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How to maximize the benefits of fitness walking

heart-rate-monitor

A heart rate monitor can measure calories burned as well as intensity

Walking is one of the most popular and accessible forms of exercise.  Even so, sometimes walking gets a bad rap from fit athletic types because it is often considered a beginner activity. But when done right, a good walk can challenge athletes of all levels. The key is maintaining an appropriate intensity level.

A heart rate monitor is the most convenient method of checking your intensity level during a walk. If you don’t own a monitor, check your heart rate manually but keep in mind that in order to get an accurate measurement you will have to stop walking momentarily to check your pulse. Stopping allows your heart rate to drop. So if you use the manual method, use that number as a guide and consider other factors such asperceived exertion.

You will also need to know your target heart rate range.   For walking, try to keep your heart rate at 65-75% of your max heart rate. Use the following calculations to find your own target number:

Men:

220 – age x 65% = bottom of range
220 – age x 75% = top of range

Women:

226 – age x 65% = bottom of range
226 – age x 75% = top of range

The Karvonen Formula can also be used to determine target heart rate but requires that you know yourresting heart rate. If you walk regularly, this method is worth the work.

A good walking workout can last from 30 minutes to over an hour. Warm up for the first 3-5 minutes with a moderate pace then gradually add speed to increase intensity. Spend most of the workout in your target heart rate range and finish with a 3 minute cool down.  Don’t be surprised if you struggle to keep your intensity up. You’ll notice that in order to stay in that aerobic range, you have to lengthen your stride and increase your pace to a point that walking doesn’t feel like a leisure activity anymore. For runners and cyclists the increased range of motion at the hip joint can be especially challenging. Runners will find that without the momentum that they are used to, their glutes and hamstrings have to work harder to propel their bodies forward. Athletes from all sports shouldn’t be surprised if they are sore the next day in places they haven’t felt in a while.

Photo source: Joe Beone on Flickr