As a former avid runner, my response to this article would have been, why walk when you can run? I always felt guilty if I chose a workout that, to me, seemed less intense. However, after sustaining a back injury, I have been forced to get creative with my workouts and put high impact exercises on the back burner.
This weekend, the weather was too beautiful to be inside. So, I figured, walking as my workout was better than no activity at all. After about ten minutes, I realized that walking actually is a great workout and there are plenty of ways to bring the intensity while doing it.
Here are a few simple tips to use:
Take it outside. It’s great to be outside, especially after a long winter. It helps relieve the cabin fever many of us experience throughout our day, and can be a quick mood booster. So, throw on those sneakers and go get that Vitamin D! Even if you only have ten minutes to spare on a lunch break, your mind and your body will thank you.
Alternate your speed. Just as with all cardio, intervals are the key to toning and achieving cardiovascular benefits. If you are walking on a treadmill, this is very easy to clock. Walk briskly, or speed walk, for two minutes, then walk at a steadier, slower pace for one minute. Repeat for as long as you desire. I would recommend at least twenty minutes.
If you are walking outside, there are several ways to keep track of your intervals. One of my favorite ways to gage this is by using the length of a song on my iPod to know when to change my pace. For example, I will speed walk for the full length of a song and then walk slower for half of the following song. Another great way is to use the app mapmywalk. It will show your distance, pace, and calories burned.
Not into carrying anything with you while you walk? A watch will do.
Change your course. To keep up your motivation as well as reap physical benefits, don’t always walk the same course. Try a different park, or walk a different direction around your neighborhood. Choose a path that alternates between flat and hilly. This is great for your legs and gluts, as well as getting your heart rate up.
Incorporate lunges into your walk. Lunges are great for total body toning, and they specifically target gluts and thighs. Spice up your work out by alternating lunges on each side. Set a goal for how many you want to do. A great starting place is three sets of 15 reps on each side.
Lunges are especially useful if you are going uphill. But pay attention to your form. Make sure your knee doesn’t go over your ankle, or you can hurt yourself.
Keep your abs tight. This helps keep your tummy toned and helps promote and maintain a healthy posture. It also keeps your back healthy. Without strong abs, your back will get weak. The best way to do this is to do a pelvic tilt, which is simply drawing your lower abs and your pelvis in so that the curve in your lower back feels flat.
Use your arms. As with running, it is important not to let your arms just fall at your sides. Moving them, just as you would if you were running, will allow you to walk faster, tone up your arms, and get a full body workout.
Make it a social activity. One of the best ways to stick to a workout schedule is to have a workout buddy. (Just make sure this is someone who will motivate you, not convince you to skip out). Walking can be a great social activity because you can use it as a time to catch up with friends while getting a great work out. Ah, the Beauty of multi-tasking.
The mental and physical health benefits of walking are no different from other exercises. Walking can help you lose and maintain a healthy weight, combat symptoms of depression, contribute to a healthy immune system, strengthen muscles and bones, lower stress, decreases chances of disease, and aid in the prevention of cancer. The biggest difference is that it is a low impact workout, so your chances of injury are very slim. However, remember that you get out what you put in, so use these tips to give you an extra challenge and to make walking a great cardio workout.
Boost your energy. Boost your mood. Take a walk.