Is walking enough exercise to keep you fit?

This kind of walking is definitely not going to keep you fit.

Though challenging, this kind of walking is definitely not going to keep you “fit.”

I work with a good number of clients in their thirties, forties, and fifties (and up) who have lists of aches and pains that have snuck up on them over the years. By the time I meet them, they’ve often been to the doctor, chiropractor, acupuncturist, and the quantum biolaser spectrometric deionizing cardiopulmonatrix harmonizer. And still their knees hurt when getting up out of a chair or their backs don’t feel good after sitting for ten minutes.

From my experience, a great majority of these kinds of complaints resolve with proper exercise targeted at the proper groups of muscles in the proper way. To put it simpler: these people have gotten weak! Insufficient exercise has left parts of them too weak to do daily tasks.

When I do my first assessment of one of these achy people, the lack of muscle tone is usually painfully obvious. All or some butt muscles are often missing when the complaint is back, hip or knee pain, and the shoulder girdle is often positioned as badly as a hockey goalie at a basketball game.

When I point out to someone that parts of their bodies appear to be weak, I often hear a protest: “That’s impossible! I walk for 30 minutes every day!”

“I do the elliptical 5 days a week for 90 minutes each time! I can’t be weak!”

“Before this [body part] started hurting, I was running every day!”

And so on.

If you’re achy and you hear similar words in your own head, I have some heartbreaking, soul-crushing, life-changing, unrelentingly harsh news for you.

There is no one exercise, no one sport, that you can do or play that automatically keeps every muscle in your body strong, supple, and well-coordinated with the other muscles of your body. To maintain strength and mobility all over your body, you must provide the right kind of challenge to your whole body and to the individual parts that comprise it.

If you never drive your car beyond second gear, should you be surprised when it eventually won’t do third when you need it to?

If all you do is sit on a couch or chair, and do walk a couple miles a day, what makes you think you should naturally be able to squat slowly and with control into a chair when you’re done? Did you train your body to squat? Nope. You trained it to walk and sit. If all you do is spin your gears on an elliptical, why would you have the hip strength and mobility to pick up a heavy box from the floor without back pain? Did you train your body to stabilize itself while lifting an object off the floor? No. You trained it push the limbs forward and back for an hour. The body has a lot of parts that need to be challenged and lubricated in very specific ways, and there is simply no one activity that will provide enough of that challenge and lubrication to the neurological, muscular, and skeletal systems that you rely on.

That’s why you should be learning and performing different kinds of exercises, playing different sports, and challenging your body to do new things all the time.

Try a new exercise today. See how it feels, and learn what you need to do to make it feel easier and easier.

If you need one to try, get a giant rubber band and try this one out. Most people have extremely weak lateral hips (when’s the last time you had to crab walk?), so this can be a real kick in the ass.

If you pay attention and train your body right, your body will rise to the challenge. Just remember, there are no magic bullet exercises, just a whole lot of exercises that can be a whole lot of fun!


About the Author

Matt Hsu is a trainer and orthopedic massage therapist. He fought a long battle with chronic pain all over his body and won. He blends the principles he learned in his journey, empirical observations with clients, and relevant research to help others get their lives back.