Brisk walking for 30 minutes, five times per week, can help you lose weight, reduce your risk for coronary heart disease and provide other benefits, according to the American Heart Association. The Mayo Clinic includes improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels as benefits of fitness walking. Knowing how to get the full benefit from walking will help you shed pounds and improve your overall health and fitness.
Pick a Route
Write down your route before walking. Plan a route that includes hills to increase intensity and muscle use. Walking uphill works your calves and hamstrings, while walking downhill recruits your quads more. Take into account traffic, terrain, weather and other safety considerations. Let someone know your path in the event of an accident or other emergency.
Choose the Right Footwear
Wear shoes and socks that fit comfortably. Shoes that are too tight may cause muscle soreness during your walk. Loose shoes and socks can cause blisters.
Find Your Optimal (not Maximal) Pace
Walk faster after you are warmed up. Walk at a pace you can maintain for the duration of your workout, increasing your pace as you improve your stamina. If you are new to walking, don’t push yourself too hard during your first few walks. The longer you walk, the more you will build cardiorespiratory stamina. Building stamina–so you can eventually walk faster and for longer periods of time–will be your main goal during your first week or two.
Move Your Arms
Swing or pump your arms to increase muscle activity and calorie burning. Use exaggerated arm movements for maximum benefit. Use short, quick arm pumps and long swings. Turn your torso side to side to increase muscle use. Coordinate this upper-body turning with your arm movements.
Try Carrying Weights
Carry hand weights to increase muscle building. Light dumbbells or other hand weights let you perform exercises such as biceps curls, flyes and triceps extensions during your walks. Flyes have you start with your arms at your side, bringing the weight together in front of your chest. For triceps extensions, start with the weights behind your head, between your shoulders, them raise and lower them straight up and down.
Add Some Short Jogs
Add one-minute jogs every five minutes to increase your calorie burn and challenge yourself. As you get in better shape, add more frequent jogs or jog longer each time.
Don’t Stop Cold
Cool down by slowing down your pace. If you have built your stamina to a pace that you are race walking or power walking and your heart rate is elevated to the point you are breathing very hard, spend several minutes walking slowly to lower your heart rate and prevent blood from pooling in your muscles and joints.
Stretch After You’re Done
Stretch after each walk. This will prevent muscle stiffness and soreness and help you increase your flexibility.
Be careful when first using hand weights while walking. You may become distracted, not pay attention to traffic or lose your balance. Remember that whatever you use, you have to carry the entire walk, so make sure it’s not too heavy.
Wear reflective clothing and bring a flashlight or light that attaches to your arm or clothing if you walk at night. Bring a water container water on hot days. Check for traffic coming from behind you, including bikes, if you are wearing headphones.