Photo by mikebaird Walking is one of the most natural forms of exercise.
It is safe, it is easy, and it provides many health benefits, such as . . . it helps control weight management, it reduces the risk of heart attack, it eases depression and anxiety, it reduces the risk of diabetes, and it reduces blood pressure. Especially as we get older and other forms of exercise become more challenging, walking is a great exercise that can help maintain wellness goals.
But walking can also help us stay strong, help achieve good overall physical fitness, and even assist with toned and strong abs. No matter what pace you walk, you will build strength. But for those of you who want to push it to the next level, here are a few ways to increase the intensity of your walk for better overall health. Some of these are not for the elderly.
Walk briskly. A brisk walk usually means 3.5 to 4 miles per hour. The longer and more vigorous the walk, the more calories you’ll burn and the more strength you’ll build. Try to walk briskly for an hour four times a week and you will burn approximately 1000-1200 calories per week from walking alone. If an hour is too much for you, break it down into shorter walks.
Walk up and down hills. Great way to tone your legs! When walking up, lean slightly forward to ease the stress on your legs. Walking down is harder on the knees, so be sure to bend your knees slightly and go down at a slower pace.
Do interval training. Interval training builds muscle and burns more calories. Examples of this type of training are: walk one block fast, one block slow, and repeat. Or walk on flat terrain for one mile and then on rough terrain, or up and down a hill, for the next mile.
Add hand weights to your walk. Hand weights are not always recommended as they increase stress on your shoulders and arms. And because they change the swing of your arm, they can lead to muscle soreness and injury. That being said, they also result in more calories burned during your walk. Start with one-pound weights and increase gradually. Do not use hand weights if you have high blood pressure or heart disease.
Try retro walking. That is, walking backwards. It looks a little bizarre, but walking (or jogging) in reverse puts less stress on the joints than regular walking. In fact, therapists began recommending retro jogging to injured athletes in the 1970s in rehabilitation programs. However, retro training takes some practice and it can turn your walk into a more intense workout, and therefore it is not for everyone. It is especially not for those who have difficulty with balance. Be sure you are on a smooth surface with no potholes, obstacles, or traffic (cars or people). A walking partner comes in handy during retro walking as one of you can walk backwards while the other acts as a spotter.
Use walking poles. Walking poles can boost calorie burn during your walk by increasing your upper body workout. They work your chest, your arms, and your abs. At the same time, they assist you in maintaining good posture. Walking poles are excellent for older people who struggle with balance problems.
Pump those arms. Swinging your arms during walking provides a good workout for your upper body and burns up to 10% more calories. Bend your arms at a 90 degree angle with your elbows close to your side. Pump them from the shoulders and move them in opposition to your legs.
Walk with good posture. Chest lifted, upright back posture, shoulders pulled back but relaxed. Your stomach should naturally contract thereby working your abdominal muscles. Poor posture increases the risk of injury.
Find different walking terrains. The more difficult the terrain (asphalt vs. grass) the more calories you’ll burn. We all know that walking on sand is more difficult than walking on a road. But did you know that walking on sand at a good pace can burn up to 50% more calories?
Skip the elevators and take the stairs. In fact, add steps whenever you can. Park a few blocks from work, and walk the rest of the way. Walk to school, to the store, or anywhere you can. Walk around the building before you go in. Heck, walk around it backwards and give onlookers something to talk about.
FOR YOUR GYM BAG: Accurately measure your walking, hiking, or jogging distance with an AccuFitness Pedometer.