What if you aren’t a workout enthusiast, does that mean you can’t keep fit?! If high-intensity exercise isn’t your cup of tea, is there a way you can still boost your fitness levels? Is walking good for health? Does walking exercise even qualify as exercise? If these are questions on your mind, read on:
First things first; research shows that moderate-intensity exercise can also go a long way in improving cardio fitness levels. In fact, if you are a non-exerciser and have a low cardio fitness level, you are likely to gain the most from moderate exercise as you graduate from the least fit bracket. In other words, as you move from being sedentary to being active, your risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease significantly reduces.
If you just began with a brisk walking regimen of 150 minutes a week, research shows that there could be a 10 percent increase in your cardio fitness levels. Now isn’t that a worthwhile statistic to aim for? Brisk walkers are also known to see a marked improvement in metrics such as:
When it comes to some prominent markers of our health, walking, therefore, can achieve a lot. There couldn’t be a better piece of news for those of us who dread pumping iron in the gym or going out for a run. In fact, it can safely be said that walking is actually the most underrated form of exercise and can well be a great exercise choice for many people.
Besides the notable physical benefits of walking, the fact that walking also adds to a positive mental state is an added advantage! From relieving the symptoms of anxiety to reducing rumination around negative experiences, walking is seen to have a host of benefits. If deep sleep has been eluding you for a while, walking could take care of that too. Simply incorporate walking into your daily routine and also witness its mood-boosting rewards.
In fact, a Stanford University study has shown that walking also increases creative output by an average of as much as 60%! Simply put, you can walk your way to those creative, innovative ideas and those “ah-ha” moments that each of us craves for.
That walking can also improve cognitive function and memory while reducing the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, says a lot in its favour.
If the above statistics have you all charged up to begin your walking workout, here are the many ways in which you can get the most out of your daily steps. Irrespective of whether you feel you have limited time or that you need variety in your walking workout, we have you covered:
Take to a daily regime of walking briskly for half an hour every day. Even if you want a break on weekends, that is a neat 150 minutes a week. If you find a single session of 30 minutes intimidating, for starters, you can even break it up into multiple sessions as per your convenience. To reap the advantage of these sessions, however, do remember to make use of your fitness tracker. With the help of the tracker, you can ensure that you are in the fat burn heart rate zone. In other words, your heart rate is between 50 to 70% of your maximum heart rate, as you walk. In this zone, what your body does, is to start to tap into your fat stores for its dose of energy instead of using basic sugars and carbohydrates. This, in turn, starts to lead to fat-loss.
As you get used to your new-found exercise routine, you could gradually, if you like, move to exercise at between 70-85% of your maximum heart rate. That your cardio fitness score will continue to jump, is a given!
Do remember, however, to maintain a good posture while walking. This will enable you to make the most of your walk as also prevent any injury. The areas to watch out for, include:
Once you have a walking routine in place you could also work at introducing quicker segments into your walks. It will be a good idea to start by jogging for 5 to 10 seconds every minute and gradually increasing the duration to 30 seconds every minute. Going forward you can also begin to alternate walking and running in your regimen. You can also incorporate some toning exercises every few minutes, such as squats or lunges. With variety introduced into your walking regimen, getting to the proverbial 10,000 steps a day will be far easier!
If you are keen on pushing your walking workout up several notches, here are some handy ways to do it:
If you want to activate your glutes and calves, there is nothing quite like using the incline feature on your treadmill. No marks for guessing that you will be burning many more calories as the incline is increased. In fact, adding an incline could bring you the results that jogging or running could bring, only without the wear and tear on your knees. It will help to start walking at a comfortable speed without the incline as a warm-up. You could then increase the incline for three minutes while returning to zero incline for a minute, for a few cycles. In adjusting the speed of the treadmill though, remember to keep it at a level where you can safely walk on it without having to hold on to the rails.
To add intensity to your walking exercise you can also add weights. This is the perfect way to add some strength training to your walking regime. You could use dumbbells or even carry a heavy backpack. Now that is a sure-shot way to increase the calories burnt!
If the non-exerciser in you is still up in arms in getting started, here are some hacks to get you going:
If you believe that walking isn’t an easy task, first things first, start easy. It will also be a lot more fun if you can induct a walking buddy into your routine. Alternately join a walking group and keep yourself motivated with great company. Good music can also be just the thing you need to get your walking regime going. Ensure you have a great playlist; with your favourite songs playing in your ears, you wouldn’t even realize where the slated 30 minutes went by. Exploring the outdoors can be yet another incentive to keep your walking regime, regular. There can be nothing more soothing than the greenery around to reduce the perceived pain and exertion. Overall, the key is to make walking time fun and not look at it as a chore.
Well, schedule the walking appointment on your calendar. That way it will become a must-do activity as opposed to can’t do. If you really do not find a slot to fit the walking regime in, simply break it up into segments. So instead of doing 30 minutes of walking at a stretch, do it in 3 slots of 10 minutes each. Alternately, try hacks such as parking your car far away in the parking lot so you need to walk the distance or walk up to that colleague isn’t of shooting an email. Before you know it, you could have hit the 10,000 step mark!
On days that you find it hard to get outdoors or are not up to hitting that treadmill in the gym, it is also possible to get a great walking workout indoors. You could simply walk in place for as much as 5 minutes several times a day. Think of that commercial break during television viewing at night. All you need to do is to use a marching technique- lift your heels, swing your arms. If you are planning to walk indoors, here are some other ways to do it :
While these efforts may seem small, they add up without impinging too much on your otherwise busy day! The added advantages when it comes to indoor walking is that you do not have to worry about aspects such as inclement weather, traffic, exposure to the sun and more. With fewer variables, what it means is that you can be more consistent with your workout. Do remember to wear your fitness tracker though so you have a record of what you have been able to achieve, as opposed to relying on guesstimates of what you may have achieved.
Not when you are dressed comfortably and invest in the right walking shoes! An absorbent headband and moisture-wicking fabrics can keep you comfy as you meet your walking goals. Choosing the right fit when it comes to earphones is equally important. After all, you don’t want to be reminded of its presence in your ear through your walking regimen. Beyond this, of course, that dripping sweat is the best testament of the effort you would have put in and the results that will follow!
Just as you are getting ready to step out for that walk, here is a handy checklist to run through to ensure you can make the most of your walk:
Pro tip- Remember it takes 21 days to form a new habit. The key, therefore, is to be consistent!
Here’s to your walking exercise regimen…..and to your good health! While it may be hard to believe that walking could knock off those kilos or add to your mental health, the proof, as they say, lies in the pudding!