Here’s how to get the most benefits from your walking routine
Whether you’re looking to start exercising or to keep moving on your rest days, walking is an easy activity that can be adaptable for all fitness levels.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, or roughly 30 minutes per day five days per week.
If you spend that time walking, it might even help you live longer. Older adults were 67% less likely to die of any cause if they were moderately or vigorously physically active for at least 150 minutes per week compared with those who exercised less, according to recent research from the American Heart Association.
The physical of benefits of walking are numerous including:
- Reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke
- Managing your weight
- Improving management of chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol
- Lowering stress levels
“Walking can be an effective form of exercise on its own or something you can add to your fitness routine,” says Dr. Katie Thompson, an internal medicine physician at Aurora Internal Medicine in Plymouth, WI.
Before beginning a walking routine, it’s helpful to ask yourself what’s your goal for walking.
“If you’re looking to get off the couch and move your body, a leisurely walk might be fine whereas if you want to lose weight or get your heart rate up, you’ll want to incorporate intervals and strength training in your walk,” explains Dr. Thompson.
When it’s time for your walk, be sure to:
- Make time to stretch: Spend a few minutes stretching your hip flexors, hamstrings and quads.
- Mix up the pace: Begin with an easy walk, then about half way through alternate between 30-60 seconds of speed walking followed by a minute at your normal pace. “These short bursts will help you burn more calories than walking at the same pace throughout the duration of your walk,” says Dr. Thompson.
- And add more steps: Slowly progress your walking routine by adding an extra minute each week until you meet your goal.
- Work in some strength training: Light weights, wrist weights or resistance bands can help work your upper body or enhance the muscles in your lower body you’re already using during your walk.
- Stay hydrated: Don’t forget to bring with your water bottle and take breaks.
- Stretch one more time: At the end of your walk, close out with another stretch session before heading home.
About the Author
Vicki Martinka Petersen, health enews contributor, is a digital copywriter on the content team at Advocate Aurora Health. A former newspaper reporter, she’s worked in health care communications for the last decade. In her spare time, Vicki enjoys tackling her to be read pile, trying new recipes, meditating, and planning fun activities to do in the Chicago area with her husband and son.