There’s nothing better than a long, brisk walk with my dog after a long day. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, we’re out there daily. Mind you, it helps that we have to go on that tour if we want to retrieve the mail (living way out in the country means that we all share a box), but I still think that we’d end up going every day even if we didn’t have to.
Walking came fairly naturally to me; before I moved out to the country, I lived in a super-small town (you could walk from one end to the other in less than an hour and the winter population was only around 10, 000). Even before I had the dog, I would walk just about anywhere I needed to go – Groceries, hair appointments, coffee… You name it, I probably walked to go and get it at some point in my life.
With the health and fitness category growing every day, more and more people are beginning to want to change their lifestyles to lead long, happy, and healthy lives. Walking is probably the best jumping off point when you start living a more active lifestyle because just about anyone can do it. Today we’re not only going to talk about the benefits of walking daily, but also how to amp up your walk to ensure that you’re getting the most out of it.
You Already Have Everything You Need (Two Feet And A Heartbeat)
Going to a gym can be costly. It’s also a great big waste of money to spend your hard-earned cash on a gym membership that you only use a handful of times. I’ve always recommended to my friends that they don’t even bother investing in a membership until they’re certain that they’re going to keep up with it, and nine times out of ten I end up getting thanked for said advice.
You’re all set for walking if you have two working legs and an open space. Bonus: Once you start to see the difference that walking can make in the look of your body (we’ll get to that soon), you might be a little more confident showing that body in the gym.
It’s A Complete Mood Booster
You know how sometimes you’re just feeling down in the dumps and/or can’t seem to get your butt in gear? Turns out that going out for a walk can help you out with that. In fact, exercising might be just as effective as medication when it comes to treating depression.
So regardless of whether you’re feeling angry, sad, or you just don’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning, you should still try to get out and go for a walk. If the weather isn’t cooperating with you, head to your local big box store and feel free to walk around and browse the aisles – You’d be surprised at just how much distance you’re able to cover.
To Get A Boost Of Energy
While it might not seem like it, going for a walk can actually give you a total energy boost. Moving around increases circulation and ups the oxygen supply in each and every one of your cells, which will make you feel more alert almost immediately.
If you’re someone that feels still and sore after sitting at your desk all day, a walk can help ease the tension as well. Try going for a walk on your lunch break instead of sitting in your break room or car and I assure you that within the week, you’ll notice a big difference in the way you feel.
To Get Some Vitamin D
Vitamin D is funny in that it’s one of those nutrients that’s relatively difficult to get from food. The good news is that our bodies can synthesize the vitamin when we’re exposed to the sunlight. But here’s the thing – Most people are Vitamin D deficient because they spend all of their daylight hours cooped up at work. Vitamin D plays a role in everything from your bone density to your immunity, so I’d say it’s fairly important.
By going for a stroll on your lunchbreak instead of sitting around eating (which you can most likely do at your desk anyway. And hey, if you can’t there are plenty of things that you can eat while you’re moving) and actually exposing yourself to some of that wonderful sunshine, you’ll get some of this essential vitamin. The sun isn’t really as dangerous as you might think it is as long as you’re careful about it, so get out there and catch some rays!
To Get In Shape
You’re probably not going to notice a difference overnight, but over the long term walking can do your body a whole lot of good. After a little while of being consistent with it, you should notice that your legs, stomach, and bum are beginning to transform. In turn, your confidence will shoot through the roof and you’ll have more motivation to keep going. It’s really just a great big win for everyone.
To Strengthen Your Heart
A stagnant life is an unhealthy life. By going for a daily stroll, you can actually reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Walking lowers your LDL cholesterol levels (that’s the bad one) while at the same time increasing your HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It can also help keep your blood pressure in check.
Walking at a brisk pace for just 30 minutes a day can help prevent and control high blood pressure and reduce your risk of having a stroke by up to 27%. That might not sound like a lot, but is it really worth risking your health when it’s something that can be done so easily and painlessly?
And To Lower Your Risk For Disease
By now I think you’re starting to get the point, so this will be the last point on this part of the list. The long and short of it is that walking can help prevent many health issues in the long run. In addition to helping ward off heart disease and strokes, walking can help reduce your risk of developing:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Some cancers
In fact, according to the National Cancer Institute, people that lead an active lifestyle are 20 percent less likely to develop cancer of the colon, breast, and womb (in comparison to those that sit around and do nothing).
How To Get The Most Out of Your Walking Workout
Okay, so you’ve decided to finally give up being lazy and start walking on a daily – or even semi-daily – basis. Perhaps you’ve even stuck to it for a couple of months. But sometimes going for a leisurely stroll just isn’t enough.
