It’s a simple enough act, but walking can do wonders for your health and fitness too. For many people, walking is the easiest and most convenient way to get their daily exercise.
Walking is a great choice because it’s low impact, which means it’s great for protecting joints. It also helps to strengthen muscles and bones, improve blood circulation and release endorphins – which improve your mood. When completed at a higher intensity, walking can also help you lose weight.
So, how can you walk your way to better health?
Warm up first: Warming up helps prepare your body for exercise by loosening up your muscles and kickstarting your metabolism. When setting off on your walk, spend the first 10 minutes warming up, walking at an easy but steady pace, working your way up to a faster stride.
Speed up the pace: If you want to increase your fitness and burn fat by walking, try to maintain a brisk pace. For walking to provide you with optimal health benefits, it should challenge you. So try to keep your arms moving and your core tight. You’ll know whether the exercise is challenging you enough because your heart rate will increase and you’ll start to perspire. If you’re able, you could try switching to a light jog.
Challenge yourself: Interval training, where you exercise with alternating periods of high and low-intensity activity, is understood to be one of the most effective ways to burn fat and build muscle. If your fitness level is quite good, try to avoid just walking on flat ground. Instead, try approaching one of the hillier streets in your neighbourhood as a challenge, seeing how fast you can reach the top without stopping, before slowing down again on the next street.
Make exercise fun: Exercise should be challenging, but your best bet of sticking to an exercise routine is to make it enjoyable. Make exercising fun by taking up a sport or going on walking trails through bushland with friends, instead of catching up over coffee or lunch.
How can you walk and exercise more every day?
The Australian Department of Health suggests that Australian adults aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day. Because finding the motivation to keep going can be the most difficult part, here are some tips to help make it easier to stay active.
Take the stairs
Unless you have a pre-existing injury that means you should use the elevator or escalator, try to take the stairs wherever you go. When you take the car out for the day, you could also try parking a little further away than usual – just to give yourself a longer walk.
Stand up more
If you work at a desk or tend to live a fairly sedentary life, you’re not doing your health any favours. Make sure to take regular breaks; get up and stretch your muscles and go for a wander to get the blood flowing in your body again.
Get active around the house
Cleaning is an easy way to exercise without even having to leave the house. Put on your favourite music, grab the vacuum cleaner and have a boogie while you do the housework. It’ll get your heart rate up and have you doing something productive.
Be your own handyperson
All dynamic movement is exercise; digging in the garden, mowing the lawn, fixing the fence, sweeping the leaves and washing the car will all get your muscles moving and your body burning fat. Save money and get more exercise by doing these tasks yourself.
For information about government recommendations on exercise and health, visit the Department of Health.