How to walk for fitness & weight loss
So you want to walk for fitness? Walking is great for that. Walking has been my saviour in terms of going from a sedentary lifestyle to being more active. Walking is one of the easiest and least stressful forms of exercise you can do for your body. It doesn’t take a lot of equipment and you can fit it in to your normal routine rather than having to go to a gym.
You can walk for fitness. Walking can make you fit. It changes your body in so many ways. It has health benefits too and with a little know-how you can raise your walking game and have a great workout. If you incorporate different speeds and different inclines in your daily walking routine this additional effort will raise your walking to the next level. Walking will get you fit. I’m walking proof of that one!
Research has been conducted on walking and it has been scientifically proven to the best type of exercise for those who are obese to get started with exercise. Other studies have shown that it reduces your weight and it helps us as we get older to stay subtle and lean.
However, looking beyond all the wonderful ways walking helps prevent diseases, helps our mood and helps us maintain our bodies in to old age, walking has a significant effect on improving our fitness levels. I am living proof of this. My resting heart rate before I started walking was in the high 70s. After several months of walking it has reduced to high 50s. I put that down to a few things. Firstly, hitting my 10,000 recommended steps each day and mixing my walking up with quick bursts of walking fast to walking up stairs and hills.
Why Walking is a form of exercise and how you can walk for fitness
Some do not believe walking is a form of exercise. I totally disagree with them. Personally I walk on average 2 hours each day. It is brisk walking where my heart is pumping harder and by the time I reach my destination, I am sweating (or glowing if you prefer!)
Just to prove to you that walking is indeed an exercise and you can walk for fitness, why not try the following tips to get more out of your walking?
- Mix up your walking by walking briskly. You can burn around an extra 300 calories an hour if you walk briskly so give it a try and see how you go. It’s probably easier to brisk walk in short bursts and then go back to your regular walking. Even after your short burst of walking fast your heart rate still continues to pump faster. This is a great interval training schedule. You could opt to walk fast for one minute then slow for one minute and repeat for as long as you feel you can manage it.
- Go up hill. Fit some hills in to your walking. You can read how walking can help you lose weight in this blog post. The act of walking up and down hills helps you to build strength and stamina and it burns more calories too. Doing hills and flats is a form of interval training which is a very popular form of getting fit. Remember too what goes up must come down! Walking down hill is just as hard on you so make sure you go slowly with your knees bent and take shorter steps going down to avoid injury.
- You may want to opt for using a walking stick or walking pole. This helps to enhance your upper body workout. Think of how people ski using their lower and upper body. This is exactly the same only you are doing it without the snow! This type of walking will also benefit your chest, arms and abs. This really is some work out! Not to mention that this type of walking uses up to 40% more calories. Result!
- If you are not keen on walking poles how about hand or wrist weights? I have to share a story with you. Like I said I am overweight however I am losing it with my walking journey. Anyway, I figured out that the additional weight I have been carrying weighs more than an Ikea Billy bookcase. So in effect I have been carrying around a Billy Bookcase for a while now! Difference being it is fat! So if you want to increase the intensity of your workout carry some weights round with you. Don’t go for ankle weights as they aren’t great for walking and you could get injured!
- Walk more. Increasing your distance is a great idea too. While the advice is 10,000 steps per day, why stick to it? Your body will soon get used to this so crank it up again. I’m have just started to increase my steps. I am now aiming for 12,000 per day. It was after my teenager asked when I was going to increase my steps – teenagers eh?! I will report back after I’ve been walking for 12,000 per day and let you know the results
The above tips are what is referred to as high intensity interval training or HIIT. It has been shown to the one of the best forms of exercise we can do. The reason being is simply the fact it involves short periods of intense activity which is then followed for a rest. So if you take the first bullet point and put that in to action, you will be doing a HIIT workout. It’s so easy to tweak your regular walking in to one.
A report in the New York Times showed the benefits of a walking program that involved gentle walking with intervals of fast walking for 3 minutes. Those who took part improved their aerobic fitness levels significantly. They also improved the strength in the legs and reduced their blood pressure. Indeed they went back to those walkers several years later and they were still doing the HIIT walking program with sustained benefits.
Walk for fitness: Walking gets you fit as you aren’t sitting on your bum!
This may seem obvious but what is so great about getting your 10,000 steps a day is that it gets you off that sofa or out of that chair. Listen I know all about sitting for hours at a desk or on the sofa – I’ve done it. If it were not for my Fitbit on my wrist I could easily sit from when I get in to work until lunch time and then sit from after lunch to home time. I might get up for the odd toilet break though.
Honestly I know it is so easy to sit for long periods of time. In fact my Fitbit is about to buzz in 7 minutes to remind me to get up. I set it to go off at 10 minutes to every hour to get up and do 250 steps. I can tell you now that each time that little fitness tracker buzzes I go “really, sure it hasn’t been an hour”. Every hour on the hour I say exactly the same thing because we really could sit on all!
Did you know that sitting too long has been associated with an increase in all types of health issues from type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and numerous other things? Did you also know that the average American actually sits on average anywhere between 9 to 10 hours each day – depending on their occupation? In fact some spend an average of 12 hours per day on their bums!
To give yourself a change of not getting any of these health issues is to start walking and keep up walking. I would also recommend you get a fitness tracker so you have something close at hand to keep a track of your steps and to remind you to move.
In fact fitness trackers that monitor physical well-being and fitness are very popular indeed with the number sold increasing year on year. Personally I use the FitBit Charge 2 which not only keeps track of my steps, it reminds me to move and it notes my sleep patterns.
In research recently, it showed that wearing a a Fitbit did help overweight postmenopausal women increase their activity levels by nearly 40 minutes.
After reading all of the above I am sure you have come to the same conclusion as me that walking can make you fit. It can move you from a sedentary lifestyle to a more active one and from there you can can it to the next level by using HIIT to make your walking even more intense.