3

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What is the optimal amount of walking and why?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created October 03, 2011 at 12:06 AM

Obviously early humans walked everywhere. I currently walk about 3-5 miles a day. I also run, bike to work, mountain bike, lift heavy, and do other excercise here and there. But I have heard a few times that walking is "the best" excercise. So how much should I, or anyone, be walking for optimal results (whatever they may be)? I would love to walk more but there is only so much time in the day, so I am just trying to get an idea of what one should aim for day-to-day and more specifically what does walking offer that other forms of excercise don't.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on October 03, 2011
at 07:46 PM

Totally agree...I call it Vitamin W.

A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on October 03, 2011
at 07:43 PM

Oooo... "essential physical nutrient" - I like that.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on October 03, 2011
at 04:32 PM

I am 64 and I started at zero fitness because I had been too sick to walk at all. Thanks to Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint, I now walk about 4 miles every other day and can still wander around stores without effort. I don't think speed is a goal, personally, but walking with a supple, springy stride for gradually longer distances is optimal for me.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on October 03, 2011
at 02:02 AM

I would argue the time "lost" is purely/and obviously subjective being that there are monks and so forth who spend their lives meditating. So your perceived losses are actually just a very real subjective complaint of lost time...you think you could have accomplished more important things apparantly? Its cool...I got two kids and cant take them on extra long walks (yet). So I understand that we have to delegate our time...But was it really time "lost", did you not contemplate or come into any conclusions on your 10 mile walk? I feel like I always come back with something myself...

Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on October 03, 2011
at 01:33 AM

Do you walk barefoot? Barefooting certainly allows for a more natural and longer stride. So that might help. But as I understand it, the idea behind walking a lot isn't to rush, it's to go the distance without stopping often.

5b69a02dadcae753771921d913909215

(1457)

on October 03, 2011
at 01:24 AM

I could probably walk dawn to dusk comfortably (thanks to barefoot/minimalist running I imagine). The other day I walked about 10 miles non-stop... I felt like the time I lost outweighed any benefits that I noticed (mostly just some extra fat-loss).

5b69a02dadcae753771921d913909215

(1457)

on October 03, 2011
at 01:22 AM

I notice if I try to walk faster than a "normal" pace its mostly by virtue of a longer stride which causes me to have to decelerate my foot-fall more intensely with each step. After a few minutes at such a pace my anterior tibialis becomes fatigued and I have to slow back down to avoid cramping. Now is this something that I should be training to be better at or does that mean that my pace is simply too fast? Or perhaps my stride is at fault?

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4 Answers

6
417ac0e162dc468b8ca61a574e5cd3c0

on October 03, 2011
at 03:02 PM

Saiklon and others:

Walking is one area that gets 'short shrift'/scant attention in the Paleo world. Which is remarkable, because walking really is truly the primal base in any physical activity model. I call walking the "great grandmother of all forms of exercise". There is no physiological substitute for purposeful/mindful walking and I view it as an essential (required) 'physical nutrient'. No matter how much weight-bearing/intense exercise you do, if you are 'walking deficient' you will eventually suffer from symptoms of 'walking deficiency syndrome'. No other form of physical activity can "substitute" for walking. Yes, it takes a certain degree of time, oh well. I do not have the citations handy, but I believe strong multidisciplinary evidence exists that we are evolved to walk at least 5-10 miles daily (on avg. with significant variation and diversity based on season, environmental conditions etc.). Studies have shown that Americans avg. somewhere in ballpark of less than 2 miles per day (3000-4000 steps per day on avg) . As a runner for decades, I did not really respect walking. Even though I had a number of patients who swore by walking and wore their little pedometers dutifully, I never gave it much heed. It was not until 2006 when I started my own personal 'Paleo Journey', I was already in my 40s and I began to look closer at the evidence and also began to experiment with less running and more walking. I found the results impressive, as I was able to maintain a surprising degree of running fitness with a mix of less running and more walking/hiking. In my wellness-based practice, we heavily emphasize the use of a simple, high-quality pedometer (or fitbits or gps, etc) (you can see the brand i recommend on my website) and promote the 10k steps per day (approx 5 miles per day) concept that originated in Japan. You NEVER know how much you walk per day until you actually MEASURE it, so everyone should know, with accuracy how much walking they do. At my office, with my chiro patients and coaching clients, I truly get great results when people commit to the concept. Good luck.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on October 03, 2011
at 07:46 PM

Totally agree...I call it Vitamin W.

