Why You Should Include Walking in Your Exercise Routine - A Trainers Perspective

If I could pick one physical activity for the rest of my life, it would be walking. Walking is one of the most underrated physical activities out there. It’s free, almost anyone can do it, and it requires no setup. Walking has so many benefits; in this blog, I will be showing just how powerful walking is!


When I first meet with a client, my second recommendation (after a nutrition intervention) is to increase their activity via walking. I’ve worked with more office workers than I can keep track of; most of them average around 2000-4000 steps per day. When making new health changes, the goal is to start off slow and build up. For these individuals, I recommend adding 2000 steps to what they are currently hitting each day, building up until we hit around 10-12k steps per day. Many clients are blown away by the health benefits of increasing their daily steps.


These include: 

  • Weight Loss and Body Recomposition
  • Disease Prevention 
  • Exercise Recovery 
  • Digestion 
  • Stress Management
  • Sleep Quality 


Weight Loss

We can utilize walking to increase our total daily expenditure (the number of calories our body burns). Ultimately, weight loss comes down to energy consumed (e.g., food) and energy expelled (e.g., exercise). If you’ve ever heard of “eat less and move more,” here is the scientific information behind it. Your total daily energy expenditure consists of your TDEE, NEAT/NEPA, and EAT. 


Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) consists of: 

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

  • The amount of energy it takes to keep the lights on essentially 
  • This accounts for around 60%-70% of your TDEE (depending on how active you are) 


Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)

  • The amount of energy to ingest, absorb, metabolize, and store nutrients from food. 
    • This can vary depending on what kind of food you’re eating and how much, based on current caloric maintenance levels 
  • This accounts for around 10% of your TDEE 


Non-Exercise Adaptive Thermogenesis (NEAT) Non-Exercise Physical Activity (NEPA)

  • NEAT is energy spent doing unconscious movements that aren’t exercising throughout the day. These include things such as typing on a keyboard, talking, fidgeting
  • NEPA refers to walking, standing, and any voluntary, non-exercise activity. This is the most adaptive component of metabolism. This increases during a calorie surplus and decreases significantly during a calorie deficit
  • NEAT/NEPA account for approximately 15% of your total TDEE 


EAT- Exercise Activity Thermogenesis

  • This is planned physical exercise. 
  • It’s common to attribute about 5-10% of daily energy expenditure to exercise, but this is highly variable.

As you can see, NEAT/NEPA can account for approximately 15% or more of your total daily energy expenditure. The exact amount varies because it is upregulated during a surplus and downregulated during a calorie deficit, so using a step counter is an easy way to track this and ensure you’re being consistent with it. Many clients (and people in general) do not realize the importance of daily activity and do not focus only on whether they went to the gym that day.

For example, although sedentary athletes are leaner and healthier compared to non-exercising individuals, when compared to other athletes who aren’t sedentary, sedentary athletes have higher body fat and lower lean mass. 


Disease Prevention

Coronary heart disease 

Walking compared with higher intensity exercise: women who walked for 3 hrs per week had a similar coronary heart disease reduction risk as women who exercised vigorously for 1.5 hrs per week. Both groups saw about a 30-40% reduction in risk. 


Exercise Recovery

Walking is an excellent form of recovery. Even walking for 5 -15 mins after a hard training session can help clear up residual lactic acid and might help you feel less sore the next day. 

Not only is it great for recovery, but walking is low impact, whereas other exercises can leave you feeling beat and wanting to be a couch potato for the rest of the day. 


Stress Management

Just 5 mins of movement outdoors are enough to improve mood, increase focus, and boost self-control. Walking also puts us into a parasympathetic state which puts our body in a state of rest and digestion. Many individuals live in a sympathetic state, which is our flight or fight state, and being in this state, our bodies aren’t recovering, and digestion suffers.



Walking after eating can improve digestion and bloat and help manage blood sugar (in people with insulin resistance).



Getting outside for a 5-15 minute morning walk can help our circadian rhythm. 


It may seem like adding thousands of steps into your daily routine is impossible, especially when a set of stairs takes the wind out of you. It isn’t as tricky as it sounds. Adding in 2 separate walks, about 15-20 minutes per day, can equate to 7000 - 9000 steps. This will create a slightly larger calorie deficit than only hitting 2000 - 4000 steps daily. These increases in steps do not have to occur all at once, but once you start making time for them, you will realize how easy it is to add more walking into your day.


Your daily activity matters so much more than one intense workout session. 


Here are my top tips for getting more steps in! 

  1. Park further 
  2. If you can walk to your destination, walk 
  3. Plan walk dates with your spouse, friends, or family 
  4. Start a walking group at work 
  5. Bring a furry friend with you 
  6. Plan a non-negotiable time per day to get outside 
  7. Make your workstation inefficient if you work from home
  8. Make extra trips bringing in your groceries 
  9. Play interactive video games such as DDR or Just Dance