It seems that many of us are doing a lot more walking outside during stay-at-home orders, with gyms closed (or only partially open), cabin fever taking hold and summer weather emerging. Walking indeed is great exercise for most everyone, particularly for those who may cannot tolerate the repetitive stressful impact of running. In fact, walking briskly for one mile (approximately 3.5 to 4 miles per hour) burns almost as many calories as running the same distance at a moderate pace.
As good as walking is, it may feel a bit too easy to highly fit individuals, who are accustomed to HIIT sweat sessions. While there is certainly nothing wrong with a leisurely stroll, or a casual walk with your dog, to improve your fitness, you should be boosting the intensity of walking workouts. That doesn’t mean you have to run – unless you want – but you can incorporate ways to make walking more challenging for better results.
Here are some simple ways you can start boosting the intensity of walking workouts.
Boosting the Intensity of Walking Workouts
- Increase your pace. Focus on walking at a brisk pace, taking quick steps and pumping your arms. This is NOT the time to be texting or talking on the phone. Put your phone away (or don’t bring it at all!), and instead use your smart watch or activity tracker to count your steps or time how long it takes you to get from one landmark to another. If you follow the same path, see if you can reduce the time it takes you to walk to the end of your block, or to different markers on a trail, or one half-lap around a track, for instance. Or mark out one mile and time how long it takes you to walk it.
- Incorporate intervals. Mix up your pace throughout the workout, such as walking fast for 30 seconds, and then at a moderate pace for 2 minutes; then repeat. Or walk fast for one minute, then recover for a minute, and continue for the duration of your routine.
- Add some extra weight. And we don’t mean that you need to gain pounds on your own! Some people carry light dumbbells when they walk, or wear ankle weights, but we recommend a weighted vest, which more evenly distributes the load and minimizes any extra stress on specific joints. If you don’t have access to a weighted vest, wear a backpack loaded with books, a gallon jug of water or a dumbbell or two.
- Take on inclines. If you live in a hilly area, extra challenge is built into your walking workouts. Take on smaller as well as steeper hills, both uphill and downhill, to tone your lower body and boost your stamina. Limited to flat geography? Find a staircase, or head over to a local school stadium and walk up and down the stairs. Bonus points here if you do this wearing the weighted vest!
- Mix up your gait. You have to ditch any self-consciousness here. After every half-mile or 10 minutes, change your gait for one to two minutes to walking lunges, side steps or even walking backwards (carefully) to tax your body differently.
- Include body weight exercises. Perform 30-60 second intervals of body weight exercises, such as squats, lunges, push-ups (use a bench or tree), jumping jacks, lateral hops and more every five minutes on your walk.
- Change terrain. If possible, switch surfaces, which vary the challenge to the lower body and require you to stabilize differently. Try pavement, grass, a track, gravel and sand to keep yourself working.