No Fitness Routine Is Complete Without This Weekly Habit

Work out all you want. Just make sure to walk it out, too.

A walking sign-post nailed to a tree.
One easy way to walk more? "Bundle" the habit with other activities. We explain.
Tyler Lastovich/Unsplash

Arnold Schwarzenegger has two specific, self-reported chinks in his wellness armor: A) he doesn’t drink enough water, and B) he doesn’t walk enough steps. In Q&A’s on his app, he’s expressed an earnest desire to get better at both. I found the latter of his two confessions — that he doesn’t think he’s supporting his workouts with enough walks — surprising and fascinating. Because in recent years, health experts have expressed the exact opposite point: while walking is powerful, it can’t sustain a routine on its own. If it’s all you do, you need to work out in other ways.

So why should someone like Arnold be stressing about steps? Shouldn’t he be satisfied with his legendary lifts and fat-tire biking sessions? Well, the research indicates that even frequent exercisers should make sure walking is a hallmark of their weekly routines. Consider this cohort study, which reached a clear-as-day conclusion: “Walking 8,000 steps or more on at least 1–2 days per week was associated with lower all-cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality, compared with no days of walking 8,000 steps.”

That’s some robust data. Below, we discuss the merits of walking more steps, and specifically for those who already move their bodies every single day. It’s less about stocking up fitness extra credit and more about setting up a healthy habit that will continue to serve you once the rest of your routine becomes extra difficult.

The Running Strategy That Doesn’t Get Enough Credit
Start walking during your runs. It’s totally allowed.

All Exercisers Should Walk More

If you take another peak at that weekly walking mandate, it’s not asking for a lot. In the past, we’ve outed the “10,000 steps a day” goal as random and unnecessary, and this research reinforces that point. Can you rack up 8,000 steps a couple times a week? Of course you can. That’s all it takes to dramatically influence your mortality risks. But it’ll require some intention and effort.

Depending on your exercise of choice, it’s very possible to be a highly-motivated and consistent trainee who very rarely pushes past 5,000 steps or so in a given day. Yoga takes place on a six-foot mat, rowing on a machine, cycling from a seat. Even lifters like Arnold may only log a couple hundred steps walking from one set of weights to the next.

And what’s in between these sessions or classes? Hours at the desk, on a commute or at the TV. We’re in the middle of a sedentary crisis; there’s now a bio-measurement called “stand hours,” which tracks how many hours in a day we get up to move for just one minute. This is depressingly harder than it sounds.

That Said, Try Not to Think of It as Exercise

Runners are probably the one group of exercisers that doesn’t need to make a conscious walking effort, but they should anyway. The merits of walking go beyond longevity or cardiovascular benefits. Walking has the potential to be a lifelong vocation, as an activity you can take into your late retirement years, once a regular running, cycling or swimming habit proves too stressful for the body. If you’ve always made a point to walk more, you’ll likely continue to do so without really thinking about it.

You can start cultivating walking as a natural, “non-exercise exercise” immediately. The easiest way to make it a predictable and automatic pillar of your routine is to habit-bundle it with other things you want to do or achieve in your day.

For instance: I take a digestive stroll every day after lunch, no matter what. By that point, I’m already six hours removed from my morning run and lift. I found it a nice opportunity to stretch out the body, to pay attention to what feels strong or stiff. I typically spend this time catching up with a favorite podcast or calling a family member. It doesn’t feel like exercise, and it doesn’t look like exercise — I’m in street clothes, strolling along, rarely sweating.

I write so much about walking for this website. In fact, I’ve linked to four articles I’ve written on the subject below (and there’s much more where that came from in my wellness archives). But usually, it’s from the framework of begging people to move — asking non-trainees to get up and get some steps in.

I wonder if there are more Arnolds out there, though. Folks who work out for an hour a day (and never miss it!) but otherwise stay static for the rest of their waking hours. Over time, how might that be impacting your back? Your brain? Remember, no matter what you do — or how hard you work — make time for some more steps, just a couple times a week. No fitness routine is complete without it. I’m confident the habit will enrich your life and give you more of it, in the end.

Win the Ultimate Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix Experience

Want the F1 experience of a lifetime? Here’s your chance to win tickets to see Turn 18 Grandstand, one of Ultimate Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix’s most premier grandstands!