Walking is an excellent form of exercise. Walking burns calories, strengthens muscles in the lower body, provides relief from stress and builds aerobic endurance. But walking for fitness should feel different than the kind of walking we do in the course of our daily activities. To achieve fitness benefits, a walking workout should be difficult enough to elevate the heart rate and challenge the cardiovascular system. A good pair of walking shoes and a healthy long stride will get you started on the path to burning calories and improving your health. Keep in mind these simple do’s and don’ts to reap the full benefits of a walking program.
- Walk the same path every day. Mix things up by changing your route once or twice a week. This helps to keep your fitness program interesting and challenges the muscles with changing terrain.
- Add weights. Strength training is an important component of a well rounded fitness program, but adding weights to a walk may add undo strain to the joints. Save the weights for a post-walk strength routine.
- Take it easy. If walking is going to be a workout, you should feel like you are working while you are doing it. Walk with long brisk strides to elevate the heart rate. On a scale of 1 -10, try to walk at a difficult level of 6 or 7 so that you are breathing deeply but not breathless.
- Change speed. Speed intervals can make a walking workout more interesting and are also a great way to improve your pace and elevate the heart rate in short bursts.
- Add hills. Hill climbing strengthens hamstring and gluteal muscles on the back of the thigh. They are also a great way to increase intensity.
- Use tools such as a heart rate monitor or pedometer. These tools can not only help guide a walker during the workout but can also help to track your progress and reach goals. A pedometer (see photo above) tracks the number of steps in a workout, while a heart rate monitor measures intensity.
- Stretch after the workout. Flexibility training reduces stress and helps prevent injury.
Are you thinking of starting a fitness walking program? Have you already started to walk? Read these other articles about fitness walking to put your program on the right track:
How to maximize the benefits of fitness walking
5 Steps to developing a successful fitness plan
Beginning an exercise program in middle age-aerobic activity
Fitness tips to prepare for a Get Your Rear in Gear 5K