10 Signs Your Walking Workout is Too Easy

Jodi Helmer
by Jodi Helmer
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10 Signs Your Walking Workout is Too Easy

Going for a couple of strolls around the block can help you reach your step goals, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting a good workout. For walking to lead to health benefits like decreased risk of heart disease, stronger bones, weight lossimproved sleep and a mood boost, you have to do more than put one foot in front of the other.

If you’re not sure whether your walks meet the criteria for an actual workout, here are 10 signs your walking routine might be too easy:

1

YOU DON’T BREAK A SWEAT

It’s a good sign when there are beads of sweat on your forehead, and your clothes feel a little damp after a walk. “A gentle stroll, is, quite literally, no sweat for your body,” says Jonathan Ross, spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise and author of “Abs Revealed.”

Increasing the intensity of your walks activates your sweat glands; the more intense the workout, the more likely you are to break a sweat. But sweating is not the only indicator of a good workout, according to Ross.

Your goal should be to break a sweat while hitting your target heart rate, the “aerobic zone” that indicates you’re getting a cardiovascular workout. An ideal target heart rate is at least 60% of your maximum heart rate — and that number depends on your age.

To calculate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For example, a 30-year-old would have a maximum heart rate of 190; 60% of 190 is 114 — this is your target beats per minute, which can be checked by putting your finger on the pulse in your neck or wearing a heart rate monitor. Aim to spend at least 30 minutes in this target zone.

2

YOU’RE NOT HITTING WEEKLY EXERCISE TARGETS

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines advocate for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. You’ll hit the recommended number of minutes by taking a slow stroll around the block for 30 minutes five evenings per week, but you might not reach the intensity to be considered adequate physical activity.

If sustaining a moderate-intensity pace for 30 minutes seems daunting, Erin Oprea, USANA Fitness Ambassador and celebrity personal trainer, suggests breaking it up into shorter spurts. Brisk 10-minute walks before work, during lunch and in the evening still count toward your weekly exercise goals. “If you’re busy, getting multiple brisk walks in every day should be on your to-do list to get your steps in,” Oprea says.

3

YOU CAN EASILY CARRY ON A CONVERSATION

If you’re able to chatter endlessly about the latest TV show without huffing and puffing, you need to pick up the pace. “If you’re speaking at normal conversational speed, it’s unlikely you’re working out at a sufficient intensity to deliver a challenge to the body,” Ross explains. “As intensity goes up, you should notice you’re able to say fewer and fewer words between breaths.”

It’s OK to talk to your walking partner (or sing along with your workout playlist), but the effort should require you to stop between sentences to catch your breath. “The sweet spot for most people is about 3–6 words spoken before taking a breath,” says Ross.

4

YOUR MUSCLES NEVER ACHE

Walking is a great low-impact exercise, but it should still feel like a challenging workout. A lack of muscle aches is a strong sign you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. Your goal is a light muscle ache. If you’re too sore to move the next day, you’ve overdone it and should scale back the intensity on your next walk.

You don’t have to give up walking for running or another workout. Picking up the pace, increasing the distance or changing the terrain can all help fire up your muscles and increase the calorie burn. “Find some hills and sweat a little,” says Oprea.

5

YOU FOLLOW THE SAME ROUTE

It’s easy to find a route you like and stick to it. Over time, your body gets used to a certain pace and terrain; the more you follow the same route, the easier it gets. “Even turning down a few different streets while otherwise following the exact same route is enough to do the trick,” says Ross.

There is no such thing as a “bad” walk. When your goal is walking for exercise and health benefits, it’s essential to make sure your walking routine isn’t too easy — and if it is, challenge yourself to amp it up.

6

YOU WALK THE SAME DISTANCE IN THE SAME AMOUNT OF TIME

Even if you do mix up your route, it’s possible to get stuck walking the same distance at the same intensity level. While this distance and pace might have been challenging when you first started, eventually your body adapts to the effort and it won’t feel as difficult. It may mean you’re in better shape, but it can also cause a plateau in your fitness level. For this reason, it’s important to vary the distance and intensity of your weekly walks. Take this walking test every month to check in with your fitness level and push yourself to up the cadence.

