Walking can do wonders for your fitness and health. It’s low impact, so it’s great for looking after joints, strengthening muscles and bones, improving blood circulation and releasing endorphins — the chemical that makes you happy. When completed at a higher intensity, it can also be a great way to lose weight.
So, how can you ensure you’re getting all these wonderful benefits from walking?
Like any exercise, walking carries risks. Warming up your muscles is always the first thing you should do before attempting exercise. It will loosen your muscles and kick-start sugar burning, preparing your body for more intense fat burning later. To warm up before walking, begin your walk at an easy, steady pace to loosen your muscles. Relax into the stride and allow your arms to swing backwards and forwards to get them involved too. Do this for between five and 10 minutes.
Speed it up
When we talk about walking for weight loss, we’re referring to the pace at which your heart rate rises and how strenuous the exercise feels. Walk as if you’ve just seen a parking inspector approach your car. If you begin to perspire, that’s even better. Get your arms moving and keep your posture straight. Walking can be great for all-over body toning, but when it comes to losing weight, you’ll see the best benefits when your walk is high-paced. Push yourself past point of comfort, but also listen to your body and know when to stop.
Make it interesting
The government recommends that Australian adults get between two-and-a-half and five hours of moderate intensity exercise each week. That’s roughly 30 minutes each day. Finding motivation to do your daily 30 minutes can be the most difficult part, so make sure you’re mixing it up. Consider:
- the landscape – unless you have a medical reason, try to avoid walking only on flat ground. If there are hilly streets in your neighbourhood, try tackling those. Parks and nature reserves are beautiful places to take a walk too. The impact of walking on concrete is hard on your joints, so grass, gravel and dirt are ideal.
- adding weight to your walk – want to add a boost to your daily walk? Try carrying 0.5kg or 1kg hand weights to give your arms a workout at the same time. The Department of Health suggests Australian adults undertake strengthening exercises on at least two days each week. If you’re really serious about adding weight to your walk, consider buying a weight-vest or strap-on weights for your ankles and wrists.
- incidental exercise – if you’re finding it difficult to fit in half an hour of exercise every day, work on being as active during your day as possible. Take the stairs instead of the escalator or lift, put on some lively music and have a boogie while vacuuming, and avoid spending long hours sitting still.
For information about government recommendations on exercise and health, visit the Department of Health.
Do you walk for exercise? What are your tips for getting the most out of walking? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?