Walking is one of the best forms of exercise as it strengthens bones and gets your heart pumping, and it doesn’t require any specialized equipment so you can do it just about anywhere. Taking a walk for 30 minutes, five days a week can help change your body and your life. But if you’re a regular walker, you may be looking for ways to pump up your walking workouts. Whether your goal is to get past a weight-loss plateau, boost your energy or simply take your fitness to a new level, here are 10 ways to step up your walking routine.
- Grade It. One way to increase the intensity of your walk is to add an incline. If you’re on a treadmill, it’s easy to increase the “grade” or incline by 5, 10 or some treadmills offer even a 15 percent grade increase. If you’re outdoors, look for the hills in the neighborhood. Even a steep driveway can provide a change in intensity.
- Take it Outdoors. Not only can the change of scenery help to beat boredom, ground surface and slight changes in grade while walking outdoors can offer a bit more of a challenge to the body than the consistent surface of a treadmill. To help offset the difference when you’re inside, walk with at least a 1 percent grade or incline on the treadmill to match the intensity.
- Tempo Change. Picking up the pace of your walk can help burn more calories and make your walk more effective. Try walking with at least three different speeds. Walk slowly, then moderately, and then briskly for two-minute intervals. You’ll find that your breathing rate changes and your calorie burn goes up.
- Three Ways to Sideways. Walking is usually done facing forward, but changing the direction to a side step, side shuffle or side cross over grapevine step can help sculpt your inner and outer thighs, improve balance and enhance coordination. Try a side step or shuffle for 10 to 15 steps, and then switch to grapevine. Make sure to perform with both sides leading the moves for balanced form.
- Back it Up. You may need to start this on a treadmill while holding lightly onto the handrails before you take it outside on an uneven surface, but walking backwards completely changes up the muscles utilized in walking. Be sure to know where you’re going and start with a slower pace than you would walking forward. This could be best to leave for the end of your walk to provide a bit of a cool-down before stretching.
- Skip It. Don’t skip the walk itself, but do add a hop, skip or a jump to your walking routine. I personally set my one-minute timer and then perform 10 hops, 10 skips and 10 two-feet jumps. This helps to increase the intensity of the workout and build single-leg strength—plus it’s fun!
- Monster-size It. Change up the stride length of your walk by adding lunges or large walking steps between intervals. Think 30 seconds of an easy walk and then 30 seconds of monster-size steps. This can significantly bump up the calorie burn of your regular walk.
- Weight It. Weighted vests can be worn to bump up the intensity of your regular walk. To ensure comfort and safely, opt to wear a vest that is no more than 5 to 10 percent of your bodyweight.
- Phone a Friend. Ask someone to go with you on your walk. It can make the time pass quickly or even motivate you to walk a little longer. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to connect with those you love while improving your fitness. Dogs also make for great walking partners, so don’t leave his tail wagging at home.
- Water Walking. Walking in shallow water at the beach (weather permitting) or indoors in the pool can add a new challenge to your walking routine, as the resistance of the water makes your movements more challenging, even as the impact on your joints is lessened.
To help Americans increase their physical activity through walking, ACE has created a free toolkit that supports Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action on Walking and Walkable Communities. It contains a variety of resources that can be used by individuals, community organizations, faith-based institutions, schools, employers, etc. to encourage and support individuals to walk more and create walkable environments.