4 easy ways to maximize the benefits of walking
By Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD
Most tips I see for getting the benefits of walking focus on how to add more steps to your daily routine. While that’s a great idea, sometimes I don’t have time to park in the space furthest away or use the stairs.
So my focus is on how to get more out of the time I do have. And it turns out that with a little creativity we can all multiply the benefits of our walking. Here’s what I recommend to anyone who likes to walk, any distance, at any pace:
Add more power to your walk
1. Hopping, heel drops and more. Jump up a little or jump a lot. Jump gently or with a big thud. Hopping 100 times a day isn’t for everyone, but I make it part of my walking routine and have recommended it for years for those who are able.
If you’re even more adventurous, you can try a more difficult one-legged hop. I’ve been challenging myself to do 50 on my nightly dog walks. Whenever my dog stops, I do 10 hops. After a while, the people in my neighborhood got used to it!
2. Interval walking. Think interval training only belongs in intense cardio classes? Nope. Research shows that brisk walking for three minutes followed by three minutes of lower intensity walking boosts aerobic fitness if you do it at least four times a week. Even if you don’t feel up to interval walking, increasing your pace just a bit can be a good challenge.
3. Walk backwards. Walking backwards uses different muscles and improves your balance. Just make sure you’re aware of your surroundings before you try it!
4. Use weights. This is a great way to add greater impact to your steps – which helps build muscle strength. I use a weight vest and have worked up to putting 19 pounds in my vest. You can also wear the vest while doing a wide range of activities – from gardening to housework to strength training, Pilates and yoga.
Tips to get started
Any walk is good. You may choose to simply walk around the block or to the mailbox and back. You don’t have to do everything on your first day – or your 100th day. Any kind of walking is good for health, from a stroll on the beach to walking to work to pushing a stroller.
If you don’t feel like going, take a mini-walk around block. Even if you don’t feel like it, try walking around the block once. You may find you’ll want to go two or three more blocks and you’ll also be getting the proven benefits of being outside in nature.
If you love long-term goals, plan ahead. If there is a 3 or 5K walk neraby, put it on your calendar and take time to train for it. This is also a great opportunity to get a friend to join you on your walking adventures.
Stay motivated with these 5 extra benefits of walking
We all know that walking is good for weight loss, but how else does this simple exercise help your life? These 5 benefits may help motivate you! Regular walking:
1. Allows time to process the day
2. Stimulates detoxification
3. Feeds feel-good endorphins
4. Stimulates bone growth and repair
5. Lowers cholesterol and the risk of cancer and heart attack
So power up your walking routine and enjoy it more! And if you’ve got a favorite walking tip, share it with the rest of us!
- Masuki, S. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2015 Mar 1;118(5):595-603. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00819.2014. Epub 2014 Dec 24.