Walking is one of the simplest forms of exercises and does not require any other equipment, other than a pair of good walking shoes. Julia Valentour, MS, exercise physiologist and program coordinator for the American Council on Exercise, suggests that exercise doesn't have to be hard to be very effective. If a 30-minute walking session is planned, it can even be broken down into two 15-minute sessions or three 10-minute sessions to suit a busy schedule.
Apart from weight loss, walking is also helpful in bringing down the levels of cholesterol and the risk of diabetes. It is also effective in increasing the bone strength and improving blood circulation. A few extra steps a day is very helpful in developing a habit for a healthier life, says Timothy Gardner, MD, past president of the American Heart Association.
Consider the following:
- If you are just starting the walking schedule after being sedentary for some time, start walking three times a week for about 20 minutes a day, and gradually increase up to five or six times a week.
- Use both distance and time along with heart rate to work out the best fitness level.
- Check the intensity of the work out based on the heart rate percentage. One can check the heart rate by checking the pulse or by using a heart rate monitor. But one has to remember that the traditional heart rate formula does not fit everyone. Courtenay Schurman, MS, CSCS, author of The Outdoor Athlete, says that most of recommendations suggest starting at 70% to 75% of the maximum heart rate. This may not be same for everybody, especially if a person is basically fit.
One can use the talk test to gauge the intensity – if one can chat briefly, the exercise is in the aerobic zone. If one is gasping for air, the intensity of the workout should be reduced slightly. If a person can speak several phrases without any problem, the intensity would have to be increased.
- Wear a pedometer – Increase the number of steps gradually. Keep adding steps daily until it reaches 10,000 steps a day.
- Maintain a walking journal – Maintaining a journal for the walking sessions helps to see the improvement and can motivate you to do more.
- Walk with a partner – This is to add accountability as neither of the partners would want to let the other person down. A partner can hlep make walking a regular habit.
- Sign up for a charity walk – This is a goal-based program and helps you to stick with it.
Make it more challenging
- Speed up – Walk faster or try race walking, as it burns more calories. Brisk walking at four miles an hour can burn up to 334 calories while strolling at three miles an hour burns 220 calories.
- Walk up hills – This increases the intensity, just like lifting the inclination in a treadmill. If you are on a treadmill, walk up with inclination without hanging on to the equipment.
- Change the surface – Changing the surface of walking gives a greater challenge than on the same grounds.
- Use Nordic poles – This involves more of upper body movement. Using poles increases the cardiac workout while it takes off the stress when you are downhill.
- Add resistance – Have a weighted back pack or weight vest. Be sure the weight is uniformly distributed without affecting the gait and not making it prone to injuries.
Tips for Safety
- Have a walking buddy, if possible
- Have a medical bracelet if you have diabetes, an allergy, or other conditions
- Let your friends and family know the route you take
- Carry a cell phone
- Avoid deserted places for walking
- Walk against oncoming traffic, if possible
- Wear reflective material so that others can spot you easily
- Walking helps to lower levels of cholesterol and the risk of diabetes.