It’s been scientifically proven that walking is good for our health, but here’s how to make the most of the time you spend exercising.
It’s widely understood that walking could actually save your life. But as well as being life-prolonging, walking is also a great way to keep up your general fitness–and there are ways you can push yourself while out for a stroll to ensure you’re getting the optimum benefits.
If you struggle fitting regular, rigorous exercise into your life, why not take a look at these tips–compiled by Bear Fitness personal trainer Sarah Ryder–on how to go that little bit further when walking, and reap the fitness rewards.
- Try a more vigorous arm swing
Your muscles are designed to move, so get those arms working; it will activate more muscle fibers and get the blood pumping. But make sure you keep your arms at a 90° angle to ensure they can keep up with your legs.
Up the ante and use some Nordic Poles to get even more of the upper body and torso engaged. Research suggests that this burns an additional 20-40% calories–brilliant!
- Implement a Fartlek-style walk
Simply put, you select three different paces (fast, medium and slow) to keep your body guessing, while giving it time to recover for the fast bursts. You will be able to maintain this for much longer than a standard fast walk, which means you’ll increase the amount of calories you burn.
Up the ante and slightly change your walking style while walking faster. For example, use a heel/mid-foot/toe strike to engage the hamstring and glutes for a greater burn.
- Start tracking
Use a heart-rate monitor to ensure you are actually pushing your body and not just going for a dawdle. The higher your heart rate, the greater the benefits (up to a certain point).
Up the ante and get new trainers. A pair with optimum flexibility and little cushioning will do the trick, because this will engage more muscle fibers to make sure the foot is controlled.
- Experiment with lunges
It makes a huge difference if you take a break from walking every now and then, and throw in some bodyweight (or weighted exercises). Even if this is just lifting your bottle of water over your head and lunging, it’ll make a big difference to the body’s response, as lifting anything above your head will make your heart work harder.
Up the ante and add in a jump. Turning any movement into a plyometric (that just means jumping, in exercise-speak) one will increase the demand on the body, and will make a marked difference to your current walking routine. Weather this is jumping, squats, lunges, press-ups or the dreaded burpee, it will all make a difference.
- Add in an incline
Increase the incline and you could burn up to 50% more calories. Anything above an incline of 2.5% gives a marked increase in oxygen consumption–and therefore fuel burnt. Hello, hills; farewell, calories!
Up the ante and keep your speed up. If you walk at a speed of 4.7 m.p.h., you will burn the same amount of calories as jogging—which isn’t bad for the casual walker.
- Walk with weight
This is a lovely way to increase your burn. A weighted backpack is the best option, as an over shoulder bag can place undue strain on the spine. Ideally choose one with a waist and chest strap, and that way you will reduce the amount the bag bounces around.
Up the ante and try a farmer carry. If you’re not sure what this is, think of how you’d carry your food shopping home–bending down and picking up a weight with each arm, while keeping your back straight.
Although this is often viewed as difficult (and is therefore dreaded) because of the additional stress it places on the body, you can’t deny that it gets the old ticker going and it will make you work much harder than merely carrying a backpack. Plus, farmer carrying should improve your grip–and a strong grip is proven to have a positive correlation to heart health.