Walking workouts are currently trending on Tiktok, with the #walkingworkout hashtag racking up 49.2 million views on the app and counting. Wondering what exactly constitutes a walking workout and why exactly they’re so great for your mental and physical health? Well, you’re in the right place.
We’ve quizzed three fitness experts who confirm that while the benefits of walking are countless – think improved cardiovascular fitness, muscle tone, mental clarity and more – actually structuring your walks into workouts can reap all these benefits and more. Research has shown that as little as 30 minutes a day promises to boost your wellbeing, not to mention the fact that it’s one of the simplest workouts you can do, achievable for any fitness level. Just whack on a pair of trainers and you’re good to go.
While often overlooked as an effective form of exercise, according to the NHS website,”walking briskly can help you build stamina, burn excess calories and make your heart healthier.” One 2021 Harvard Medical School study even found that walking releases certain brain chemicals that help you to concentrate.
While you might not be in your hot girl walk era just yet, Mimi Bines, personal trainer and co-founder of LIFT Studio LDN, Abigail Roberts, sports expert from Bulk, and Stef Williams, personal trainer and founder of fitness app WeGlow, are here to convince you otherwise.
Trainers at the ready… But don’t miss our guides to the best home workouts and home workouts that require no equipment, while you’re here, or expert-led explainer on how to workout at home, if you’d rather get a sweat on from indoors. Don’t skip the all-important warm up exercises, and you’ll be good to go.
Walking workouts: Your how-to guide
What is a walking workout?
What it says on the tin – a workout consisting purely of walking or steps. While you can do a walking workout anywhere – think on your way to work or around your local park – the most popular TikTok videos (we’re talking millions of views) are those completing their walking workout from the comfort of their home.
Still not clear on the difference between ordinary walking and a walking workout? The clue is in the name – instead of popping out for a walk, a walking workout works through reps, sets, and time goals like any other workout.
The low-impact workout that can be done pretty much anywhere, share our experts – on the treadmill in the gym, around your garden or park, or from the comfort of your home while listening to your favourite Beyonce tune (especially appealing on grey, rainy days).
“Low intensity and low impact workouts like walking are drastically underrated, explains Bines. “People often only think of exercise as being exercise when it’s an intense form of punishment and neglect to think about the rest of their day.”
She continues: “A walking workout doesn’t have to be fancy or overcomplicated. Chuck some trainers on and walk to the supermarket, or put on a good podcast and walk around the park – it’s all exercise. If you’d rather, there are thousands of walking workouts on YouTube or you can look into walking treadmills for your house, too.”
What are the benefits of a walking workout?
Good question. As well as getting the heart pumping, the same cardiovascular benefits of a walk apply. Plus, both walking and workouts have been proven time and time again to release those all-important endorphins so vital in improving your mental health.
“Walking has numerous benefits to your heart, as aerobic exercise makes your heart beat faster and makes you breathe harder. Both actions can help strengthen your heart,” explains Roberts. “Walking workouts can also reduce stress and anxiety, boosting overall mood and feelings of wellbeing.” Roberts continues.
“Walking is just as good as any other exercise – setting yourself a goal of completing a walking workout can be more motivating than just walking here and there throughout the day,” encourages the expert. “For those who don’t love going to the gym, a lower-intensity walking workout can seem more appealing and may not leave you feeling too fatigued to perform other exercises.”
Bines agrees, adding: “Whether you are a seasoned gym goer or an absolute newbie to exercise, walking benefits everyone. Your risk of injury is low and the workouts can be scaled to every fitness level.”
Similarly, if you’re keen to avoid potential injury or a high heart rate, walking could be great for you, points out Roberts. Why? Well, because “low-impact exercise puts less stress on your body, reducing the need for rest days and helping you to remain consistently active.”
Try this: if you’re not sure about going the whole hog with a walking workout just yet, try and improve your daily step count by 1,000 to 2,000, advises Bines. Don’t aim for an unattainable figure that you’ll feel stressed trying to hit – instead, workout a goal that’s realistic for you and your lifestyle.
Kit to take your walking workout up a level
5 tips for nailing your walking workout
1. Increase your mileage week by week
For beginners, try slowly increasing your weekly step count, Bines suggests. “This is much more of an attainable habit than a highly demanding fitness regime which leaves you feeling overwhelmed,” she tells us.
2. Plan a route
If you’re planning on completing your walking workout outside, this simple organisational tool will prevent you from not knowing where to go and being tempted to give up, the experts share.
Try this: set a route and record activity on your phone or FitBit, suggests Roberts. It will give you the motivation to get going and help keep track of your step count, too.
3. Focus on your breathing
“Breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth can help to moderate a steady heart rate and help you remain calm and in control.” Roberts reminds us.
4. Mix up your intensity
Fun fact for you: increasing your energy expenditure and challenging your fitness levels more while you’re doing your walking workout is one way to make sure you’re continually progressing your fitness levels.
To do this, mix up your intensity each week, shares Williams. “Increasing the speed of your walk, increasing the elevation, or choosing a more challenging terrain for your walk, such as somewhere with hills, will all work,” the personal trainer explains.
5. Zone out
You’ll only reap the full mental benefits of walking workouts if you give your brain the space to be able to do so.
Williams’ advice? “Switch your phone to aeroplane mode and take in the nature around you, or alternatively listen to a podcast or some music to help you disconnect,” she recommends. “You also look to add in some meditative benefits to your walk by choosing a quiet route, noticing your thoughts, focusing on your breathing and how each part of your body feels.”
“Walking has a profoundly positive impact on my mental and physical wellbeing”
Roxy Marrone, co-founder of sustainable jewellery and crystal retailer House of Roxy, tells Marie Claire UK that she has been incorporating walking workouts for years now and swears by them.
“As someone who prioritises holistic health, I love to incorporate walking into my workout routine.”
“Walking is not only my favourite but one of the few ways I incorporate cardio into my routine, alongside dancing. The combination of daily low-intensity cardio workouts in the form of walking, combined with regular strength training, has transformed my whole body. I’ve never felt or looked this good and I’m probably eating the most I ever have in years.”
“Not only does walking outside allow me to enjoy the fresh air and soak up the beauty of nature, but it also serves as a restorative experience for my mind. It provides a much-needed escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, offering me a peaceful space to clear my mind, reflect, and find solace in the simplicity of each step. I come up with some of my best ideas while I’m walking – I find listening to my favourite jam or podcast helps me zone out of my to-do list.”
“Not to mention it’s a great workout that has definitely improved my physical fitness, cardiovascular health and stamina.”
“Walking has a profoundly positive impact on my mental and physical well-being. With every stride, I feel a sense of inner calm and tranquillity, making walking an essential cornerstone of my wellness journey.”
4 walking workouts to try tonight
Keen to give a walking workout a go? See below for some of the most highly rated walking workouts on YouTube, free to stream and designed for at home. Some throw in a little lunge or sidestep to spice things up, while others include using small dumbbells or a pair of ankle weights to step things up a notch.
Working out never looked so simple…
1. 15 minute walking workout
2. 15 minute walk for happiness workout
3. 25 minute walking workout
4. 30 minute walking workout
How long do you have to walk for a good workout?
Good question – and while the answer will depend on your current fitness levels, the NHS currently advises aiming for 30 minutes of moderate cardio (aka walking) a day.
Stef Williams, on the other hand, recommends trying to hit 6,000 steps in an hour – a moderate speed and intensity that promises to leave you feeling both mentally and physically stronger in no time.
As a general rule of thumb, aiming to increase your steps 10% week on week will leave your fitness progressing without risking injury.