Simple steps to get more out of your exercise
Don’t overlook the simplest form of exercise out there: Walking. It’s a good way to get up and moving and every little bit helps. Also, consider kicking your walk up a notch.
Walking may be undervalued, but it offers some big benefits to overall health and wellness. It’s also one of the easiest, safest, and least expensive ways to get healthy.
Humans are designed to walk, but you don’t need to walk a half-marathon to see results. Even short bouts of walking have significant health benefits.
We can’t argue with the numbers:
- One minute of brisk walking can reduce your risk of obesity by five percent
- 30 minutes a day lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes by 30 to 40 percent
- 30 minutes a day lowers the risk of breast cancer by 20 to 30 percent
Increase Intensity to Build Strength
No matter if walking is your primary form of exercise or you’re incorporating it into your regular exercise routine, intensity can make you stronger. To continue seeing results and avoid plateauing we need to challenge our bodies.
“The increase in intensity leads to more muscle and strength because any stress muscles suffer from increases leads to the adaptation response,” said James M.A. Nicholson LMT, fitness trainer and Principal at Evolved Fitness. “The body will have the muscles become stronger than before to better handle the work load you’ve put them through,” he said.
As we age, this becomes especially important for building and maintaining muscle to avoid frailty and other chronic illnesses.
Here are three ways to boost the intensity of your walking workouts.
- Add Weight: Walking with added weight puts pressure on our skeletal system triggering the body to make new bone cells that will strengthen bones. This is critical to preventing bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis, according to Harvard Medical School. For older individuals who may not be able to do certain types of strength training like squatting, or who have mobility limitations, weighted walking can be especially helpful. Using weighted vests that are about five to ten percent of your body weight are recommended or simply walking with some weight in a backpack or wearing heavy clothing can achieve positive results. In one study published by Rheumatology International, researchers found that post-menopausal women wearing weighted vests during aerobic activity improved balance compared to those who did not add weight.
But, be careful not to add so much weight that you risk injury or compromise balance and proper form.
- Interval Walking: Changing speeds gets your heart pumping and fires up major muscle groups at once. Walking intervals engages legs, core and arms. If you’re in a rush, it’s also an efficient and effective way to maximize time. You can get the benefits of a 30-minute walk in just 20 minutes by doing high-intensity interval walking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a brisk walking pace to be between two-and-a-half to four miles per hour. Depending on your fitness level, you may need to increase your pace to achieve a higher heart rate.
- Walk Hills: Going up and down hills challenges our muscles because they are being used in different ways than walking flat surfaces, which can help build functional strength. It can also make your walks more interesting.
Boosting the intensity of your walking workouts is important because it helps build endurance and strength. Nicholson agrees. He said, “If we’re not building strength, we’re most likely losing it. The body adapts and becomes weaker if it’s not being challenged on a regular basis.”As we age, it’s critical to build strength to avoid frailty, prevent and even reverse chronic disease.