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When people hear the word “exercise,” most immediately think of the gym, lifting weights, doing push-ups, sweating on the treadmill, doing stretches, and such. What most individuals don’t realize is that exercise has forms that extend beyond the usual gym and fitness equipment. One of those forms is walking.
Walking is a natural activity for us — we walk from one room to another, we walk from the couch to the fridge, we walk around the office floor, go around the park, walk down the block, and more. Walking increases movement in our daily lives, helping to counteract being sedentary. Aside from increasing movement, walking also has a ton of health benefits.
If you’re not convinced about the benefits of walking, or if you’re someone who needs to add a bit of challenge to your walking routine, this article is for you.
How Effective is Walking as Exercise?
More often than not, walking is touted as something that’s not intense enough or a cop-out from more effective exercise, however, both statements are entirely false. Walking is a great form of exercise that anyone can do. It’s very effective in building a baseline cardiovascular fitness level. Walking is also good for individuals who have not been previously active or are interested in starting an exercise routine.
Walking reduces stress, improves blood sugar, strengthens your cardiovascular system, helps prevent diseases, and more. It stimulates blood flow to the brain and the rest of the body, boosting metabolism, reducing anxiety and stress, and improving a person’s overall mood. Over time, walking consistently may also help in weight loss and in improving heart health. This activity is a familiar and comfortable form of exercise that can be done anytime, anywhere, and you don’t even need any equipment.
How Long Should a Walking Workout Be?
The World Health Organization recommended that adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. 150 minutes of exercise may sound a lot and can even be daunting to a lot of people, especially to those who are just starting with a workout routine. Fortunately, you don’t have to jump into a 150-minute goal immediately. It’s important to ease into it.
Those 150 minutes per week can be divided in a lot of ways. You can start by aiming to walk 5 to 10 minutes several times a day, gradually increasing your miles and minutes over time. You can even aim to walk 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Taking it slow allows you to build your strength and endurance, and pretty soon, you’ll notice that you’re able to achieve 150 minutes of movement weekly.
Can Walking Help You Lose Weight?
Walking is a low-impact aerobic exercise that allows individuals to expend energy and burn calories. Needless to say, walking can help with weight loss. However, if walking is your main form of exercise to lose weight, you may want to up your minutes and work in the 45 to 60-minute range instead of 30 minutes per day.
Incorporating intervals and strength-training exercises in your walking workout can aid you in reaching your specific health goals. By adding strength-training exercises, stretching exercises, and other challenges to your walking exercise, you can build your muscle, burn fat, and tone your body to your desire.
What is the Proper Walking Form?
Maintaining good form while walking ensures that you get the optimum aerobic benefit with each step you take. Having a proper form will also help protect your body and reduce the chances of injury. Start by checking your head and shoulders. Keep your head up and centered between your shoulders. Straighten your shoulders but keep them relaxed as well, avoid slouching forward.
Engage your core to help support the body and spine. Avoid leaning forward. The majority of your motion should start with your hips. Each of your strides should feel natural. Your arms should be positioned close to the body, with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. Your arms should swing front to back in pace with the stride of the opposite leg while walking. Remember to keep your hands relaxed.
Finally, with each step, you should land gently on the heel and midfoot, rolling smoothly to push off with the toes. Be aware of using the balls of the feet and your toes to push forward with each step.
What is a Good Workout for Walking?
You can walk at any pace that you prefer but to spike your heart rate and burn more calories, it’s recommended to walk at a brisk pace. In a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, it was found that 11 minutes of moderate-intensity to vigorous activity can reduce the risk of premature death. One form of moderate to vigorous activity is brisk walking.
When you walk briskly and pick up your pace, you improve your cardiovascular fitness, burn calories, increase your muscle mass, and improve your mental health. It should be noted that when you walk briskly, you should be able to maintain enough breath that allows you to carry on a conversation but not sing. This ensures that you have a balanced pace; you are not pushing yourself too hard nor is your pace too slow to be considered a brisk walk.
Incorporating Exercises into Your Walking Routine
Take your daily stroll to the next level by adding in other forms of exercise, trails with different elevations, and strength workouts. Doing so can help you build muscular endurance and allows you to attain your fitness goals. Here are some movements and intervals that you can do to transform your walk into a more intense workout!
