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Will Walking Give Me Big Calves?

Walking Shouldn't Bulk Up Your Calves

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Updated April 07, 2012

Walking Legs in Capris

Lean Calves on Half Marathon Walkers

Wendy Bumgardner © 2011
I often get mail from women who worry that walking is giving them big calf muscles. Trainer Lorra Garrick says walking should produce lean, long muscles and harden the muscles you already have, rather than produce bulky muscles.
Will I Get Big Legs from Walking?

Bodybuilder Hugo Rivera confirmed to me that new walkers may see a slight increase in their calf size. Let's emphasize slight. He says you would have to be a genetically unique individual to have significant growth in your calf muscles from walking, especially for women. Bodybuilders do not achieve calf growth from just walking.
Bodybuilding Myths

But Really, Walking Gave Me Big Calves!

If you think your calves are bigger, that is your body image reality. It might be objective - did you measure them before you started walking? Or it might just be what you see in the mirror when you look at yourself. Any muscle will be larger right after exercise, so look at them first thing in the morning rather than after a long walk. Hugo says that the shape of your calves is pretty much determined at birth - we are born with longer or shorter lower legs, and calf muscles set higher or lower. Avoiding hills or stairs may reduce bouts of intense, short term exercise which might cause you to build bulkier muscles.

It's Probably the Fat, Not the Muscle

Bulk generally comes from fat overlying the muscle, not muscle. How are your clothes fitting since you started walking - are you gaining or losing inches at your waistband? We add extra fat all over our body when we gain it, in places you would not expect. I have to tighten my watchband as I lose weight, so I can expect that I also gain and lose fat in my calves.

Gaining and Losing Fat Bulk

You should be burning off fat with your walking program, but only if you are eating fewer calories than you burn each day. Unless you are tracking how much you eat, you may be eating more than you think. You may be replacing the fat just as fast as you are burning it off. Some studies show that women eat more when they exercise more. If you haven't been tracking your eating as you have increased your walking, start keeping a food diary to see where extra calories may have snuck into your diet.

Don't Stop Walking Due to Body Image

Nothing is more attractive than a healthy glow. Not only does walking improve your fitness, it also reduces your risks for all major diseases including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. The minimum daily requirement is 30 - 60 minutes a day of exercise to reduce your health risks. Don't give up exercise because of how you think you look. People always appreciate an energetic, healthy person, or one able to bounce back from a health crisis due to their overall fitness.
Are You Punishing Yourself Due to Your Body Image?

If All Else Fails - Camouflage

If how you feel about your legs is damaging how you feel about yourself, then there are simple ways to hide them. Wear pants. There are many yoga-style pants available for walking and exercise with wider legs to hide our perceived flaws. For dress, select long lean skirts or pants that will hide your calves and lengthen your line.
Dress for Your Body Type
Related Video
Get a Better Walking Workout by Avoiding these Pitfalls

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