Walking provides a great cardio workout if you pick up the pace.

Walking: How to Make it a Great Cardio Workout

At the moment, in many parts of the U.S., walking is one of the few ways we can get exercise. But for many, walking seems too leisurely and they fear it’s not “serious” exercise. Here’s how to change that!

Walk at Least 3 Miles an Hour

Wakling briskly at three miles an hour, or 1.5 miles in half an hour, pushes your heart and lungs enough to count as cardio exercise. Of course more is better, but this is a healthy place to start building up your cardio gains.

You’ll know if you feel a bit sweaty, your get a bit out of breath, and you can feel your heart rate go up. Another way to tell is if you can carry on a conversation while walking but can’t sing a song. This is a sign that you’re in your target heart rate zone.

Three miles is about 6,000 steps, so you can also use your step-counter to measure. (Though be sure to look at it at the start of your walk, so you aren’t counting previous steps.)

For an even better aerobic workout, up your speed to 4.5 miles per hour or include steep hills in your walk – and don’t slow down while you climb then. This type of walking is as vigorous as running or biking!

Another way to increase your workout is to focus on decreasing your stride length. This is a technique runners use to up their speed, but you can use it when you walk as well. More on these techniques here.

Overall, experts recommend setting a goal of 10,000 steps a day. Of course, you won’t meet this goal everyday, but shoot for it as much as you can. If you are a long way from that to start, build up to it gradually. Try for 3,000 steps a day and try to add 1,000 a week.

Walk to Get Healthy

To keep yourself motivated, here are some of the health benefits of walking:

  • Walking works the large muscles of the thighs, calves, and glutes
  • Walking makes the heart stronger
  • Walking increases your lung function
  • Walking boosts your mood
  • Walking decreases stress
  • Walking builds energy and stamina
  • Walking sharpens memory and focus
  • Walking prevents weight gain and aids weight loss
  • Walking helps prevent diabetes
  • Walking can help lower cholesterol
  • Walking builds bone strength and helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Walking improves sleep and helps with insomnia
  • Walking eases back pain for many
  • Walking in nature is good for mental health

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.