How to turn your walks into a workout

It's so simple and convenient it couldn't possibly count as exercise, right? Wrong. Study after study shows that regular, moderate walking can help you to lose weight and reduce your risk of heart disease. Here are some hints to help you turn your usual walks into even healthier workouts.

How to turn your walks into a workout

In a study published in Diabetes Research in Clinical Practice, Japanese researchers tested obese men before and after they joined a one-year modest walking plan. All the participants did was to increase the number of steps they took during their daily activities.

The result: their blood pressure and cholesterol levels improved and the amount of body fat around their abdomen – the dangerous kind that leads to higher rates of heart disease and diabetes – significantly decreased. So before you take your next step outdoors, it's a good idea to know how much walking to do, and how often.

Getting started

For it to be exercise, walk at a pace that has you breathing heavily, but still able to talk.

  • Your goal, first and foremost, is to walk five days a week, 30 minutes a walk. Do that and you'll be getting the base-level amount of exercise that research says should help maintain your health and vigour.
  • Don't assume you can reach that goal quickly. Walking hard for 30 minutes can be difficult at first. Walk for as long as feels comfortable during the first week, even if it's just to the mailbox and back. Each subsequent week, increase that amount by no more than 10 per cent.
  • Start every walk with five minutes of easy-paced walking, about the same pace at which you'd do your grocery shopping, to get your body warmed up. Then, cool down at the end of each walk with another five minutes of easy-paced walking. This allows your heart rate to speed up and slow down gradually.
  • When you reach your target of 30 minutes a day, five days a week, set a new target. Either you should up your walking habit by increasing your time, or you might be ready for new forms of exercise, such as strength-building exercises twice a week.

Improving your walking posture

Proper posture will reduce discomfort as you walk and help you to burn more fat and calories. So when you go on your next walk, adjust yourself as follows:

  • Stand tall with your spine elongated and breastbone lifted. This allows room for your lungs to expand fully.
  • Keep your head straight with your eyes focused forward and shoulders relaxed. Avoid slumping your shoulders forward or hunching them towards your ears.
  • Roll your feet from heel to toe. As you speed up, take smaller, more frequent steps. This protects your knees and gives your butt a good workout.
  • Allow your arms to swing freely.
  • Firm your stomach and flatten your back as you walk to prevent lower back pain. Hold in your lower stomach around your waistband. Make sure you continue to breathe normally.

Walking for exercise and good mental health is a positive step (no pun intended) in the right direction. However, you'll want to see your family physician or a certified health care provider first before embarking on any exercise plan. He or she can advise you if they believe there are any risks for you.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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