5 rules to get the best out of walking workouts

You've taken up walking to improve your health? Here are a few tips to help you improve the quality and intensity of your workouts.

5 rules to get the best out of walking workouts

1. Use a pedometer

  • These nifty gadgets measure how far you've walked in steps and kilometres (or in miles).
  • They provide motivation by spurring you to meet a particular goal and showing you if you've met it. And research shows that they work.
  • Studies have shown that people who wear a pedometer automatically increased the amount of steps they take in a day.
  • Often, pedometers hook onto your belt and are small and easy to use.

2. Breathe deeply as you walk, to a count of one-two-three

  • Many people unintentionally hold their breath when they exercise, then suddenly feel breathless and tired.
  • Oxygen is invigorating, and muscles need it to create energy.
  • So as you inhale, bring the air to the deepest part of your lungs by expanding your ribs outwards and your stomach forward and inhale for a count of three.
  • Then exhale fully through your mouth, also to a count of three.

3. Roll out of bed, get dressed, put on your shoes and go

  • It's easy to get caught up in your day-to-day activities and tell yourself that you don't have time for a walk.
  • If you exercise first thing in the morning, however, you have no excuse.
  • Research shows that people who plan to exercise in the morning are more likely to fit in their workouts than people who plan to exercise later in the day.
  • Exercising in the morning may offer a side benefit: you'll sleep better at night.
  • A study comparing morning and evening exercise revealed that people who exercised for at least 225 minutes a week in the morning had an easier time falling asleep at night than those who completed the same amount of exercise in the evening.

4. Or, walk in the evening

  • That sleep study aside, there's still a good case for after-dinner walks.
  • They get you away from the television, they keep you from eating too much at supper, they give you a chance to chat to your neighbours and it's often a lovely time of day.
  • Don't let bad weather stop you, though – that's what jackets, boots and umbrellas were invented for.
  • There's something childlike and fun about a walk in the rain or snow.

5. Learn your k.p.h.

  • That's kilometres per hour, of course. Knowing your walking speed isn't that useful, but if, like many people, you love statistics, monitoring your speed will help to keep you motivated.
  • A leisurely pace is 3.2 kilometres (two miles) per hour, a healthy, brisk pace is 5.6 kilometres (3.5 miles) per hour, and going over 6.5 kilometres (four miles) per hour is fast.
  • A pedometer will measure this for you, but if you don't have one, you can simply count your steps during various 15 second periods.
  • For a normal adult stride, if you walk 15 steps in 15 seconds, you're walking at a leisurely pace of 3.2 kilometres (two miles) per hour.
  • At 23 steps, you're walking at a moderate pace of five kilometres (three miles) per hour, and at 30 steps, you're walking at about 6.5 kilometres (four miles) per hour.
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