Walking workouts aren’t about going full out and pushing your limits, but they are a wonderful way to stay fit – with many health benefits, like putting less strain on the joints than high-impact sports, such as running.
So, instead of a tough HIIT workout at the gym, why not head outdoors for a change to enjoy some fresh air. With these tips, you can turn your walk into a workout.
This article on walking workouts answers the questions:
- How to choose a route for walking workouts?
- How to add resistance to walking workouts?
- How to vary intensity during walking workouts?
1. Try walking workouts with a view
Sometimes getting into your walking shoes and out of of the door can be the hardest part of your workout. Once you’re out in the fresh air, have you noticed how the distance and time seem to pass much faster when you’re walking along your favourite coastal or bush track?
Taking a walking route with a view can be a great form of stress relief and a source of inspiration with fellow walkers encouraging you to go a little further or walk slightly faster. Surrounded by others being physically active the energy can often be contagious and you may find that the 20-minute walk turns into a 30-40 minute walk.
2. Choose a route with an incline or mixed terrain
Rather than going for your casual walk around the block, try to mix it up and opt for a path that has inclines and declines.
An even better option is to choose a route with stairs or a nearby hill. While it may not be a walking route, you can tackle the stairs/hill a number of times depending on your energy levels, motivation and time available.
Recruiting more muscle fibres means that your body is working harder and burning more calories, and it will also help tone and strengthen your lower body.
Adding a decent incline to your walk will help to activate the larger muscle groups of your glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps, compared to the work involved when walking on flat terrain.
Inclines are also fantastic for cardiovascular fitness. Higher intensity levels increase your heart rate and pushes your body to use your anaerobic energy system – almost serving as a form of HIIT with alternating between the climbs (work effort) and descents (active recovery).
You can mix it up and take the stairs one or two at a time – striding it out up a hill mimics a lunge exercise and can deliver the same results.
3. Add resistance to your walking workouts
If your usual walking route has benches scattered along it, for example at a park or along a foot path, incorporate the following for every lap that you complete or every 5th bench/5 minutes (1 or 2 rounds per bench stop):
- Tricep dips x 12
- Incline push-ups x 12
- Step ups x 12 each leg
- Bench crunches x 12
Investing in a pair of ankle, wrist or small hand weights is also a great way to add a little extra resistance to your walk to help your upper body work a little bit harder.
Try to walk for five minutes pumping your arms, then take 2-3 minutes recovery before repeating.
Holding something in your hands reminds you to pump your arms which in turn can improve the efficiency of your gait and encourage you to increase your pace (this is why sprinters have such a great arm drive when they are racing).
If you don’t want to be walking the streets with your light dumbbells, you could always take a drink bottle with you and swap arms while you’re walking. This will encourage you to use your arms, focus on your posture and activate your core.
4. Vary the intensity of your walking workouts
Just as you would when performing HIIT on the treadmill, try to vary the speed of your walking workouts. That way you’ll use both your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.
The work efforts are short, so this is a great option if you’re feeling short on energy.
While power walking may not increase your heart rate to the same level that a sprint would, adding 30 seconds of a faster pace walk (work effort), followed by two minutes of your normal pace (recovery) for a lower intensity interval-style workout can be highly beneficial.
If you don’t want to keep glancing at your fitness watch to time this, aiming for landmarks is another great form of adding some power walking.
- Select a landmark and increase your walking speed until you reach it, then recover at a steadier pace until you reach the next identified landmark to pick it up again.
Music is a great way to stay motivated and keep up your pace – or speed it up or slow it down. Songs of about 128 BPM equate to a brisk walk for most people.
Now, TUrn Your walk into a workout!
Walking workouts are a fantastic form of low-intensity aerobic exercise that is easy on the joints. Walking is also a great active recovery workout or a good option for those days when you can’t quite muster the energy to go for a run.
Next time, when you head out for a walk, incorporate some of the above tips to turn your walk into an enjoyable workout.
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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.