10 Tips for Fitness Walking
By Angie Sutton
Walking is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to stay physically active. In fact, it is one of the most important things we can do to improve our health. Many doctors and other health professionals cite moderate physical activity, including walking, as a “magic pill” for excellent health.
Walking is a good prescription for health because it’s virtually available to everyone. Walking burns calories, improves your heart and bone health, increases energy levels and contributes to better mental health.
Exercise guidelines generally suggest that for health purposes, adults should engage in 30 minutes of moderately-intense activities most days of the week or 150 total minutes for the week. Walking is the most common form of physical activity across incomes, ages and education levels. So, if you're not as active as you would like, why not consider fitness walking?
Certainly before starting any new exercise program you’ll want to check in with your doctor if you have concerns. And if you experience any pain during exercise, make your doctor aware.
Between work, school, running errands, and family commitments, finding ways to fit a walk into your busy schedule can sometimes be a challenge. So how do you boost results when you squeeze in 30 minutes to an hour of walking? Once you have medical clearance, try these 10 tips to see your steps start adding up.
1. Make time.
Making the time commitment is up to you. By choosing to do something else, no matter how vital, you are making the choice that it is more important than your health. Put it on your schedule and treat it like a meeting you can’t miss.
2. Invest in good shoes.
Shoes are the main equipment you’ll need. Be sure the fit and quality of your shoes are suitable. Ben Sigle, owner of the Manhattan Running Company, recommends having a professional fit you the first time and conduct a video gait analysis to ensure appropriate footwear selection.
3. Use the correct form.
Walk tall, look forward, gaze out about 20 feet ahead. Your chin should be level and your head up. Bend your arms slightly and swing them front to back. Push off with your toes and land on your heels, rolling through the step. Breathe evenly.
4. Find creative spaces.
There’s no excuse to blame the weather for keeping you from your walk. Many shopping malls and public buildings offer walking routes that are free and easy to access. Walk every aisle at the grocery store, even if your list doesn’t include items from that aisle.
5. Vary the terrain.
As an alternate to taking the sidewalk in your neighborhood, explore paths, treks and rambles in area parks and nature preserves. Wyatt Thompson, member of the Kansas Governor’s Council on Fitness, suggests varying the terrain you walk on if you are physically able. He recommends checking municipal websites for locations and maps of public trails and pathways.
6. Walk farther.
The easiest way to burn more calories is simply to walk farther than you normally do. According to the EverybodyWalk movement, a moderately-intense pace would be about 15 or 16 minutes per mile. Once you’ve built up your capacity to walk at a brisk 15-minute-per-mile pace, your calories burned per mile is 80. Walk for an hour, or four miles, and burn 320 calories.
7. Add speed intervals to your walk.
Change up your pace during your walk to add intensity and burn a few more calories. Interval walking means alternating bursts of intense high activity with bursts of lighter activity. According to a study by Paul T. Williams, a statistician at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, there is a significant health benefit to pursuing a faster pace. Pushing your body, he said, appears to cause favorable physiological changes that milder exercise doesn’t replicate.
8. Learn to walk fast or racewalk.
The biggest advantage of walking faster may be that you can walk farther in the same amount of time. Assuming you will walk for one hour, your total calories burned over the four miles would be 320. At speeds over a 13-minute mile pace, you are burning more calories per mile as you use more muscle groups during your stride and you are also building muscle. At this pace, you are burning 89 calories per mile or 356 calories for four miles.
9. Add hills to your path.
Walking uphill burns 60 percent more calories per mile according to Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) measurements from research conducted by Barbara A. Ainsworth. In her research, they measured the actual calories expended by people walking uphill with those walking on flat, firm ground at the same speed. The difference was an increase of calories burned by 60 percent or by an additional 48 calories per mile for a 150-pound person. Climbing stairs burns four more calories per minute.
10. Incorporate steps into your work day.
Host a walking meeting with co-workers and take a lap around the building while you talk. Walk during your lunch hour alone or with colleague. Stand up and walk around the office every hour to give yourself a mental break and physical perk up. Park a bit farther away from the front door.
These 10 tips pave the way to getting the most out of your prescription for fitness walking. Whether you walk in sweat pants or dress pants, on a city street or country road, your steps toward better health are adding up.
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Bumgardner, Wendy. (2016, November 23). How many more calories do you burn walking uphill. Verywell. Retrieved from: www.verywell.com/how-many-more-calories-do-you-burn-walking-uphill-3975557
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Williams, Paul T. and Thompson, Paul D. (2013, November 19). The Relationship of Walking Intensity to Total and Cause-Specific Mortality. PLOS. Retrieved from: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0081098