Walking-based employee fitness programs are popular, and it’s not hard to see why: They’re simple to track and implement. Employees are given pedometers and asked to log how many steps they take per day. They’re rewarded for attaining a given number of steps per day, usually 10,000, or for increasing their step count over time.
Walking is also popular because it’s not as intimidating as other types of exercise. It’s free, anyone can do it and it’s usually enjoyable. Employees can easily increase the number of steps they take each day by making small, nonthreatening lifestyle changes like using the stairs instead of the elevator or parking farther away from the door (to be clear: we love these choices!).
Easy, fun, simple: Walking sounds like the perfect fitness activity. But it’s not. It’s an excellent first step into fitness for beginners, but it’s not intense enough for more experienced exercisers.
Walking burns less than half the calories of more vigorous forms of exercise. A 150-pound person burns 336 calories per hour of walking, but 816 per hour of running or biking. To reach the 500 calorie per day deficit needed for healthy weight loss, you’d need to walk for an hour and a half, but run or bike for only 37 minutes.*
Walking isn’t as good for cardiovascular health as more intense types of exercise. Though it’s certainly better than sitting on the couch, it won’t reduce your blood pressure or improve your lung capacity as much as more vigorous exercise.
Plus, walking-based fitness programs omit two types of exercises which are crucial to developing a healthy musculoskeletal system: strength training and flexibility exercises.
That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with walking. Since it’s so low-impact, walking’s excellent exercise for beginners, the elderly, the obese, and people recovering from injuries. And it’s far better for you than staying sedentary. If your choices are walking or sitting around, by all means, walk.
But if your employees are moderately healthy, they’ll get more out of a strength training workout or a high-impact cardio session than they will out of an hour spent walking. That’s why it’s important to choose a wellness program that works for employees at all levels of fitness. A one-size-fits-all walking program will improve the health of your least active workers, but won’t do much for those who are in better shape. Instead, find a program that’s flexible enough to maximize everyone’s fitness, whether they’re avid gym-goers or exercise rookies, who may indeed want to start with walking.
Interested in this type of flexible fitness program and its benefits? Learn more here.
Photo Credit: Promote Healthy Lifestyles, Flickr
*We obtained these numbers by using the American Council on Exercise’s Physical Activity Calorie Counter.