Heather Marr is an NYC-based personal trainer and The Model Trainer Method creator, whose A-list client roster includes some of the world’s most famous supermodels. Ahead, she answers the question, “can walking really replace cardio?”
Can walking replace cardio? The answer to this question is not black and white and depends on many factors. First, you need to assess your current fitness level, look at your current programming and your goals.
First, take an honest assessment of your starting point and your current programming. If you are sedentary, taking 10,000 steps per day is certainly a move in the right direction. Any type of activity that you are willing and able to do – including taking 10,000 steps daily – is of course better than nothing at all. If you are super fit and replace your daily 15-kilometer run with 10,000 steps, that's a move in the wrong direction. Being honest with yourself and assessing your current fitness level is important.
Next, you need to look at your goals. If you are looking to improve your aerobic fitness level, this is really not going to cut it for most people. In order to improve, you must gradually increase the demand and stress on the body. If you are training for a 10-kilometer run for instance, these steps – especially if they’re being performed at lower intensity – are really not going to get you there. Even when we look at the example of the sedentary individual implementing these steps daily, that will only cut it for so long. If you do the same 10,000 steps day in and day out, your body will adapt to this workload. For those looking to improve their aerobic fitness level, there must be an increased demand on the body during their conditioning work. No gradual increase in stress placed on the body will result in a plateau.
If goals are centered around weight loss, creating a deficit is necessary. This can be achieved through a combination of training and nutrition, including taking 10,000 steps in addition to reducing fuel intake. It's certainly not the most efficient way to reach weight loss goals though. Again, for someone who is sedentary, this is a move in the right direction. Taking 10,000 steps daily is better than doing nothing. Over time as conditioning improves, these steps could be replaced with more challenging cardiovascular workouts.
If your goal is to find an active recovery activity to use on your rest days, then taking 10,000 steps might be a great option for you. Active recovery is basically a lower intensity activity that you can perform on your rest days. Think: heading out for a walk instead of relaxing on the couch all day.
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis is basically the energy your body uses for everything that isn’t related to sleeping, eating or training. This really is where these steps fit in best for most. It's about increasing your overall daily activity whether it be cleaning, gardening or taking your steps. There's nothing wrong with aiming for 10,000 steps every day if it increases your activity level initially. It's essential though to be realistic about what these steps can and can’t do for you.