ANYONE who says you need to go to the gym every day to be in shape is wrong.
One of the most underrated forms of exercise is the good old-fashioned walk. It’s a daily activity, but it can provide health benefits, from improving your mood to boosting your energy levels.
One study even showed that 30 minutes of walking five days a week reduced the risk of coronary heart disease by 19%*.
Personal trainer Louise Barton says walking can also help relieve joint pain, which is especially helpful for those who suffer from degenerative joint diseases like arthritis.
“Walking can even help boost your immune system,” Louise adds.
“Exposure to the outdoors, varying weather conditions, and simply being more active can help boost antibodies, which in turn can help fight disease.”
In addition, a good walk sweeps away the cobwebs and helps to overcome feelings of stress and anxiety due to the release of endorphins in the brain, which it triggers.
In terms of calories, expect to burn about 150 calories for every 30 minutes of brisk walking, which entails arm work for extra speed and momentum. Jogging, on the other hand, involves more bouncing off the balls of your feet – it’s more of an impact and you tend to move faster.
Walk your fitness path with these simple tips…
Dress to impress
Jeans, boots and a wool jumper are a great option if you are going for a leisurely stroll through the countryside. But if you want to make your walk a little more active, you need to choose the right clothes – after all, you will not be wearing heels on a bike or joggers for swimming! Comfortable sneakers and breathable clothing such as leggings and lycra are ideal for brisk walking. You want freedom of movement while keeping warm.
stairway to Heaven
Following a route that includes a flight of stairs or steps can help burn calories. In fact, climbing stairs can cut an extra 10 calories per minute, which may seem like a small amount, but it adds up quickly over time.
Louise says there are many benefits to climbing stairs. “Not only does this get your legs on fire and helps to naturally strengthen the muscles in your legs, hips, and buttocks, but you also naturally engage all of your abdominal muscles—and your cardiovascular system will love you for it.” can also check and improve balance, which deteriorates with age.
Head to the mountains
As you walk up the stairs, there is a tiny pause at each step to let your muscles relax before walking again. However, master the slope and your muscles will
work even harder as they stay on their toes longer. So head to the nearest hill to pump up your heart and lungs and tone your lower body—no squats or weights in sight. Your calorie burn can also increase by a staggering 100 calories in 30 minutes.
hurry up and weigh the scales can really enhance the walk. But you don’t have to go out and buy a set of dumbbells to carry around the park, especially if you’re not used to lifting weights, as this can lead to injury. Instead, Louise recommends putting a couple of sacks of rice or sugar in your backpack, or walking around with wrist and/or ankle weights.
“Adding a form of resistance to your walking puts more pressure on your muscles, helping to tone and strengthen,” she says.
Get the pace
Sounds obvious, but the faster you go, the more calories you burn in less time. Try to walk with excitement – swing your arms and exaggerate movements to increase your heart rate.
Louise also suggests adding faster laps to your normal pace from time to time, especially if you’re having a hard time maintaining your brisk pace. “Walk as fast as you can for a couple of minutes, then return to your normal pace for a minute and repeat several times for 30 minutes.”
Feel the squeeze
To get your muscles to work a little harder, try squeezing them periodically while walking. For example, when going uphill, actively contract your glutes for as long as you can.
Then, while stretching, tighten your abs, hold for 5-10 seconds, and then relax. Do this from time to time for three minutes.
It makes sense that if you walk to music at a fast pace, you will naturally walk faster, which in turn will increase your heart rate and increase your fitness. Slow down and you can naturally slow down.
So put on your headphones and choose music with a tempo around 100 beats per minute – according to one study, this is the ideal tempo for maintaining a “fast” tempo**.
Google “100 bpm songs” and you’ll find plenty of great tracks to sing along to as you walk, from Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.”
For a real sweat, adding HIIT (high intensity interval training) to your walk is a great way to get a good workout in a short amount of time. Cardio bouts like squats, star jumps and burpees are ideal.
“For example, once you hit 1,000 steps, add an exercise like 10 star jumps. After another 1000 steps, do 10 squats. Do this 10 times until you reach 10,000 steps, the recommended daily goal,” Louise says.
The wrist tracker is an easy way to track your steps. Most smartphones now come with built-in step counters, although this means you need to carry your phone with you wherever you go.
Once you get the hang of walking, you can add some short jogging intervals. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean doing anything too strenuous. If you’re wearing the right shoes—running shoes with perfect cushioning, not hard-soled shoes—try running around a bit, landing lightly on your toes and keeping your torso upright.
There is no need to jog for the whole 30 minutes. Instead, mix things up – go for a brisk walk for five minutes and then jog for the next five. Keep alternating between these two exercises, and over time, try to increase the amount of time you spend jogging. Increasing your pace means burning more calories and is the perfect way to improve your fitness.