Before you go on your stroll, you should do some gentle stretching to prepare your joints and muscles for the increased range of motion that you are about to do. It’s important to take an easy, non-challenging five-minute walk to warm up your muscles before doing stretching exercises. Be sure to stretch your neck, arms, hips, upper and lower leg muscles, as well as your ankles.
After warming up and stretching, you can continue to incorporate stretches in between your walks. Stretch exercises can also be used to close out a stroll session as they can make your workout complete. Loosen your calves by standing with the ball of your left foot on a curb or step and position your right foot flat on the ground. Lean until you feel a stretch in your left calf, and hold for 30 to 60 seconds before repeating on the opposite side.
Stretch your hamstrings by stepping one foot forward and straightening your knee. Your other knee should be bent slightly. Next, hinge forward at your hips with your upper body straight. Raise your arms overhead, reach forward, and slowly stand back up. Repeat five times on each side.
Walking works the core and the entire lower body. Adding in some weight can work your upper body, tone and build your muscles, and spike up your heart rate too. Wearing ankle weights can make your body work harder to perform movements. You can also try strolling while holding light dumbbells to work your arms.
If you don’t have dumbbells, you can also use water bottles as weights. Start by bringing along two water bottles and make it your goal to drink both of the bottles by the time you finish walking.
Use Resistance Bands
If dumbbells or weights aren’t your thing, you can still work on some strength movements by bringing a resistance band. You can pause at a park, parking lot, playground, your backyard, or anywhere spacious to do a quick band exercise. Place the band around your ankles and do side-to-side monster walks.
Start by standing in an upright position, and then squat slightly. Keep your knees bent and your hands on your hips. Next, walk with a diagonal step, moving ahead and outwards. Repeat as many times as you can. To make it more intense, you can also place the band around your feet.
Do Mobility Work
Incorporating mobility work in between your stroll allows you to gain more flexibility and function in your entire body. Lunges, squats, and high knees are just some of the best bodyweight moves that you can use to break up your walks.
To do high-knees, start by lifting your knees as high as you can to your chest with each step. Keep your spine straight and contract your abs with each knee hike. Do this for 30 seconds and then resume your stroll. For squats, position your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Bend your knees and lower slowly to the ground, your thighs parallel with the pavement. Do the squat for one minute, and then slowly stand up.
You can make the squats more challenging by turning them into squat jumps. From a squat, spring up into the air instead of slowly standing up. Land back down in a squat and repeat the jump. Do for one minute, and alternate between a normal squat and squat jumps.
For lunges, find yourself a spacious area such as a quiet block, an empty parking lot, or a park. You can even find a quiet corner of your office to do this. Start by bending one of your knees. You can hold onto a bench, a tree, or the wall for balance. Straighten to stand, bringing one leg through and stepping into a deep lunge. Continue by taking giant steps, bending, and straightening your front leg.
Switching your route can introduce new challenges to your walks, allowing you to achieve results at a faster pace. Spice up your exercise by finding routes with elevation. Climb up hills, take the stairs, or even go up a parking area ramp. Walking on an incline engages your leg muscles more than walking on level ground.
Increase Your Distance
You don’t have to cover 5,000 miles a day to reap the benefits of walks. It’s recommended that you start with a short mile and work your way up to a greater distance once you’re used to it. Gradually increase how far you can go each week and you’ll be surprised at how much you can cover the more you go on walks.
Get out of your office for a few seconds to take a stroll and breathe in some fresh air. It may be simple, but walking is a very effective exercise. It can help counteract your sedentary lifestyle, reduce your stress, strengthen your heart, reduce your body fat, and increase your quality of life. Try it out now!
Do remember that if you feel any kind of discomfort while working out, it’s best to stop and seek the advice of a certified personal trainer or medical professional.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Does a 30-minute walk count as an exercise?
Yes, it counts as exercise! Personal Trainer Stephanie Mansour recommends logging at least 30 minutes of strolling three or four times per week. From there, you can progress slowly, adding two to five minutes per week until you build up a duration that is challenging but doable.