Give Your Walk a Boost
The next time you fasten your dog’s leash or lace up your sneakers for a walk, listen closely. You may hear two little words coming from your body to you: thank you. After all, that simple 30-minute walk gives your body a gift. A daily walk lowers blood pressure, strengthens bones, increases serotonin and improves heart health (it keeps your pet healthy too)!
Whether you are a beginner or a competitive athlete, walking is one of the best workouts around. Practically free, weather-proof and low-maintenance, it can be the start of a new exercise program or a recovery workout in between intense training bouts.
Walking is also a great opportunity to get some extra bang for your buck. Check out these five ways to boost your walking workout to burn more calories and gain more fitness in the same amount of time.
1. Take the Hills
Walking on uneven or steeper terrain than we are used to makes our bodies work harder, and then we become stronger! If you have access to hills, take them! It’s okay to start slow and build as you get stronger. If you walk on a treadmill, check out some of the hill settings and vary the incline now and then. You’ll burn more calories and build more strength.
2. Add weight
Walking will definitely help you lose weight, but replacing some of it in the form of resistance can be great for your workout! Walking while holding hand weights or strapping them to your wrists or ankles is not recommended, but a weighted vest, when worn properly, is a safe alternative. A weighted vest centers the weight on your body and should be worn snugly to be most effective. Most weighted vests are adjustable, so you add weight as you become stronger. Try on your vest in the store; comfort and a snug fit are key!
3. Speed up!
When increasing the intensity of your workout, it may feel like taking bigger, longer strides and swinging your arms out further in front of you will do the trick. You may be surprised! Instead, strive to increase the cadence, not the stride, of your walk so you take slightly smaller, quicker steps with a faster turnover. Bend your elbows at 90 degrees and keep your arms close to your body to build momentum. Remember to increase the distance you plan to cover, so you can maximize your calorie burn in the same amount of time!
4. Add intervals
Interval training, which alternates higher and lower intensity exercise throughout your workout, produces faster cardiovascular results and can help with endurance and stamina. The goal of intervals is to work at a higher intensity for a short period, and then recover with a slower period of activity. You can alternate walking speed, incline versus flat surface, even walking with jogging. Alternate the intensity for as long as you’d like, and pay attention to signals that you are ready for more challenge!
5. Use Walking Poles
What would you think if I told you that you could work harder and use more muscle strength in your walking workout without perceiving that you were putting forth more effort? Studies show that people who walk with poles, sometimes referred to as Nordic walking, burn more calories and perceive their workouts to be easier than those who walk without poles. Walking poles are often used for stability when hiking, but are appropriate and safe for use on the road as well!
It’s a great time of year to get outside, so lace up your shoes and try one (or all!) of these ideas for taking your walk to the next level. Then, when you’re done and hearing the thanks from your body, remember to say, “you’re welcome.”
Heather Fuselier, CTTS, CPT, CHC
Health Advisor | E-Mail Heather