Whether you’re a frequent gym-goer with muscle-building on your mind or a fitness-tracker addict with your sights set firmly on that daily 10,000 steps, you’ve probably wondered whether walking builds muscle. After all, it’s our most common type of exercise, and for others who have difficulty lifting weights or engaging in intensive cardio, it’s the only option.
According to Brett Starkowitz, master trainer and director of education at Ten Health & Fitness, “walking is usually seen as a kind of low-intensity cardiovascular exercise.” “It doesn’t usually result in major changes in muscle mass or tone.” That’s all there is to it, right? Well, not exactly, so keep hunting for the finest treadmills for a little longer.
“Walking is an endurance workout that is known to develop slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are the fibers that are mostly employed for periods of prolonged activity. “After walking, people may see a modest increase in leg size as the legs’swell’ to take in nutrients and expel waste items like lactic acid,” Starkowitz explains.
This might explain why your calves are bulging after your usual stroll around the neighborhood park, but the difference in volume won’t last more than an hour. However, if you walk for long amounts of time on a daily basis, those toned calves may linger around, according to a 2018 research by Nagoya University, which found that 31 participants’ muscular quality increased after 10 weeks of regular 30-minute walking sessions.
While you won’t be able to create the legs of an Olympic weightlifter while walking, you will gain muscle. We’ll look at which muscles are used when walking, if you can burn fat while doing so, and receive recommendations from Starkowitz on how to improve your everyday walks and start growing muscle quicker.
What muscles do you use while you walk?
Walking mostly works your lower body, primarily activating your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and hip adductors, as well as your spine and abdominal muscles, all of which help to stabilize your trunk as you walk forward.
“Walking is one of the finest all-around leg exercises,” says Starkowitz, who adds that if you want to turn walking into a full-body workout, you’ll need to add tiny hand weights or Nordic poles.
Is it possible to lose weight while walking?
Yes. “Cardiovascular exercise combined with a healthy diet is a winning combination for fat loss,” adds Starkowitz. “The trick is to keep an eye on your heart rate and work in the ‘Fat Burning Zone.'” This normally amounts to operating at 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate, which equates to a 7 to 12 calorie burn per minute.”
When seeking for fat-burning outcomes from walking, the length is also vital to consider.
“When you’re working at this low to moderate level, you need to make sure your walks are long enough to see effects,” Starkowitz adds.
Remember that if you’re trying to lose weight, exercising in the morning is preferable, according to a research published in the International Journal of Obesity. Participants in a 10-month supervised exercise program lost more weight when they exercised between 7 a.m. and 11:59 a.m.
According to Starkowitz, “regular walking helps sustain lean muscular mass.” “Unlike fat, muscle mass is metabolically active, which means you burn more calories on a regular basis.”
Do you need some assistance fitting in the additional steps? Install one of the finest treadmills beneath your desk and take a walk while you work.
Increasing muscle mass during walking
There are various techniques to enhance your muscle-building potential when walking, according to Starkowitz.
“Incorporating intervals by alternating between walking at a steady speed and conducting a ‘power walk,’ a short jog, or a sprint” is a popular choice, according to Starkowitz. “By stimulating fast-twitch muscle fibers, this will have various effects on cardiovascular endurance and strength improvements.”
“You might also take a break from walking to do some bodyweight exercises like lunges, squats, push-ups, or planks.” To enhance the cross-training benefit, include brief 20-30 second bodyweight strength intervals throughout your walk. Alter the direction of your walk by using reverse jogging and side-stepping intervals to work on balance and stability.”
Aside from these multi-functional kinds of exercise, you may also add weights to your stroll. Hand weights and Nordic poles have already been discussed, but you could also want to explore a weighted vest or ankle weights.
“Weighted vests also force you to use and develop your back muscles, ensuring that you maintain excellent posture during your walk,” explains Starkowitz.
Furthermore, according to a 2018 systematic analysis published in BioMed Research International, walking with weights may enhance bone muscle density and lower the incidence of fractures.
Changing the landscape
Taking your stroll off the level ground and up the hill is another wonderful approach to increase muscle mass.
“Walking on trails, roads, grass, sloping or uneven surfaces, or unstable surfaces like sand or gravel can put greater strain on the muscles of your lower leg, ankles, and feet than walking on tarmac,” adds Starkowitz. “Alternate your walking path to incorporate a few various inclines and surfaces, and if you come across a set of stairs, take them.”
If the thought of walking off-road scares you, try walking on a treadmill inside. “Variate the intensity and muscle activation of the exercise by exercising at various inclines and speeds,” explains Starkowitz. “Finally, let go of the handrails if you’re walking on a treadmill.” You’ll burn a lot more calories and engage a lot more core muscles.”