Five ways to get more out of walking

People who start walking start to love walking. Its appeal is not only its simplicity but also its versatility — you can strip it down or enhance it as you please. Here are five ways to burn more fat, get rid of more stress, make more muscle and have more fun with every step.

Five ways to get more out of walking

1. What is Nordic walking?

Originating in Finland where it began as a summer training exercise for serious cross country skiers, Nordic walking — striding with special rubber-tipped aluminum walking poles — is a way to combine the calorie burn of cardiovascular exercise with the body sculpting of strength training. In Finland, some 50,000 people regularly enjoy Nordic walking.

While Nordic walking, the tip of the pole lands as each arm swings back, creating resistance that you must push against to propel yourself forward. This causes you to activate every muscle for longer, which improves muscular endurance and burns fat.

It is said that Nordic walking uses 90 percent of your muscles and, because it engages your upper body muscles as well, it burns at least 40 percent more calories than ordinary walking.

While practicing this style of walking you can burn about 500 calories an hour while strengthening your shoulders, triceps, chest, back, abdominals, gluteals, thighs and calves. Even better, the poles help to propel you, so walking feels easier. And the bonus for older people is that the arm muscles take part of the strain, so the load on the knees, ankles and hips is reduced by about a quarter, making exercising much easier.

2. Integrate exercises

For a change of pace, integrate your favourite strength-training moves into your walk. Get moving for two minutes, then do 20 seconds of push-ups against a tree. Walk another two minutes, then do 20 seconds of walking lunges.

This mix-and-match training raises your heart rate and burns more calories.

3. Achieve active intimacy

Take your daily walk with a partner. A study found that adults who do this are more likely to exercise regularly and less likely to give up than those who do it alone.

4. Meditate while you move

Taking a heart-healthy mental rest can be easier and more effective when done while walking. The exertion will burn off stress hormones, and the repetitive movement will keep your mind focused and away from distracting thoughts and worries.

Start this style of meditation with a walk on a familiar route so that your surroundings don't distract you. Concentrate on feeling each foot touch the ground and focus on breathing rhythmically with your footsteps. As thoughts come to mind, allow them to pass through. You can also use this time to think about the good things in your life.

5. Keep it short

If you want to increase your pace, take short strides. One of the most common walking mistakes that people make is lengthening their strides to walk faster. When you do this, your front foot actually acts like a brake, jarring your joints and ultimately slowing you down.

Instead of putting that sort of stress on your joints, take short, quick strides. Your feet will roll forward more easily, and you'll move at greater speed.

If you're looking for a way to get more out of walking, give one of these techniques a try.

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