Walking is one of the best exercises you can do. It doesn’t require anything more than a good pair of walking shoes. (that’s shoes made specifically for the activity of walking….not just your most comfortable shoes)
A good brisk walk can help shed unwanted pounds, relieve stress, aid in digestion, and strengthen your bones. Regular exercise like walking can help with arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, depression, and cancer.
Here are 10 ways that you can “up the ante” to get the most out of it.
1. Use your arms. You burn more calories when you pump or swing your arms. …and no one will stop you to chat. (if you choose hand weights, remember to keep them light…start of with 1 lb, and don’t exceed 3 lbs to avoid back injury)
2. Take smaller steps. Time yourself walking 100 steps. For the next 100 steps, try to shave 5 seconds off you time, then recover for one minute. Repeat 12 times. When you boost your speed, you boost your burn.
3. Get some poles. no…not Bob Polanski and his friends…..Nordic poles. You burn 20% more calories by engaging the muscles in your upper body with poles. Plant the pole at a 45 degree angle behind you, then push forcefully against the ground to propel yourself forward.
4. Set goals you can see. Choose markers that are ahead of you (stop sign, parked car etc) and speed up until you reach them, then recover for the same distance. (no…the marker cannot be a Starbucks)
5. Wipe the pavement. Roll through your step from heel to toe. When you get to the ball of your foot really push off. This will tone the muscles of your calf hamstring and glutes (translation: back of leg and butt)
6. Wear the right shoe. To get the most from your walking, choose a shoe that gives you the most flexibility in the front and minimum cushioning.
7. Stand straight. When your body is aligned, your back and butt muscles are able to work more powerfully, so you are able to walk faster and burn more calories. Also, the stray dogs may not mess with you.
8. Skip the killer hills. It’s better to maintain your speed on a moderate hill or flat surface, than to slow down on a big hill. Steep hills are also a strain on your back.
9. Raise your rate. Wearing a heart monitor is like having constant feedback. You will know when to speed up and slow down. Figure your target heart rate here and check your monitor to make sure you’re “in the zone”.
10. Add strength. Consider pausing every 5-7 minutes and do one minute of moves like push ups (on your knees or hands) or lunges.
Working as a nurse in Cardiac Rehab, we saw people from the ages of 30 to 80 get great results in their fitness level and weight loss with walking. If you have never exercised before, start with just 10 minutes 3 x week. Increase the time by 2 minutes each week.
For heart health, 20 minutes 3 x week is minimum, but to burn calories and increase stamina, you must walk at least 30-45 minutes 5 x week. But work up to it slowly.
Stretching is important to increase flexibility and reduce injury. See some good easy stretches here. (You can print out the PDF for reference.)
Thanks for reading!
Please remember to check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine.
10 tips were adapted from November 2010 issue of Health magazine