7

YOUR WALKS HAVE BECOME BORING

If you find you quickly become bored on most of your walks and need podcasts, music, chats on the phone with friends, or other distractions to keep you interested, this could be a sign you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough. Here’s a short interval session you can try during your regular walks that can help to break up the pace and the monotony:

  • After you’re warmed up, try walking at your top speed for 1 minute. Return to your normal pace for 5 minutes and repeat 3–5 times. Focus on faster leg turnover and arm swing with good posture. If you’re up for a more significant challenge, you can try several 30–60 second jogging intervals instead. Cool down with your normal walking pace for the last 5 minutes of your walk.
8

YOU HAVEN’T NOTICED ANY CHANGES IN YOUR BODY

Getting strongerlosing weight and improving your endurance are common goals when beginning a daily walking routine. While it can take some time to see results, if you’ve been consistent over several months and aren’t seeing any noticeable changes in your body composition or endurance level, this could be a sign it’s time to start pushing yourself a little harder on occasion. Keep in mind diet plays a big role, too, so as long as you’re eating nutritious foods 80% percent of the time and burning more calories than you’re consuming, you should see results.

A good place to start is using the MyFitnessPal app to track your calorie consumption and expenditure each day. From there, you can identify nutrition and fitness trends and make any necessary adjustments to achieve your desired results.

9

YOU DON’T FEEL A SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT

Without a doubt, finishing a tough workout can feel really good. In addition to the endorphins released, which provide that “runner’s high” feeling, pushing yourself should also provide you with a sense of accomplishment. You’ve done something tough, challenged yourself, and you should feel proud of the work you’ve done. If you don’t, it could be a sign your workouts are no longer as challenging as they should be.

Seek a new challenge you can feel good about, whether that’s walking a half-marathon or marathonhiking on a new, more difficult path, or adding bodyweight exercises to each walk.

10

YOU’RE NOT SLEEPING WELL

One of the many great benefits of any fitness routine is the positive effect it can have on the quality of your sleep. After a challenging walking workout, falling and staying asleep should be much easier, especially compared to days you don’t exercise. Research shows walking improves sleep quality and duration, since hormones and proteins released during intense exercise can help the body regulate sleep patterns. If you don’t feel tired at the end of the day or feel like you could easily do another workout, chances are you need to up the intensity or duration of your next walk.

Originally published December 2017, updated with additional reporting by Marc Lindsay

To become more active, try setting a simple goal to increase (and track) your daily steps. Go to “Plans” in the MyFitnessPal app and choose a 28-day step plan to learn tips to boost your activity.

About the Author

Jodi Helmer
Jodi Helmer

Jodi Helmer writes about health and wellness for publications like WebMD, AARP, Shape, Woman’s Day, Arthritis Today and Costco Connection among others. She often comes up with the best story ideas while hiking with her rescue dogs. You can read Jodi’s work or follow her on Twitter @helmerjodi.

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18 responses to “10 Signs Your Walking Workout is Too Easy”

  1. Avatar Jimmy NoChit says:

    I figure that if I spill my beer while walking, I am not drinking fast enough 🙂

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    • Avatar Katastrophe says:

      Right?

  2. Avatar Amanda says:

    I found this article really discouraging. It says walking normally has no health benefits? Surely that isn’t true? Most people when walking don’t get all sweaty and out of breath. Are they totally wasting their time and might as well drive?
    I have started walking half an hour to work every day rather than get the bus and this has put me right off.

    • Avatar Robert Baldwin says:

      I don’t think it says that at all. It says you aren’t getting as much as you could/should. Anything is better than nothing. Even getting up to change channels rather than using the remote. On the other hand if you are already outside moving why not pick it up and reap all the bennies you can.