A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on October 03, 2011
at 07:43 PM

Oooo... "essential physical nutrient" - I like that.

3
3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on October 03, 2011
at 12:27 AM

Much as you can do comfortably....why? because that is as much as you will do!

Reh, seriously just do as much as you can at a brisk pace all the time rather than watching tv or even hacking at this site! 3-5 miles/day is pretty damn awesome...unless your wearing a pedometer. I had a computer programmer that sits 10hs a day tell me he walks 2 miles a day....probably to the bathroom and back. The 3-5 miles I hope is on top of normal activity. And yes normal activity matters. My brother who works as an ironworker needs NO extra low level activity I'm sure. Nor does a mail man walkning a 15 mile route each day

Sorry to keep editing, but the why.....because how you spend your day matters. I completely agree that HG and paleo people might have spent 10-15 miles walking each and every day. Hence I also recognise that your current job/lifestyle counts toward that sum. So the more sedentary the job the more you need to work outside of it.....and vice versa.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on October 03, 2011
at 02:02 AM

I would argue the time "lost" is purely/and obviously subjective being that there are monks and so forth who spend their lives meditating. So your perceived losses are actually just a very real subjective complaint of lost time...you think you could have accomplished more important things apparantly? Its cool...I got two kids and cant take them on extra long walks (yet). So I understand that we have to delegate our time...But was it really time "lost", did you not contemplate or come into any conclusions on your 10 mile walk? I feel like I always come back with something myself...

5b69a02dadcae753771921d913909215

(1457)

on October 03, 2011
at 01:24 AM

I could probably walk dawn to dusk comfortably (thanks to barefoot/minimalist running I imagine). The other day I walked about 10 miles non-stop... I felt like the time I lost outweighed any benefits that I noticed (mostly just some extra fat-loss).

1
Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 03, 2011
at 07:39 PM

As much as you can do comfortably is a fair comment, already made by Jay. As far as why...

It was for health improvement to start. I lost 25 lbs and improved blood pressure and HDL numbers as well. I did it in preference to biking (seasonal and dangerous) and running (knees). But now I do it for transportation more than anything. Usually the goal is food, but today's goal included the bowling alley. It's become a point of pride to measure distance walked as gasoline saved - about 3 bbl so far this year.

1
Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on October 03, 2011
at 12:41 AM

I think this is really hard to quantify. At least in my view, seeing as paleo is a lifestyle, what you might be able to walk now can be improved upon, with patience -- and without risk of injury. A good starting benchmark might be your current 3-5 miles, but pace will certainly be a factor. It's a lot easier to walk that distance in the normal course of day than you might think, especially if you already walk a lot or are on your feet often. But if you can walk more without straining your body, then try it.

A different way to approach it might be to consider time. For instance. How long can you walk, at a comfortable pace, without feeling the need to stop? 20 mins? 40? an hour? and so on. When it comes to "moving a lot at a slow pace" as Mark Sisson puts it, endurance is a greater factor than strength.

5b69a02dadcae753771921d913909215

(1457)

on October 03, 2011
at 01:22 AM

I notice if I try to walk faster than a "normal" pace its mostly by virtue of a longer stride which causes me to have to decelerate my foot-fall more intensely with each step. After a few minutes at such a pace my anterior tibialis becomes fatigued and I have to slow back down to avoid cramping. Now is this something that I should be training to be better at or does that mean that my pace is simply too fast? Or perhaps my stride is at fault?

Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on October 03, 2011
at 01:33 AM

Do you walk barefoot? Barefooting certainly allows for a more natural and longer stride. So that might help. But as I understand it, the idea behind walking a lot isn't to rush, it's to go the distance without stopping often.

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