5 Tips to Transform Your Walk Into a Workout
Walking has been shown to provide accessible, low-impact, weight-bearing fitness opportunities to people of all shapes and ages. In addition to being a great way to burn calories, walking also helps strengthen and tone your legs as well as hone balance and coordination skills.
Increase the challenge and effectiveness of your walk with these 5 quick tips:
Carry More Weight
Don’t literally put on more weight, but rather find heavy objects (i.e., books, bricks, water bottles, etc) to carry in a day pack while you walk or purchase a weighted vest. Adding to your own load conversely increases the energy you need to expend and the strength required to complete your walk. Some avid walkers even strap wrist or ankle weights to their body but experts recommend speaking first with your doctor about whether that is a good option for you as it can sometimes unnecessarily stress joints.
If your daily walk is contained to a treadmill inside a gym or a track around the mall, consider switching up your terrain and opting for more strenuous and challenging outdoor environments. Walk around your neighborhood, go on a hike with a friend, walk to the store instead of driving, you get the idea. Not only are you challenging yourself more, but outdoor exposure to fresh air and sunlight bears its own health benefits like improving your mood, boosting your attentiveness, and relieving stress.
Incorporate More Hills
Start using your walks to tone your lower and upper leg muscles more by incorporating longer and more strenuous hill work either by walking more hills outside or increasing the incline on your treadmill. Walking both up and down steep inclines requires more strength, balance, agility, and coordination. Hill work also helps you build up endurance over time and exercises the critical knee joints and adjacent muscles. Take it easy though; you want to build up hill work gradually to avoid accidentally injuring yourself by doing too much too soon.
You may be prioritizing a walk every day but not seeing the results you would hope from this regular exercise. One way to ramp up the calorie burn and get your heart racing is simply to speed up. Increasing the rate at which you walk will effectively increase your heart rate, helping generate the aerobic benefits that strengthen the heart muscle to combat the onset of lifestyle conditions like diabetes and hypertension.
Add in HIIT
Have you heard of high-intensity interval training (HIIT)? This sweat-breaking style of working out in intense burst of 30-second or 1-minute intervals has been shown to stimulate the body on a cellular level to boost glucose metabolism and support a healthy weight. You can really take your humdrum walk up a notch by intermittently adding in brief spurts of high-intensity activity like running up a hill, doing 25 squats, holding a plank for 1 minute, or doing lunges for 30 seconds.
Walking Workout Tips and Reminders
Use a walking aid – for those with limited mobility, regular walks may seem impractical, however, they can be just the low-impact activity you need to retain lower extremity strength and flexibility. Walking aids like quad canes, knee scooters, and walkers with wheels for those with poor arm strength provide the balance and support you need to feel safe and keep going.
Take a friend – if you’re looking to spice up your regular walk, consider inviting a friend to join you. Not only does it help your friend get some exercise too, but interacting with others socially offers its own health benefits including reduced risk of anxiety and depression plus improved outlook.
Stay hydrated – while walking might not seem like a workout, it’s important to remember to drink lots of water before, during, and after to fuel your energy levels and replace any fluids you may lose through sweating. It may be a good idea to have a little protein and carbohydrates after a more strenuous walk too; health post-workout snacks include protein shakes or peanut butter toast with a glass of milk.
Don’t ignore pain – if nagging foot, ankle, knee, or leg pain keeps creeping up every time you go for a walk, it may be time to chat with your doctor. Common overuse injuries like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, or even runner’s knee can get worse even with simple walking if you are not allowing your body to rest and heal.
Practice good form – even walking is more effective when good body mechanics are at work. As metioned on fit frek, for the most effective form, avoid long strides and keep your steps smaller to increase speed. Relax your shoulders, hold your arms close to your body, bent at the elbows in 90° angles so you can pump for more momentum and balance.