Why Walking May Be the Best Exercise for Weight Management

By Erin Palinski-Wade

Walking is by far the most commonly used exercise of people who are successful at losing weight and keeping it off. But why is walking the best exercise for weight loss? Compare it to some other forms of exercise to see:

  • Walking versus running: Although running may burn more calories per minute, it also results in increased wear and tear on your bones and joints. For individuals with joint pain or arthritis, running for more than a minute or two at a time may be impossible due to pain. In addition, injury risk is higher with running as compared to walking.

    If you experience joint pain or suffer an injury, you’re unlikely to be able to keep up with your running routine. With walking, joint pain is limited thanks to walking’s low‐impact nature, which means you can walk more often and for longer distances with less impact on your body.

  • Walking versus bike riding: Riding a bike can take some of the pressure off your joints; however, in order to ride a bike, you need a bike — either a regular bike or a stationary bike. You also need access to a safe road to bike on or to a space in your home or at a gym to ride a stationary bike.

    Because biking requires more equipment and can’t be done anywhere at any time like walking, it’s less convenient. When it comes to starting an exercise routine, you want it to be as easy as possible for you to stick with. Biking opens the door for excuses, such as the weather isn’t nice, the road is too busy, you don’t feel like driving to the gym, and so on.

    With walking, whether you’re home, at work, or out with friends, there’s always an opportunity to get in a few extra steps.

  • Walking versus swimming: Swimming is a great low‐impact exercise, especially for those with joint pain and arthritis. The downside of swimming is that it requires access to a pool, lake, or ocean. In addition, with swimming, you need time to put on a bathing suit as well as dry off afterward. If you’re looking to squeeze in a quick workout on your lunch break, jumping in the pool may not be realistic based on the extra time needed to change and dry off.

  • Walking versus group exercises: Depending on the form of group exercise or classes you choose, it may be low‐ or high‐impact. Higher‐impact fitness classes may torch more calories, but as with running, they carry a higher risk of injury and joint pain. Fitness classes also require a space to perform them, whether you have a room in your home or you travel to a gym. They also entail following a DVD or taking a class, which involves a cost. Group exercise also can’t be done anywhere as easily as walking can.

    You may feel embarrassed performing dance moves for ten minutes on your lunch break at work or on the sidelines of your child’s soccer game, whereas no one would think you looked out of place walking around your office or the soccer field.

As you can see, when compared to almost any other exercise, there’s no getting around the convenience and accessibility of walking. The easier you make it to fit exercise into your day, the easier it will be to stick with your exercise routine. That’s why walking works so well: It’s simple, it’s inexpensive, and it can be done anywhere!