Every year, possibly more than once or twice a year, there seems to be a new “Get Fit” program for us all to adopt in order to turn our lives around from being sedentary to a more active healthier lifestyle. We know that fitness fads come and go, but walking, as a form of exercise continues to stand the test of time as one of the most popular forms helping a person to gain a healthier life, and better yet, one that most people are capable of performing.
However, what sets serious walkers apart from those that take an afternoon stroll is their attention to purposefully working on getting fit. “What most people don’t realize when it comes to walking is that you can get more out of your walking regimen when you pay attention to it and add just a little extra effort,” said Katie Nickel, a Fitness Director at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay.
How you walk is relative to how well you reap the benefits from this form of exercises, such as form and posture. You need to be aware of keeping your spine straight with your shoulders down and relaxed, as you walk. Your head should not be too far forward or back. Walk tall with eyes forward.
Physical therapists recommend taking time to notice how your toes are turned in or out if you are standing upright and are you engaging the abdominal muscles throughout for better core strength. It seems like a lot to take under consideration when just going for a walk, even if it is for getting fit. But these aspects of walking correctly goes a long way towards getting the most out of your walking regimen.
Once you are aware of how to maintain your form and the techniques of walking, don’t compromise on your footwear. Choose a comfortable athletic shoe that is also supportive. Most athletic retailers will usually have knowledgeable staff on hand to assist you with the best shoe selection. Some have the ability to have you walk on a treadmill so as to observe your gait and stride, the better to offer relative shoes that aid you in walking correctly for long periods of time.
It is now a readily accepted fact that a baseline for a walking/exercise program is to undertake a brisk walk for at least 20-30 minutes. Seasoned walkers should set a goal for at least 60 minutes. All levels should try to walk at least three to four times a week to improve cardiovascular fitness. Add additional days as you feel up to it. And remember, a brisk walk is one that you can carry on a conversation with someone while walking at a good pace, usually between 3 to 3.5 miles per hour.
As you go about your walking regimen there are some exercises that you can do in order to get the most out of your daily walk.
Leg Press: The leg press is an exercise that can improve your walking workout.
Sit on the edge of a bench. Place your hands behind you. As you engage your core, slightly lean back. Draw your shoulders down. Lift your legs off the ground and then pull your knees in toward your chest and then extend straight out without touching the ground. A modification of this exercise is to keep both feet on the ground and lift one leg at a time off the ground.
Repeat this movement for 10-12 reps for 2-3 sets.
Side Step Shuffle: Lower yourself into a squat position, feet hip-width apart and your weight in your heels. In this position move laterally with your squat as you travel to the right. Engage your abdominal muscles throughout. Your shoulders should be down with a slight hinge forward. Perform 10 side steps in one direction and then repeat in the opposite direction. Once comfortable moving laterally, pick up the pace until it becomes a side step shuffle. This movement helps build hip strength that you will need as you build up endurance for a more powerful walk. To make this more challenging, find a hill.
Repeat 10-12 reps for 2-3 sets.
Inchworm: Hinge forward as you reach forward toward the ground and come down into a plank. Now walk the toes toward your hands. And then walk your hands away from the toes. To make this movement more challenging as you walk the toes in, come all the way up into a standing position and then start over, walking the hands out into a plank position. Inchworms are great for flexibility and lengthen the whole backside, including the glutes, calves and hamstrings — all primary muscles used during walking. This exercise also targets the abdominal muscles, which are key to developing a strong core.
Repeat for 10-12 reps for 2-3 sets.
Walk with Bicep Curls: Grab a pair of lightweights, from 1 to 3 pounds. As you walk, bring the weights to shoulder level and back down to your thighs. Keep the chest lifted and posture tall. Combining your strength and cardio is a great way to maximize your training time. Repeat 10-12 reps for 2-3 sets.
The above exercises are provided as a means to help you gain strength and stamina in addition to your walking program. It is accepted by therapists and physicians that adding weight training and “Core” strengthening exercises can aid a person in toning their bodies, which can help them to get more out of their walking programs.
So, keep walking, and try adding a few of these exercises to your walking program. Doing so for 2 days a week, in the beginning, should have you seeing the benefits of engaging in these additional exercises and after a few weeks, you may even drop a couple of pounds in the process as well!