Walking typically yields slower, less dramatic results.
Increasing your activity level always confers some health benefits, and walking is an excellent aerobic workout for fitness beginners. Aerobic step, however, elevates the heart rate more quickly, providing a more intense workout that offers more benefits. You can also burn calories more quickly though an aerobic step fitness routine, which could lead to increased weight loss if the calorie burn helps create a calorie deficit.
High-Impact vs. Low-Impact
Aerobic step exercise can be either high-impact or low-impact. You can boost the intensity of stepping by incorporating jumping and running movements into your routine, making step aerobics high impact and a more challenging workout than walking. According to a 2013 study published in the "Journal of Bone and Mineral Research," high-impact exercise can help improve bone density and strength. However, the high-impact nature of step aerobics also poses some risks. If you have joint problems, repeatedly jumping or running and landing can irritate sensitive joints. If you have a history of joint pain, you may be better off starting with walking, then building up to step aerobics.
Weight-Loss and Calories Burned
Because aerobic step is a higher-intensity routine than walking, you can burn more calories stepping than if you spent the same amount of time walking. For example, a 185-pound person can burn 311 calories in 30 minutes of a low-impact stepping routine and 444 calories with a high-impact routine. At 185 pounds, you can burn 178 calories walking for 30 minutes at 3.5 mph and 222 calories at 4.5 mph.
Cardiovascular Health Benefits
Both walking and aerobic step are forms of cardiovascular exercise that elevate your heart rate and can improve cardiovascular health. With stepping, however, the benefits are more pronounced. A 2010 study by researchers at the University of Alberta found that both walking and more intense aerobic exercise could help people lose weight. However, the group that engaged in a more traditional aerobic workout, such as aerobic step, saw greater cardiovascular benefits, including a greater decrease in blood pressure.
The right routine for you depends upon your fitness goals. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends 75 minutes a week of vigorous cardio, such as stepping. If you stick to walking, the CDC advises 150 minutes per week. If you're trying to lose weight, you'll need even more exercise, particularly if you're not cutting calories from your diet.