Dozen Ways to Improve
Your Walking Workouts
all the ways to stay fit, walking is the easiest, safest, and
cheapest. It can also be the most fun: a fine day, a good companion,
an attainable goal (say, a scenic spot) three or four miles
away. On city streets, in the woods, or even round and round
the high school track, walking is the best way to experience
a landscape. If it's too rainy for anything but a treadmill
indoors, at least you can read or watch TV. And after your workout,
you know you've done yourself some good.
walking one mile (brisk usually means 3.5 to 4 miles per hour)
burns nearly as many calories as running a mile at a moderate
pace, and confers similar fitness and health benefits. Even
strolling or slow walking (about 2 miles per hour) confers some
benefits. This was seen in a new Harvard study of almost 40,000
female health professionals, which found that walking as little
as an hour a week, at any pace, reduces the risk of coronary
artery disease. Longer and more vigorous walking produced a
greater risk reduction.
how to get more out of your walking workouts and to vary your
Try to walk briskly for at least half an hour every day, or
one hour four times a week. If you weigh 150 pounds,
walking at 3.5 miles an hour on flat terrain burns about 300
calories per hour. So this schedule would burn about 1,100 calories
a week (studies show that burning 1,000 to 2,000 calories a
week in exercise helps protect against heart disease). If you
can't work that into your schedule, try more frequent, shorter
Make an effort to walk as much as possible. Skip elevators
and escalators and take the stairs. Leave the car at home if
you can walk the mile or two to a friend's house. Walk to work,
at least part of the way.
Another approach: get a pedometer
and see how many steps you take a day. Aim for 3,000, and then
try to work up to at least 5,000 steps (about 2.5 miles for
the average stride) in the course of your daily activities.
Some Japanese health officials advise 10,000 steps as a goal,
though there is no magic number. To achieve the higher goals,
you'll have to include some brisk exercise walking in addition
to walking at home and at work.
If you want to go faster, instead
of taking longer steps, take faster steps. Lengthening your
stride can increase strain on your feet and legs.
Swing your arms. One good option:
bend them at 90° and pump from the shoulder, like race walkers
do. Swing them naturally, as if you're reaching for your wallet
in your back pocket. On the swing forward, your wrist should
be near the center of your chest. Move your arms in opposition
to your legsswing your right arm forward as you step forward
with your left leg. Keep your wrists straight, your hands unclenched,
and elbows close to your sides. The vigorous arm pumping allows
for a quicker pace, and provides a good workout for your upper
body. And you'll burn 5 to 10% more calories.
Add some interval training. For
example, speed up for a minute or two every five minutes. Or
alternate one fast mile with two slower miles.
Choose varied terrains. Walking
on grass or gravel burns more calories than walking on a track.
And walking on soft sand increases caloric expenditure by almost
50%, if you can keep up the pace.
Walk up and down hills to build
strength and stamina and burn more calories. Combine hill walking
with your regular flat-terrain walking as a form of interval
training. When walk-ing uphill, lean forward slightlyit's
easier on your leg muscles. Walking downhill can be harder on
your body, especially the knees, than walking uphill, and may
cause muscle soreness, so slow your pace, keep your knees slightly
bent, and take shorter steps.
Try a walking stick or poles.
A walking stick is helpful for balance, especially for older
people. To enhance your upper-body workout, use lightweight,
rubber-tipped trekking poles, sold in many sporting-goods stores.
This is like cross-country skiing without the skis. When you
step forward with the left foot, the right arm with the pole
comes forward and is planted on the ground, about even with
the heel of the left foot. This works the muscles of your chest
and arms as well as some abdominals, while reducing the stress
on your knees. Find the right size poles by testing them in
the store: you should be able to grip the pole and keep your
forearm about level as you walk. Many poles are now adjustable.
Use hand weights, but carefully.
Hand weights can boost your caloric expenditure, but they may
alter your arm swing and thus lead to muscle soreness or even
injury. They're generally not recommended for people with high
blood pressure or heart disease. If you want to use them, start
with one-pound weights and increase the weight gradually. The
weights shouldn't add up to more than 10% of your body weight.
Ankle weights are not recommended, as they increase the chance
Try backward walking for a change of
pace. It is demanding, since it's a novel activity for
most people. Even a slow pace (2 mph) provides fairly intense
training. "Retro" walking is also a good option if
you're trying to vary your workout on a treadmill or stair-climbing
machine. And if you're recovering from a knee injury, it may
help. Be careful when going back-wards outdoors: choose a smooth
surface and keep far away from traffic, trees, potholes, and
other exercisers. A deserted track is ideal. If possible, work
out with a spotter, a forward-walking partner who can keep you
from bumping into something and help pace you. To avoid muscle
soreness, start slowly: don't try to walk backward more than
a quarter mile the first week. Elderly exercisers or anyone
else with balance problems should not retro walk.
Choose the right shoes. Avoid
stiff-soled shoes that don't bend. "Walking shoes"
have flexible soles and stiff heel counters to prevent side-to-side
motion. But for normal terrain, any comfortable, cushioned,
lightweight, low-heeled shoes will do.
Reference Source 98