7 Tips to Make the Most Out of Your WalkArticle posted in: Fitness
There are so many ways that we can boost our health and fitness levels. Of them all, one of the safest (and cheapest) options is taking a walk. It’s no secret that physical activity is beneficial to your overall health. And just like the South Beach Diet, walking fits perfectly into your busy lifestyle.
According to Harvard Health, “walking improves cardiac risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, vascular stiffness and inflammation, and mental stress.” Walking has also been shown to decrease the risk of dementia, obesity, diabetes, depression and colon cancer. We know the benefits of walking are profound… but how do we get the most out of our daily stroll?
Here are seven tips to make the most out of your walk:
1. Make it a habit.
The current American Heart Association standards, as specified by Harvard Health, suggest doing moderate physical activity like brisk walking for at least 30 minutes, five days a week. Incorporating walking as part of your daily routine can rewire your daily activities, making you more cognizant of the times in which you can take the stairs rather than the elevator, walk to the post office rather than drive or take your dog for a walk rather than letting him out in the yard.
2. Think about your footwear.
Just like any other sport or physical activity, having the proper equipment and gear is important. For walking, good shoes are essential. According to Harvard Health, a good pair of walking shoes should “feel supportive but not snug or constricting.” When shopping for the right pair, they recommend keeping an eye out for a padded tongue and heel pad. Choose walking shoes with light breathable and flexible uppers, a moisture-wicking or water-resistant insole and a shock-absorbent sole. “The heel wedge should be raised, so the sole at the back of the shoe is two times thicker than at the front. Finally, the toe box should be roomy, even when you’re wearing athletic socks,” says Harvard Health. It sounds like a lot of specifics—and it is—but any good athletic company often advertises walking shoes, so find the right pair for you!
3. Pump those arms.
You’ve seen those Olympic-grade speed walkers and the way they wiggle their bodies and throw their arms up and down… well, they’ve got the right technique. Not only does pumping your arms give you a great upper-body workout, it also improves your speed and balance. According to University of California Berkeley Wellness Center, you should bend your arms at a 90-degree angle and pump from the shoulder, moving your arms in opposition to your legs and keeping your elbows close to your sides.
4. Find a hill for some interval training.
Because walking is so, well… straightforward, you can spice it up by adding hills into your walking trail. Hills provide variety and an additional intensity, making your body alter its areas of focus and stride. The University of California Berkeley Wellness Center says, “Combine hill walking with your regular flat-terrain walking as a form of interval training.” They recommend leaning forward slightly while walking uphill and slightly bending your knees while walking downhill. This will focus the exercise on the proper parts of your legs and not strain your muscles.
5. Take the stairs.
According to Harvard Health, in a study conducted by Canadian researchers, stair climbing was found to be “twice as taxing as brisk walking on the level and 50% harder than walking up a steep incline or lifting weights.” The team at Harvard Health recommends beginning modestly with just one or two flights and going at a slow, steady pace. “Even at a slow pace, you’ll burn calories two to three times faster climbing stairs than walking briskly on the level,” they explain.
6. Hit the trails.
While walking up a steep hill or staircase is a great way to add intensity to your walk, finding a nice location to take a relaxing hike can also help you burn more calories. In fact, hiking on uneven terrain increases the amount of energy your body uses by 28 percent compared to walking on flat ground, says research published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. It can also help you improve your balance, which can prevent falls and injury as we age. So, hit the trails, soak up some vitamin D and enjoy the great outdoors while you get a great workout.
7. Find your motivation.
One of the best things about walking is that you don’t need a special skill. You don’t need to have certain training or any real equipment other than a pair of good shoes. But despite being an easy and simple exercise, it can be hard to find the motivation to get up and get stepping. Help yourself stay motivated by walking with a friend or family member. Track your steps with an activity tracker or a pedometer and challenge yourself to go farther than yesterday. Make your walks more exciting by setting that time aside for listening to your favorite podcast or music album. Keep your posture straight, your chin up, your shoulders squared and just start walking toward that healthier you!
*Always speak with a doctor before starting an exercise routine.