Whether you’re a regular exerciser with constant muscle building in mind, or a fitness tracker fan with your eyes fixed on the daily 10,000, you’ll probably have thought, does it build muscle? After all, it is our most common form of exercise, and for someone who may have trouble lifting weights or participating in intense cardio, it is the only form that can be completed.
“Walking is primarily seen as a form of low-intensity cardiovascular exercise,” says Brett Starkowitz, master trainer and head of education at Ten Health & Fitness (opens in new tab). “It usually does not cause significant changes in either muscle mass or tone.” Well that’s it then, right? Well, not quite, so do not stop looking around for the best treadmills (opens in new tab) yet.
“Walking falls into the category of endurance exercises, which are known to build slow muscle fibers; the fibers that are mainly used during periods of sustained activity. People may notice a slight increase in bone size after walking when their legs “swell up” to absorb nutrients and remove waste products – such as lactic acid (opens in new tab)says Starkowitz.
This may explain the bulging calves after your regular walk around the local park, but unfortunately the change in volume will not last more than an hour after. Still, keep going for extended periods regularly, and the toned calves can stay around, with a 2018 study from Nagoya University (opens in new tab) found that muscle quality improved among 31 participants after 10 weeks of regular 30-minute sets of walking.
So even if you are not going to build the legs of an Olympic weightlifter while walking, there are muscles to build from it. With that, we look at which muscles are being worked on while walking, whether you can burn fat by doing so, and get tips from Starkowitz to help you increase your daily walks and start building muscle faster.
What muscles are worked on while walking?
Walking will mainly be working the lower body, and mainly stimulating the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves and hip adductor muscles, as well as the spine and abdominal muscles, all of which play a significant role in stabilizing the trunk as you move forward.
“Walking is one of the best workouts for all legs,” says Starkowitz, who also mentions the need to include small dumbbells or Nordic poles if you want to extend your walk to a full body workout.
Can you burn fat while walking?
Yes. “Cardiovascular exercise, along with the right diet, is a great way to burn fat,” says Starkowitz. “The key is to monitor your heart rate and work in what is known as the ‘fat burning zone.’
Another important aspect to consider when looking for fat burning results by walking is duration.
“Working with this low to moderate intensity means you have to make sure your trips are long enough to see meaningful results,” says Starkowitz.
Also keep in mind that if you want to exercise for weight loss, morning is best, with a study in the International Journal of Obesity (opens in new tab)and found that participants who completed a 10-month supervised exercise program experienced greater weight loss success when exercising between 7 a.m. and 11:59 p.m.
“Regular walking helps maintain lean muscle mass,” says Starkowitz. “Muscle mass, unlike fat, is metabolically active, which means you burn more calories on a daily basis.”
Do you need help pushing in the extra steps? Install one of the best treadmills (opens in new tab) under your desk and you can stroll while working.
Maximizes muscle building while walking
According to Starkowitz, there are several ways to maximize muscle building potential while walking.
“A popular option is to include intervals by alternating between walking at a steady pace and taking a ‘powerwalk,’ a light jog, or a sprint,” says Starkowitz. fast muscle fibers.
You can also take a break during the walk to add some bodyweight exercises, such as lunges, squats, push-ups or planks. Try working small 20-30 second bodyweight intervals into the walk to maximize the cross-training effect. Or change the direction of the walk by adding intervals of backward jogging and side steps to work on improving balance and stability. “
In addition to these cross-functional forms of exercise, there is also the potential to add weights to the trip. We have mentioned dumbbells and Nordic poles, but you may also want to consider a weight vest or ankle weights.
“Weighted vests have the added benefit of getting you to engage and strengthen your back muscles to ensure you maintain a good posture throughout the trip,” says Starkowitz.
In addition, going with weights can also increase your bone muscle density and reduce the risk of fractures according to a systematic review from 2018 in BioMed Research International (opens in new tab).
Mixes up the terrain
Another great way to increase muscle building is to take the trip from a flat surface and climb the ascent.
“Walking on paths, roads, grass, sloping or uneven surfaces, or unstable surfaces such as sand or gravel, will challenge the muscles of the lower leg, ankles and feet more than on the pavement, and they must work harder to maintain balance and stability,” he said. Starkowitz. “Try alternating the route of the hike to include a few different climbs and surfaces, and if you find a set of stairs along the hike, take them.”
And if the idea of going off-road stops you from going out completely, you can go indoors with a treadmill. “Alternates between working at different inclines and speeds to vary the intensity and muscle recruitment of the workout,” says Starkowitz. “Finally, if you walk on a treadmill, drop the runners. You will increase your calorie burning and recruitment of your core muscles far more.”
Effects of 10-week walking and walking with home-based resistance training on muscle quality, muscle size and physical function tests in healthy elderly individuals (opens in new tab).
The effects of timing of workouts on weight loss and components of the energy balance. (opens in new tab)
The effectiveness of physical exercise on bone density in osteoporotic patients. (opens in new tab)