photo credit: foshydog
This is a guest post by Aaron O’Connor.
Running is one of the most beneficial workouts we can do on a regular basis. It uses nearly every muscle in the body, improves overall cardiovascular health, and greatly improves both balance and stamina. Unfortunately, not everyone can run.
Whether because of muscle or joint issues, an advanced weight problem, or an injury that precludes the ability to engage in high-strain, high-impact activities, many people haven’t got the ability to even use the comparatively low-impact surface of a treadmill. In many of these cases the best alternative is to walk rather than run.
Walking provides many of the same benefits as running, but with far less physical stress on the body; and as with running you have to be sensible when first starting a walking routine.
- Stretch – Though usually far less taxing than running, it is no less necessary that you stretch prior to walking. Doing so will increase bloodflow to your muscles, reduce the risk of exercise-related complications, and lessen any muscle soreness that might occur afterward.
- Begin softly – Don’t dive into a 5k walk your first time: ease into walking with short, easy jaunts so that your body has time to adjust. It’s important not to over-tax your body in the early stages of establishing a routine.
- Alternate distance – Change the distance you walk each day, alternating between longer and shorter walks. This will give your body time to restore itself while still giving you the benefits of daily exercise.
Unless you are mindful of the stresses caused by beginning an exercise routine, even one as benign as walking, you will end up blind-sided by the negative consequences. Once you’ve established your walking routine, there are a number of ways to improve the long-term positive results of walking.
- Animate your upper body – Simply moving your arms while you walk can vastly alter your fitness results. Keeping your arms in an “L” shape and exaggerating your normal swing strengthens your arms and torso while increasing your heart-rate and circulation.
- Carry extra weight – Strapping 10 to 30 extra pounds to your body will increase the effort you expend without requiring you to increase your pace or lengthen your route. Carrying free-weights will increase your arm strength, while jogging weights or a backpack will minimize the feeling of exertion.
- Change your route – Not only does this make your walk more interesting, but it also changes the character of your workout, altering the way your muscles react to the terrain. If you’re walking on a treadmill, accomplish this by altering the incline a little differently each day.
- Vary your speed – Experts attest to the advantages of irregularity in cardiovascular pacing, so it’s only natural that you should employ it in your walk. You could single out a portion of your route in which to walk twice as fast, walk in step with songs of varying tempo, or change the speed of your treadmill every 3 to 10 minutes.
The most crucial part of any exercise routine, but especially true of walking, is staying motivated. If your daily walk starts to seem like a chore, change it up by taking one of your less strenuous walks at an interesting location, like a zoo or aquarium. You can also experiment with different types of walking. For instance, speed walking is actually a more effective cardiovascular workout than running, but requires a bit of practice and a higher general fitness level than casual walking. However, if you don’t have time to travel to exotic locales or are unfit to speed walk, try listening to audiobooks when you walk. That way, each workout will pick up the story where it left off, and you’ll be able to get through all the books you’ve ever meant to read while exercising.
The benefits of regular exercise are self-evident, and while not everyone can run in the Boston Marathon or compete in the Tour De France, we can still work hard to achieve our personal goals through whatever means is best suited to our lifestyle. As with all forms of exercise, walking primarily requires dedication and perseverance to work; additionally, using techniques appropriate to your situation will increase the positive results of walking immensely.