Walk your way to Fitness
Did you indulge too much over the holiday season? If you need to lose a few pounds or just want to up your fitness level, a brisk walk is an excellent way to start getting fit.
A brisk power walk can give you a good overall workout and burn more calories than a slow jog because of the effort needed for walking, while jogging can rely on momentum.
Walking is a great alternative for people who find jogging uncomfortable or just plain don’t fancy it – you can put me in column B! It also puts less strain on your knees and body and is suitable for any age.
Another positive is it’s an inexpensive way to get fit. No gym membership or expensive equipment is required. The only thing you need is a pair of good walking shoes and you’re good to go.
How much is enough?
The World Health Organization recommends at least 150 minutes of physical moderate intensity activity throughout the week for adults aged 18-64. The duration of this activity should be a minimum of 10 mins.
A brisk walk counts as a moderate intensity activity. You could split your walks into 30 minutes 5 times per week.
Using the 150 minute rule to track your activity is an easy way to ensure you are getting the recommended physical activity. However, if you prefer to go the steps route, it’s generally advised to walk at least 10,000 steps per day. This is based on the fact that for the average person, 10,000 steps equates to 30 minutes of walking. Of cause because people have different stride lengths this can vary widely.
According to Cancer Research UK, 10,000 steps is equal to approximately 5 miles. If this sounds like a lot, remember you don’t have to achieve it all in one go. You can track your steps using a pedometer.
Remember: Any exercise is better than nothing and you don’t have to start out with these figures, you can always build up your steps/minutes to the recommended amounts.
A moderate intensity can be measured by an activity that will raise your heart rate and make you breathe faster and feel warmer.
Examples of moderate intensity activities are:
- brisk walking
- cycling on level terrain
- mowing the lawn
- water aerobics
You should still be able to talk clearly as opposed to a vigorous activity which would make you breathe hard and fast and cause you to be unable to say more than a few words without having to catch your breath.
Examples of vigorous intensity activities are:
- cycling fast or up hills
- swimming fast
Like any exercise, the benefits will depend on how much effort you put into it. A gentle pace is good but to see fitness benefits, a good power walk at a moderate intensity is best. Some benefits that can be attained are:
- boosts energy
- clears the mind
- burns calories and reduces body fat
- tones legs
- triggers ‘feel good’ hormones which help relieve stress, tension and depression
- lower risk of osteoarthritis
- reduce risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes (type 2), stroke and some cancers
- lower high blood pressure
- decreases the risk of hip fractures and falls in older adults
- better weight maintenance
Warm up, cool down
If you are planning to participate in long walks, hikes or any moderate/vigorous physical activity, you might want to consider stretching before and after the activity.
Stretching before is a good way to improve flexibility, prepare muscles for being active and can prevent injury. This is especially helpful if you choose to drive to a location for your walk.
You can download a warm up, cool down printable which will help you. It includes the following stretches:
- hip flexor
- side lunges
- standing toe touch
- seated toe touch
Before starting any walking program, speak to your doctor to make sure you are well enough to start.