burn? That depends on your individual metrics, but Dr Russell reckons the average man uses up close to 100 calories during a leisurely 20-minute yomp, so work some steps and inclines into your route, and your burn will be bigger.
You don’t need to be breathless for your cardio to count, although getting your heart rate up helps. ‘Research from 2018 showed that by walking at a brisk pace, all-cause mortality was reduced by 24% compared with 20% in those walking an average pace,’ says Dr Russell.
Adding a couple of weekly weights sessions will also prove invaluable in injury-proofing your body for the future. But if you can’t stomach the treadmill, don’t sweat it.
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