Walk this Way to Fitness
When it comes to effective workouts, don’t underestimate the power of walking. Harvard University research shows that 2.5 hours of brisk walking each week could extend your life by up to seven years.
Other studies have found that walking also reduces the risk of heart disease, Type-2 diabetes and many cancers. In addition, walking has been known to burn calories faster, elevate your mood, improve your sleep and slow the aging process.
Below are some tips to help you maintain proper form, prevent injury and maximize your workout.
- Don’t skip the warm up. Make sure to include at least five minutes of slower walking before you hit your full pace.
- Build your strength gradually. As with any physical activity, it’s important to start small and increase the length and intensity of the walk as you get stronger.
- It’s all in the arms. A good arm swing is key, but make sure you’re pumping forward and back, not side-to-side. Cross-body or lateral arm swings don’t provide as much momentum, so keep your elbows in.
- Wear the right shoes. Getting properly fitted for your footwear can help with ankle support and balance.
- Bring some weights along. Adding a few pounds to your ankles and/or wrists, or holding small dumbbells while you pump your arms, helps improve the strength training aspect of walking. Be sure to balance the weight on both sides and beware of overdoing it.
- Change it up. The initial effectiveness you experience from your daily workout diminishes over time, which can discourage you from reaching your fitness goals. Avoid too much repetition by varying either your speed or your distance every few weeks. A 10 percent increase in either should do the trick.
- Don’t slouch. Keeping your shoulders back and your head up helps you maintain a strong core and avoid the improper posture that can cause sciatic nerve pain.
- Beware of over-striding. It’s possible to reach too far with your legs while walking, which causes undo strain on your joints and can lead to pulled muscles. It’s important to find your sweet spot.
Keep in mind that the most important thing about walking is getting started. So now that you have the motivation and you know the proper mechanics, lace up your sneakers with confidence. Before you know it, you’ll be walking your way to fitness.
How do you stay motivated to keep up a walking routine? Share your tips with us.