Walk This Way for Fitness & Fun

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Most of us do it every day. It gets us from point A to point B, but have you ever really thought about the benefits walking offers? Walking briskly even offers many of the same health benefits as running or jogging, with the added benefit of less joint pain and stress.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily, and walking fits the bill. 

Not only does walking benefit your heart, but it also can strengthen other muscles, protect your bones and even help you burn fat and lose weight.

Even if you’ve been sedentary, starting a walking exercise program is easy and can be undertaken gradually. If you’re just starting out, take a brisk, five- to 10-minute stroll. When that starts to feel easier, increase the time incrementally until you reach that recommended 30 minutes. Too busy to fit a 30-minute walk into your day? Split it up into two or three sessions.

 

Why do you walk?

Before you start your walking regimen, decide on your goals. If you’re at risk for or suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease, then you’ll benefit from a moderate-intensity walk for 30 minutes daily, according to the AHA. Keep up the pace to a point where it’s still comfortable to talk, but you feel somewhat winded. That should be enough to decrease your risk of stroke and heart disease, but always follow your doctor’s recommendations.

If your goal is to burn fat and lose weight, then you’ll want to incorporate more movement and use more than just your lower body as you walk. Increasing your walking time each day to 45 minutes to an hour will burn even more calories and fat. Make fists and synchronize the swinging of your arms with your stride. If you want to tone arms more, then you might want to try wrist weights as you get acclimated to your walking workout. 

Start a 30-minute fat-burning walk by warming up for two to three minutes at a slower pace, stretching leg muscles as you walk. Increase the pace and walk briskly – you may feel a little breathless – for four to five minutes. Then perform walking lunges for two to three minutes. Alternate walking and lunging until you reach the 27-minute mark, then return to a normal walking pace to cool down. Keep your arms pumping during the walking part of the workout. 

Walk This Way

It’s a good idea to vary your walking routine – mix it up a few times a week by walking on a gym track, your neighborhood’s sidewalk or in the grass at a park. A dirt or synthetic track is much easier on joints, and when you walk the same route, day in and day out, your muscles can suffer. Uneven terrain can put stress on muscles and joints. 

Unlike many sports, it’s easy and economical to get started on a walking regimen. You need comfortable clothing, cushioned athletic shoes, and perhaps a water bottle and headphones if you like to listen to music. Studies have proven that people who have a workout buddy are more likely to stick to a regular routine. Enlist a friend or spouse to reap all those healthy benefits, too, and keep you on track.

Elisa CifuentesHealth