Surprisingly, there are lots of ways to make your walking routine more interesting and beneficial.
Warm Up Gradually
If you’re going to go for a “power walk,” be sure to start off at a more leisurely pace to give your body time to warm up. Your muscles, ligaments and tendons are much more flexible when you are warm, so you’ll be much less likely to “pull something” if you warm up slowly.
Walk Most Days of the Week
Try to walk for at least a half hour each day, but if you don’t have time for that, or if that is too long for you, try more frequent, shorter walks. Three 10 minute walks a day are just as beneficial as one half hour walk. This was proven in a study of the American Heart Journal in 2018, which that accumulating short sessions of moderate activity such as brisk walking throughout the day reduced mortality rate as much as dong the same amount of exercise in longer sessions. The key is to get moving!
Use Walking Poles
I love walking poles! When used properly, they enhance your upper-body workout and improve your stability, reducing your risk of falling. I recommend that you use adjustable, rubber tipped trekking poles which are available online or in sporting goods stores. Adjust the height so that your forearm is horizontal (parallel to the ground).
Count Your Steps
Use a simple pedometer, wearable fitness device, or step counting smartphone to see how many steps you take each day. Begin by shooting for 3,000 – 5,000 steps a day and then try to increase your goal. An observational study in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2019 found that participants in the Women’s Health Study (average age 72) who walked an average of 4,400 steps a day over a four-year period had a 40 percent lower mortality rate than whose who walked 2,700 steps. Mortality rates continued to decline up to about 7,500 steps a day, plateauing after that.
Try Interval Training
New research from the Mayo Clinic Proceedings (2019; 94 , 2413-26) shows that high intensity interval walking effectively improves health and fitness. The protocol for this study was to walk 3 minutes very very briskly, followed by walking 3 minutes at a slower pace, but feel free to play around with different ratios of “fast/slow” walking that feel right for you. The benefits come from elevating your heartrate for a bit, and then slowing down for a while to recover. You could start by speeding up for a minute or two out of every five minutes, or try using landmarks – (speed up from one utility pole to another, and then slow down for two.)
Swing Your Arms
Try to swing your left arm forward when your right leg goes forward, and vice versa – with gusto! Vigorous arm pumping helps you to quicken your pace, and helps to increase your stride length. Bend your elbows 90 degrees and pump from the shoulder, keeping your elbows close to your sides.
Walk To The Beat
Walking to music is fun! If you are technologically adroit, try to work up to music that is at least 100 beats per minute. This tempo will help you to increase your walking speed, which is vital for longevity and function.
Find a Walking Buddy
Many people (myself included!) find it much more enjoyable to walk with a friend. You’ll be much less likely to cancel your walk if you know your partner is counting on you. Consider setting up a weekly outing to some scenic or interesting spot – a Farmer’s Market or a pretty park. I led a hiking group for 15 years, and was thrilled to see the deep friendships that developed – it’s so easy to open up when you’re walking outside.
As you can see, there are lots of ways to enhance your walking routine. I encourage you play around with some of these suggestions to keep your walks interesting and lively. Happy Trails!
Berkeley Wellness Reports
IDEA Fitness Journal
Real Simple Magazine