One of the most accessible forms of cardio exercise is walking. It provides many health benefits and can be accomplished by all fitness levels. You can walk almost anywhere and it doesn’t really require any special equipment and can be quite a social event.
While using large muscle groups such as quadriceps (thighs), hamstrings (back of the legs) and gluteal muscles (rear) as well as other lower leg muscles. It is low impact, which means you are not stressing your body the way you might during running or jumping exercises. The great aspect of using those large muscle groups is that you improve circulation, bone health, cardiovascular endurance, reduction of obesity and the risk of diabetes. This is because it does get your heart beating faster and to some extent strengthens and tones your muscles.
If you walk on a consistent basis you may be able to lower your LDL, which is your “bad” cholesterol. Also, if you are an outdoor walker and can get some sunshine you will also get the added benefit of vitamin D.
There are some ways to improve your walking program. I have listed a few for you.
Speed and terrain really do matter.
Intervals rock! After a warm up of 5-10 minutes at an easy pace, pick up your pace as though you were late for a meeting. Go at a pace where it would be difficult to carry on a conversation for up to 5 minutes and then back down for a recovery. Recover depending on your fitness level and then when you are ready, repeat. Don’t forget to cool down and stretch at the end.
The other alternative would be to find a place where there are hills that you could walk on hills and flats, repeat.
Don’t forget your music! Nothing motivates better than a good playlist of music to get you moving.
Also, check out some apps on your phone. There are some great ones out there such as The Walk – Fitness Game, or you can just track it with any of the several apps out there that are quite motivating. I also might suggest getting a pedometer to help track steps on a daily basis. I happen to use the Fitbit and am quite happy with it, except I keep losing mine. My fault, not theirs!
As you start walking longer, I would suggest that you do get a good set of walking shoes. Dress for the weather, bring water.
Don’t take long walks after eating big meals. Last thing, I’m going to put this out here is walking all you need to be fit? You really need to add weights too. This can be a bodyweight, band, or swiss ball session. As I stated in an earlier post, fitness does not have to be complicated or expensive. But to compliment your walking, you really need to balance your program out with strength.