Reinvent your walking routine

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Walking is a simple exercise with many health benefits. But many of us find it boring. But there are ways to reinvent your walking routine so you stay motivated and active.

Health benefits of walking

Putting one foot in front of the other is a simple way to trigger a range of health benefits.

Regular brisk walks help lower cholesterol, control blood glucose and manage high blood pressure. It also helps reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Brisk walks also strengthen muscles, burn calories, and lift mood.

Just one problem: some people find walking boring. Boredom can leave you feeling unmotivated and lead you to skip exercising.

So before that happens reinvent your routine to get the maximum physical, mental, and emotional health benefits.

Exercise-focused walking

All brisk walking is good aerobic activity. But you’ll boost the physical benefits if you add other exercises in your walking routine. Here are some options:

An interval-training walk

Add brief bursts of speed during a brisk walk boosts cardio fitness.

Speed up, push your intensity, recover, and then pick up the pace again. Time yourself for 15, 30, or 60 seconds at the higher intensity and then doubling that amount of time to recover at your normal pace.

If you need longer to recover, that’s fine too. When you feel ready, pick up the intensity and go faster.

If you don’t want to time yourself, use landmarks: speed up as you walk past two houses, go slower for four houses, and repeat.

A strength-training walk

Take a resistance band on your walk.

Work your chest, arm, or shoulder muscles by stretching the band while holding it in front or above you, or loop it around your back and press it forward.

Sport walking

Some activities make walking feel more like a sport. Here are a few examples:

Nordic walking

Using Nordic poles adds upper-body exercise to a traditional walk, engaging twice the muscles and increasing calorie burning. You can walk on level surfaces or on varied terrain.

You can even do it (with a doctor’s okay) if you have balance difficulty, since the poles help keep you stable.

Hiking

Hiking with or without poles will you get out of the house so you can enjoy nature. If you use hiking poles, they’ll help take pressure off the joints.

Meditative walking

The repetitive nature of walking makes it a natural activity for meditation or self-reflection. Try one of these:

A breath-focused walk

The combination of breathing and stepping creates a rhythm that helps quiet the mind. Breathing and counting are key.

Match your footsteps to your inhalations and exhalations. Take four steps as you inhale, take four steps as you exhale. You can lengthen those counts as you relax.

A mindful walk

Use walking as an opportunity to become more mindful. Really be present in your walk. Pay attention to what’s going on around you, and feel the breeze and the sun on your body. Pay attention to what you’re hearing — the birds chirping, the rustle of leaves.

Social walking

Think about walking as a time for social interaction. Some possibilities include:

A chatty walk

Instead of sitting and talking to catch up with loved ones, chat during a walk in the morning, afternoon, or evening. The more you walk and talk, the more exercise you’ll fit into your day.

A heart-to-heart walk

If you need to have a tough conversation with someone, walking can make it easier. Walking relaxes your body, and you don’t need to make eye contact with the other person when you’re walking.

As always before making any changes to your regular exercise routine talk to your GP or your exercise physiologist to make sure that the changes are right for you. If you’d like to talk to one of Diabetes NSW & ACT’s Exercise Physiologists call us on 1300 342 238.

 

This article first appeared in Harvard Health

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