Here's What You Need to Know If You're Banking on Walking to Get in Shape

If you spend any time researching ways to lose weight or simply be more active, you're likely to come across this recommendation: walk more. And sure, that's easy enough to do, no matter your fitness level. But is walking really effective enough to be your primary source of exercise?

"Walking is fantastic because practically everyone can do it, practically anywhere, and it gets us outside in nature and requires very little equipment," Mike Siemens, an ACSM-certified personal trainer and corporate director of exercise physiology at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, AZ, told POPSUGAR. "It can also burn a great deal of calories for weight loss or weight control."

For walking to be really beneficial, you need to focus not only on quantity of movement, but also on quality, Mike explained. When it comes to cardio, quality translates to intensity — specifically, working out hard enough to reach 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. "As such, for most fit people, walking on flat ground is not intense enough to optimize fitness improvement," he said.

Apart from that, walking only improves cardiovascular endurance. It doesn't contribute to muscle strength, flexibility, or balance and agility. That's why Mike recommends people walk four days a week, then add in two to three days a week of strength training, as well as a few minutes of flexibility work after each walk. You can also make it a habit to stop every four to five minutes during a walk to do 10 or more reps of strength training exercises like push-ups or squats.