A more intense walking workout can do wonders you’ve had a particularly rough day and you really want to give it your all while you’re out there, or maybe you find that you’ve reached a plateau with your weight loss and you want to take your workout to the next level so that you can keep shedding those pounds. Or maybe you just got bored doing the same thing every day. Whatever your reason, here are a few different things that you can try to pump your walk up to the next level:
Invest In The Right Shoes
Bad shoes suck regardless of the occasion, but if you only invest in one pair of shoes that fit you perfectly, make it your workout shoes. Not only will walking in comfort feel better, but it can also end up preventing injury. Here’s a few qualities you’re going to want your shoes to have:
- A beveled heel
- Enough cushion to absorb the shock of your step
Walking shoes are a real thing; that’s what you want to be looking for. Not only are they designed better for walking, but they’re also usually less expensive than running shoes. Try on at least three different pairs when you’re at the shoe store – You’re going to be wearing these babies for a while, you want to make sure that their fit and comfort level is perfect. Bonus Tip: Wear moisture wicking socks with them so that you don’t get gross sweaty feet and smelly shoes.
Check Your Posture
Since I spend so much time sitting in front of a desk, I try to make sure that my posture is on-point at all times (although I could really do better, but I’m working on it!). Good posture is important for a long list of reasons (too many to list in this article anyway, keep an eye out for one coming soon), one of which is that it can help you get more out of your walk.
Joanna Hall is the founder of the Walkactive method of conscious walking. This is how she recommends you stand while you’re out for your daily stroll:
“Think about lengthening up through your spine to create space between your earlobes and shoulders. Relax your shoulders, pull in your tummy and pelvic floor and imagine you have a cup of water balanced on top of each hip bone that you don’t want to spill. As you walk with this posture, your shoulders will naturally rotate and this works your oblique abdominal muscles – you’ll be taking inches off your waist with every step.”
Walking is great for you, but walking fast is better. By picking up the past just a little (think power walking as opposed to jogging), not only will you burn more calories (350 an hour as opposed to 250) but you’ll also be reducing your risk for heart disease and other chronic conditions even further.
If you’re a runner, you might want to consider slowing down just a little (even if it’s only for a couple of days a week); a brisk walk actually reduces the risk of heart disease more effectively than a run while burning the same number of calories.
Check Your Form
Even if the Walkactive program isn’t for you, you should still be paying careful attention to your form because how you’re standing plays a pretty crucial role in how effective your walk can be – You can speed up a whole lot easier if your body is properly aligned (and as we’ve already established, speed is key to ultimate walking success). Here’s what you need to do.
– Stand talk with your shoulders rolled back, making sure that your lower back is in a natural arch to help prevent unnecessary stress on your lower back.
– Bend your elbows at a 90 degree angle and imagine they’re stuck in casts. This is one of the most crucial points because the faster you swing them, the faster you’ll go (as long as you keep them close to your body; don’t chicken flap while you walk – Not only is it not flattering, it’ll also end up slowing you down.
– Contract your abs. Again, you’re going to want to be careful here – If you hunch over or bend at the waist to do it, you could end up screwing up your breathing (making the whole thing ineffective and ultimately, pointless).
And Pay Attention To Your Step
This might seem like overkill (Who really pays attention to the way they walk, anyway?), but how you’re stepping while you walk can really make a huge difference. Ideally, you want to be rolling off of each foot and push off from your toes at the end of every stride. Walking like this allows you to keep your foot on the ground a little bit longer and makes you keep shorter but stronger and faster steps. Imagining that you’re showing someone behind you the soles of your shoes while you’re striding should keep you in perfect form.
Build Up The Pace
If you start power walking the second you close the front door behind you, you’re going to burn out before you can get very far. Here’s how to build up your walk properly so that you can get the most out of your trip:
- Find your natural step. This should be your “I need to be somewhere ten minutes ago” walk. Count the steps you take at that pace for twenty seconds and then multiply by three (to get to a minute). If you’re moving at least 120 steps per minute (spm), you’re walking about 3mph, the minimum pace for ‘fitness walking’. If you’re not there yet, this is what you need to be working up to.
- If 120spm is comfortable, kick it up a notch by aiming for 135spm. This is about 3.5mph and is considered to be the pace you need to walk at to see weight loss.
- Once you’re comfortable with that, start doing intervals where you walk for two to three minutes at 135spm and then slow it down to 120spm for a minute or two. Over time, work towards doing your entire walk at 135 spm – This is quite the goal to reach, 135spm is more than you think!