I’ve often said that walking is one of my favorite activities—everyone can do it and the risk of injury is low. But not everyone is a fan: Some people worry that walking isn’t intense enough or they think it’s boring. The five tips below can help you crank up the intensity of your walk and/or add some fun to your routine. Ready to take one for a stroll?
Switch Your Speed.
Add an element of interval training to your walks by changing up your speed. Interval training basically means you’ll be doing intense bursts of exercise followed by recovery periods. The benefit: you increase your cardio burn and improve endurance. Start walking at your regular pace then increase your speed for a short time, say 20 or 30 seconds. Go back to your regular pace for a few minutes and repeat the cycle again. To increase the intensity, go for longer periods at the quicker pace and shorten your recovery periods.
Count on It.
Any device that tracks your steps or activity—from the basic and inexpensive pedometer (I like the ones from Omron) to the more elaborate and expensive gadgets like Fitbit, BodyMedia Fit and Nike+ Fuel Band—can help you increase the steps you take each day. The simple act of wearing one can motivate you to walk more—to the store, to work, around the house and neighborhood. You can compete against yourself, trying to get more steps each day. Or compete with others; many of these gadgets allow you to get online and compare your results to other users.
Walking with weights is a good way to increase your heart rate without the added stress that jogging or other more intense activities place on the body. You can add weight by wearing a weighted backpack or simply filling a backpack with water, snacks and other gear (aim for about 15 pounds). You can also try hand weights, but don’t overdo it or you could injure yourself. Start with a lower weight (1 to 2 pounds in each hand) and work your way up to five pounds (that’s the highest I’d recommend). And make sure to use proper form. Other options: weighted gloves, vests or hip belts, which you can find at most sporting good stores or online.
Take a New Route.
Tired of the same old, flat, boring route? Choose a new path, preferably one with some hills or a slightly rougher terrain; both require your body to work a little harder. When you reach each incline, power walk to the top and use the downhills and flats to recover. Walking up even a moderate slope, such as a five percent grade, can increase calorie burning by about 25 to 50 percent. You can mimic this on a treadmill by increasing the incline or grade. This allows you to slow your speed and still get a great workout without extra stress on the joints.
Invest in Walking Poles.
Walking poles (think ski poles designed for walking), offer a number of benefits. Studies show they can help improve balance, posture and range of motion. They increase stamina, fitness level and muscle endurance. It may be because the poles increase your stability, which allows you to maintain proper form (no looking down or hunching forward) and take longer strides, giving the joints and muscles a greater workout. They’re perfect if your walk takes you off the beaten path. They cost around $40 or $50, and you can buy them at most sporting good stores. Look for ones that are adjustable and lightweight.
How do you spice up your walking workout?