4 easy ways to boost your walking workout

Walking is a safe, cheap and fun way to maintain a good health and get your heart pumping a little bit. Here are some strategies to get the best out of your walks.

4 easy ways to boost your walking workout

1. Aim for 10,000 steps a day

  • Don't let that amount scare you. Most people walk about 5,500 to 7,500 steps during an average day as they amble to and from meetings, to the water cooler, to the mailbox.
  • In fact, researchers in the field consider 5,000 steps a day a "sedentary lifestyle."
  • Studies have found that you should be able to cover 7,499 steps a day without participating in formal sports or exercise.
  • If you reach 10,000 steps a day, you're considered "active," while 12,500 steps a day earns you the title of "highly active."
  • Using a pedometer, find your baseline of how many steps you normally take in a day.
  • Then, increase that amount by at least 200 steps a day until you reach 10,000 to 12,500 daily steps.

2. Periodically increase the pace

  • Boredom can quickly bring a walk to a premature end.
  • Keep your mind and your body engaged by increasing the pace or challenging yourself by trudging up a hill from time to time.
  • Every 10 to 15 minutes, complete a two to three minute surge.
  • During your surge, try to catch a real or imaginary walker ahead of you.

3. Walk faster earlier in your walk

  • If you want to increase the amount of fat you burn, add some bursts of faster walking near the beginning of your walk, rather than going for a final spurt.
  • A recent study found that people exercising burned more fat and felt less tired when they inserted their faster segments towards the beginning of a workout.
  • You'll speed up your heart rate early and keep it elevated for the rest of your walk.

4. Carry light weights

  • Take light weights (one to two kilograms) with you during your walks.
  • Periodically work in arm exercises as you walk.
  • This does more than increase the benefit of the workout.
  • Carrying weights also builds muscle, and each kilogram of muscle burns about 65 to 110 calories more a day.
  • Build a kilogram of muscle in your arms alone and you'll burn an extra 100 calories a day – even while you're channel surfing.

Bodyweight exercises:

  • Or try isometric exercises of the arms, chest and abdominal muscles.
  • For instance, as you walk, go through the action of throwing a punch in slow motion.
  • As you extend your arm, tense the muscles along it and do the same as you retract it. You should feel tension in your triceps, biceps, deltoids and pectoral muscles.
  • Then repeat with your arms going straight up and down, or out to the side.
  • You can also tense your chest muscles by bringing your hands together in front of your body and contracting across the chest and shoulders.
  • Do this rhythmically to match your gait.
  • Also try doing curls with no weights.
  • Simply curl your arms alternately, in rhythm with your gait. Each time you curl your forearms, tense your biceps.
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