There’s no shortage of high-profile people who rave about the health benefits of walking.
Rebel Wilson has credited it as the “simple” way she transformed her body during her “year of health”, while radio-host Chrissie Swan has also raved about adopting the daily habit.
It’s not just celebrities who swear by walking, it was widely touted by health experts as the best way to keep fit during the pandemic when gyms and fitness facilities were closed.
But as a somewhat mundane form of movement many of us complete with our eyes closed, I’d never really taken it seriously as a way to get healthier and fitter.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against walking. But I definitely slot into the category of an amble stroller, mostly using walking as a tool to get me from A to B.
So while I regularly hit my 10,000 steps a day, there was never any pace or urgency behind my stride.
However, my opinion has been turned on its head recently – completely by accident I might add – after I was invited to try out the new Peloton Tread.
As an established member of the fitness app (don’t judge me, I bought the bike during Sydney’s second lockdown), Peloton offered me a chance to trial the $4445 device when it launched in Australia at the start of the year.
Initially I’d resisted the offer because I live in a one-bedroom apartment – and it’s a bit of a beast.
But after having a few spins on the Tread in the Peloton showroom in the city, I began having dreams of giving Usain Bolt a run for his money. My new roommate moved in shortly after.
Very quickly, my hopes of becoming a world class runner were dashed.
It’s never been my favourite form of exercise, and I soon learned that just because there was a new top of the range treadmill at my disposal, it didn’t mean I was going to fall in love with the sport instantly.
As my expectations slunk, I decided not to let my struggles with running deter me from making the most of this incredible piece of kit.
My Peloton membership, which costs $59.99 a month for anyone with a bike or treadmill, or $16.99 for those accessing just the app, gives users access to a huge variety of workouts.
This includes HIIT and strength sessions as well as yoga, pilates, boxing and dance classes.
Through the treadmill, I had access to the brand’s “hiking” and “power walk” sessions, so I decided to give them a try.
Despite the non-confronting names, these classes were no walk in the park.
During a hike session, the incline would automatically adjust to mimic hills, which when at the tread’s maximum height was surprisingly difficult.
Though you can’t auto-set the speed to adjust itself like you can on the Peloton bike (this is for safety reasons), having an instructor calling out when to go faster really motivated me to get a wriggle on.
The power walks were equally as hard – you’d be surprised how much of a sweat you can get on when walking at pace and with purpose.
Soon the classes became my go-to.
On days I wouldn’t normally exercise, I found myself on the machine. There was something mentally accessible about going for a “walk”.
Often, I’d find that a short walk on the treadmill would help me break the mental barrier holding me back from doing something a little more challenging, and I’d go to do another workout.
Going for a walk also eased the “guilt” I so often feel, even though I know I shouldn’t, on days when I didn’t have time or the energy to go full-throttle.
However, the biggest surprise came in improvements to my running, which I was oblivious to until I did a Barry’s Bootcamp class with a friend.
She’d commented on how much improvement I’d made, and asked me what training I’d been doing.
When I responded with “walking heaps”, everything clicked. This is what everyone had been talking about.
“As simple as it is, walking is a trusty faithful form of exercise that has a number of incredible physical and mental health benefits, such as stimulating the digestive system, improving sleep, reducing stress, maintain a healthy weight, improve heart health and more,” Bernadette Fahey, founder of cult pilates class Body By Berner, explained to news.com.au.
“Walking has long been heralded a ‘secret weapon’ for weight loss.
“It’s effective because it is a low impact activity, meaning you can do it daily.
“Walking is a great form of cross-training to add into your routine to compliment more intense training such as pilates, running or boxing.”
The Sydney-based pilates and fitness expert added that walking on an incline in particular with help grow cardiovascular health.
“As a rule, the bigger the incline and the faster you walk, the more muscles and energy you’ll recruit, resulting in bigger fitness improvements.”
Data on my Apple Watch supports this, with improvement on my cardio fitness recorded as increasing slowly and steadily since April, when I first started using the device.
My mind was officially blown.
I’ve been using the Peloton tread for three months now on a regular basis, and I’m definitely choosing more running classes than at the start, and can feel such an improvement.
My endurance has definitely gone up and with it, my enjoyment, too.
In the process, I’ve also managed to lose 4 kgs, which has definitely put an extra spring in my step.
Not a bad result considering I’ve not stepped foot in a traditional gym and I’ve achieved it with a simple form of movement.