Walking for Exercise
Walking is something that is taken for granted by most until you can’t do it, so if you can, let’s make it more powerful. While some people choose walking as their “go-to” exercise, many people feel it is not enough to “just walk”. I’ve also heard complaints that it is boring or too time consuming.
Let’s get rid of that “just walking” attitude and all of the other negative thoughts about walking and focus on a few simple changes that can make your walks a powerful exercise option. I have 3 tips for you to use the next time you walk. You can do these on a treadmill, outside, or in circles inside your house, it doesn’t matter where you do it but it is definitely time to look at walking as exercise.
Tip #1: Activate your mind while walking
Let’s start by getting the boredom out of your walk. If you are walking with a friend this may not be the best idea because typically you want to chat with your friend while you are walking. This tip is to take away the boredom when you are walking alone. Listen to a podcast or a book while you are out for your walk. It is really great for your mind to work while you are exercising. Studies have shown that it could help reduce the likelihood of you getting Alzheimer’s disease.
There are podcasts about everything you could possibly imagine so do some research, find something that interests you and go for it. Audiobooks are also a great option. Check with your library as they often have books available to download for free. You will find yourself focusing on the subject you are listening to and not focused on the “boring walk” you are taking. I sometimes walk a bit longer than planned so I can finish the last of the podcast I am listening to.
Tip #2: Increase the pace if you are short on time
Yes, it’s true, in order to burn a substantial amount of calories on a walk you have to walk for quite a while. But let’s not throw walking away as a form of exercise because of that and instead, let’s work on that point. Let’s say you’ve set aside 30 minutes for your walk. You’ll start out not really thinking about the distance or pace you are walking at and you just do it.
Now it’s been a few weeks and you are still walking that 30 minutes but you notice it’s getting too easy. Instead of adding time to your walk, it’s time to change your pace and go more quickly to walk a longer distance in the same amount of time. The best way to do this is with some type of tracking device that either counts your steps or your distance. There are several smartphone apps that are available to do this so you don’t have to buy anything.
A Fitbit or a Garmin is a great device to use for measuring walks. Get your base pace, steps, or distance you walk then set a goal to increase it within the same timeframe. Maybe you add 100 steps within that same 30-minute walk, or 2/10 of a mile if you are tracking distance that way. Whatever you use, the point is that you can increase the intensity of your walk without having to increase the time.
Tip #3: Change the scenery to bring up the intensity
The next step you need to take (pun intended) to make your walks more challenging is to add some variation with uphill and downhill portions of your walks. When you walk uphill you should pump your arms a bit harder and lean into your steps to activate different muscles. Downhill walking is not like riding a bike, you can’t coast down a hill when you are walking. You will have more impact on your heel when walking downhill, which will activate different parts of your leg muscles. Go to different locations to do your walks. If you always use the same walking trail, find another location that has hills. Maybe you even consider hiking to get some variety.
Treadmills often offer programs that will adjust the incline of the machine automatically. If you can’t get outside or don’t have access to a treadmill, consider adding a few sets of stair climbing to your walk around the house (be certain to hold the handrail).
Walking can be very beneficial and will help you be healthy BEFORE you NEED to be healthy. The more of an adventure you can turn it into, either by listening to a good book or finding a new location to explore, the more benefits you will receive, both physically and mentally.
Don’t have a treadmill and it’s too cold to walk where you are? Try my cardio class on YouTube using this link or this link. These classes are approximately 45 minutes with a warm-up, cool-down and stretch. No equipment is needed, just you and a good pair of sneakers. They are titled “senior cardio” but are a great class to get anyone up and moving!