    • Avatar Terry Wallace says:

      Don’t feel discouraged! – I tore the quadriceps tendon in my left knee and it occurred at a time when I was really out of shape and overweight – this injury required my leg to be braced in a fixed position for almost an entire year and required me to have to almost completely relearn to use my left leg again

      That was close to 2 years ago and I’m still battling with a lot of physical limitations as I continue to recover physically from the deterioration in the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments

      The reason I’m telling you this is because walking is the number 1 exercise that I attribute to my recovery – I gained even more weight when I couldn’t walk at all and have since walked my way into enough strength and confidence to exercise much more strenuously (I still can’t run, but I’m getting closer every day, all because I embraced the value of walking!)

      sometimes, the pain in my knee from higher intensity exercise (I’m using an elliptical machine to “run” and perform HIIT workouts and I’m also able to dosome light calisthenics and weight training) is just too much – and when it is, I always go back to walking – anything from briskly to, oftentimes, a simple, casual stroll that serves to raise my heart rate to around 50%-55% and provide some “active recovery” – and I love my walks!

      So no, you don’t have to go nuts and walk really fast or trudge up and down hills to get positive results from your walks – if you are just starting to improve your activity levels or have physical limitations that prevent you from higher intensity activities, you should not feel discouraged by this article – exercise of any type and intensity is so beneficial in so many ways! – so do what you can now and just try to go a little farther each day…and when you come across this article 6 months from now you’ll feel encouraged instead because you are already doing these things

    • Avatar Maureen Galvin says:

      It’s not saying it has no health benefits, just that if you want to increase your health benefits from walking you need to look at walkiing differently. I could do 6 laps around the park talking to my daughters at a stroll-type pace and get 9k steps or I could get my 9k steps by taking my two dogs to the woods and follow a path that takes me up and down hills, keeps a good pace because I have dogs and seriously work up a sweat because I’m exerting myself. Either way I’m walkiing, but I’m getting a much better health benefit with the dogs in the woods than I would strolling with my girls on an even surface.

  3. Avatar Arlene says:

    Yes, I’ve noticed that after walking everyday, you must do something to up the ante. Running is not an option for me. What about adding ankle weights?

  4. Avatar Meade Bollard says:

    This is another ridiculous post by a supposed expert. I suppose because I go to the same gym every dayd that I should join another one because I’m “used to” my gym. And we’re talking walking here – not race walking. If you’re walking, even at a faster pace, you’re not going to have trouble talking. Anyone can find anything online to support any ridiculous theory.

    • I don’t think that is the message her at all. The variation is more for an outdoor walk as it will bring variation in the terrain, length, and inclines you encounter. This will throw your body out of its comfort zone. If you are walking to the gym then by all means take your regular path, but for maximum benefits you could go on the treadmill while you’re there and vary your incline and peace to really get those muscles working.

    • Avatar ogalvan says:

      I know right? Being comfortable with a routine or route is not going to keep you from making progress because it “seems” easy. The fact of the matter is you’re still putting in work.

  5. Avatar Kaicheng Hu says:

    Simple ways to tell whether I should increase my walking intensity!

  6. Avatar Anonymous Is A Woman says:

    Oh please, when I walk at 60% of my max HR, I wouldn’t break out a sweat unless it was 90 degrees out. That is even true at 75%. It’s not because I’m not working hard enough – I do huff and puff a little when I get past 75%. I just don’t feel very hot or sweat very often unless the weather is really hot. I suppose if I sprinted, I’d sweat. And a brisk walk in 60% range probably won’t make your muscle ache much unless you either are new to exercise or took a long hike. Again, your muscles get used to walking. But that does not mean it isn’t still good for you.

  7. Avatar James Byrne says:

    20 push-ups every 1/4 mile

  8. Avatar Cad Terry says:

    I’ve had 39lbs too much after childbirth and now I’ve lost almost all of it with the Loaded Gun Diet.

  9. Avatar Robert B says:

    I’m 67 years old. 60% of my maximum heart rate is 91.8. I get that with a leisurely walk to the mail box. My resting heart rate is in the 60’s right now at my computer, and my max heart rate during an very intensive workout is 150 plus. This maximum heart rate calculation, is at best, a very inaccurate guideline. Listen to your body. If your concerned about your heart rate while exercising see a doctor.

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