Shake Up Your Walk

Between the uncertainty of the past couple of years and the uptick in health consciousness, walking remains one of the most popular fitness activities — with good reason.

 

Not only is having a walking routine a great low-impact exercise, its easy accessibility means reaping a laundry list of rewards including improving cardiovascular fitness, increasing energy levels, even improving your mood, and boosting immune function.

 

“Understand the difference between a leisure walk and a fitness walk,” says Jayel Lewis, a certified international personal trainer: “If you’re going to walk for a workout, identify that before you go, and set yourself up for success prior to leaving.”

 

Walking alone already improves your psychological and physical health and doing the same exercise every day might get stale and repetitive. With a few small tweaks to your daily stroll, you can make a world of difference to your mental and physical health.

Set Your Goals

Just like how you might approach a regular activity, planning your walking routine starts with laying out your intentions and goals. This could look like setting aside some time ahead of your planned walk to evaluate and figure out what your objectives are for the week and what your mood is like.

Walk with intention

Walking with intention starts with shifting your attention to the internal, customising what your walking routine consists of based around how you feel and what you do during the day. For example: a walk can be as short as a 15 minute brisk walk for some quiet time alone.

 

On the other end of the spectrum, it could also consist of an intense exercise where you incorporate workout equipment during intervals.

Dress the part

While your elevated walking routine can be as simple as you like, gearing up according to the intensity of your exercise also makes a world of difference. Considering the clothes you work out in will not only make you look and feel good, but appropriate attire can also reduce the risk of injuries and give your workout that extra edge.

 

For example, walking and running shoes provide more targeted support, and wearing specialised exercise wear can make the whole routine a lot more comfortable.

Enlist a walking buddy

People who workout together, stay healthy together. One study even showed that adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.

 

Introducing a walking partner into your routine not only adds an element of fun, but makes it easier to stick to a long-term routine with the added motivation and support from a friend. An example would be to form a walking group with a schedule to hold each other accountable and for added company in your journey!

Motivate with music

Studies show that music can be a great motivator, especially when it comes to exercising. Fast tempo dance tracks with steady beats have been proven to be great for endurance workouts while you might want more powerful music for doing intervals.

 

Create walking-specific playlists to elicit a specific response for your body. Spotify has playlists for songs of various beats per minute that are comfortable challenging. Songs with 130 to 140 BPM is recommended, and choose tracks that will last for the duration of time that you want to walk, and aim to keep up with it.

Walk the Talk

Now that you’ve set your goals for the walking workout, putting your plan into action requires a lot more work.

 

Whether you’re walking with the goal of getting your heart rate up or building some strength and endurance, consider gradually easing yourself into increasingly intense walking exercises.

Have a dynamic warm-up

Take some time to boost blood flow and activate the muscles you’ll use while walking such as your hip flexors and quads. Spend a few minutes doing leg swings, lunge walks, calf raises, toe taps, or any combination that both loosens your muscles and gets your blood flowing.

 

Warming up not only reduces the chances of injuring yourself during the workout, but it’s also especially beneficial if you’re incorporating faster paces or strength moves into your stroll. Here’s a guided Youtube warm-up video to practise dynamic stretches.

Go the distance

Find and select a trail to walk on if you want to jazz up your walking routine. Parks often offer fitness trails with obstacle courses and equipment for pull ups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.

 

Hiking trails also offer a more challenging terrain that helps you burn more calories and strengthen stabiliser muscles, which are smaller muscles that often get overlooked.

Challenging but sustainable

Start by moving at a challenging steady pace, one where you can keep it moving, but you’re not too comfortable.

 

Experts say you should be at around 65 to 75 percent of your max heart rate to make the most of your walk. A “talk test” can also help measure intensity. This is measured by moving at a pace where you can speak but can’t sing; you can talk in full sentences, but you’re slightly out of breath.

 

A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and respiratory diseases, according to a 2019 study.

 

Consider adding intervals — short periods of harder effort brisk walking and workouts — into your walks also make your walk more engaging and fun.

Mix It Up

For advanced walkers, shaking up your walk beyond the confines of moderate exercise can also prove to be a rewarding challenge.

 

Walking involves your calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core. Integrating equipment or elevated stairs can further challenge those muscles and also recruit more of your upper body.

Add weighted resistance

By adding some added weight to your walk, you’re adding resistance since weights can mimic the resistance levels of an elliptical. Resistance further improves overall cardiovascular health, a 2019 study finds that weight training is good for your heart, and reduces the risk of developing a metabolic disorder by 17 percent.

 

Toting light dumbbells or 1 to 2 pound wrist weights, ankle weights, resistance bands, or weighted vests are ideal for achieving a safe but challenging walk. The most important factor is to keep the weight balanced and to make sure that you’re comfortable with the unweighted moves before adding that extra resistance.

Make it a circuit

Consider making your walking routine a circuit as another option.

 

One study showed that a 10-minute interval training improved cardiometabolic health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.

 

Once again, you can use music as a cue for more intense segments in your circuit. For example, walk easy for verses and then walk faster during the chorus. Incorporate bodyweight circuits at the start of every song such as a couple of squats, lunges, and push-ups.

Add some elevation

Step up your walking whether you’re increasing the acceleration on your treadmill or taking a walk in nature. If you’re at home or near a building, a simple way to add extra intensity into your workout is to use stairs. It’s been shown to help decrease the risk of mortality.

 

Alternatively, planning routes that include uphill walks also naturally increases the intensity even if you’re moving at the same pace or slower. A walking incline might even be harder than running!

 

A 2021 article shows that exercising at a higher altitude can increase the flow of oxygen to your muscles so that they fatigue slower due to the body learning to efficiently utilise the oxygen found in the air.

Walk into Better Health

The benefits of walking are clear: it will clear your mind, offer a change of scenery, and bring structure to often shapeless days. As you gradually intensify your walk into a maximised workout, remember to keep in mind that walking is supposed to be an enjoyable activity!

 

Focusing too much on adding to your walk might complicated an already simple and healthy routine, and might even make it a chore. More importantly, how you eat and structure your day impacts the quality of your walking routine.

 

Make sure to keep a balanced diet and regular sleep schedule. Reward yourself with a protein-dense diet to rebuild muscles. Meals such as grilled chicken breast and wholegrain rice are fail-proof options.

 

Additionally, opting for healthier alternatives to your most used cooking essentials, such as olive oil can be a good and easy step towards building a healthy mindset towards your newfound routine.