It puts less stress on the body compared to running and it's pretty convenient for most people to do. But let's face it, how often do you break a sweat when you go for a walk. In order to receive cardiovascular benefit from walking, you need to raise your heart rate. Aside from wearing a heart rate monitor, one way to know you're working hard is that you start to sweat; this is a good thing. Walking at a leisurely pace, it's unlikely you'll break a sweat. It usually takes running or at least jogging to increase that much heat in the body. But it is possible to tweak your routine just a little bit and reap great benefits including: more calories burned, more muscles engaged, greater results in less time, mood elevation. Here are some tips to help maximize a walking "workout" and get the most out of your time and effort.
- Add intervals to your walk. Alternating walking with speed burst intervals can help decrease stress, increase muscle and as mentioned above it definitely burns more calories than simply walking at a moderate pace. Even better for some is that intervals add efficiency and therefore require less time - more bang for your buck. Practice adding intervals by walking for about 5 minutes at a moderate pace. Then walk (or sprint) as fast as you can for 30 seconds, then resume walking for a minute and a half to two minutes, then sprint, recover, sprint - hopefully you get the idea. Do this for 20 minutes and cool down with another 5 minute moderate pace walk. Now you've reaped the benefits (and then some) of an hour long walk in half the time!
- Head for the Hills. Adding elevation to your walk will help increase muscle tone to the gluteus muscles (in your behind) as well as your hamstrings. When walking uphill the glutes and hamstrings contract to help you conquer the hill. Walking uphill also works the calf muscles more than walking on a flat surface. And with the added slope you will increase your heart rate and hopefully break a sweat and burn more fat and calories in a shorter period of time.
- Put on Your Favorite Tunes. Did you know that research shows that when we exercise with music we tend to exert ourselves more compared to moving without music. Music helps motivate, set the pace, and actually helps improve the overall enjoyment of exercise. When we walk to songs that have a higher beats per minute (BPM) tempo, we tend to walk faster and harder. This is really useful when it's time to do intervals - crank you your favorite tunes and go for it.
- Swing Your Arms. Get over yourself and stop worrying about what you look like when you are out there going for it. Whoever is checking you out is probably sitting on their rear ends while you're reaping the benefits of moving your body. When you bend your arms at a 90 degree angle and swing them along with your pace (they move in opposition to your legs by the way), you will naturally increase your pace and along with that your heart rate.
- Consider walking poles or sticks. If you are someone who has trouble with your knees, one prop to consider may be walking poles. Once considered equipment that only heavy duty mountain climbers or trekkers would use, walking poles are finding their way to the main stream sidewalks. People who use them swear by them. Walking poles help engage the core and the arms while at the same time they help alleviate stress on the knees. Whether you're out for a challenging mountain hike or just looking for support with your daily routine, consider adding walking poles for variability.