Step It Up: 27 Ways To Make Your Walk Rock
Consider yourself a professional athlete. After all, you mastered one of the best forms of exercise around your first birthday. It may not come with the fame and fanfare of the NFL or the NBA, but walking is safe, easy and a great way to stay in shape. It can be done almost anytime, anyplace and with no instruction and equipment except for a pair of shoes. It’s also an activity with little risk for injury that can be done at nearly any age.
Best of all are the myriad health benefits: protection against heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and cancer.
If you don’t do more walking because you think it’s boring or unchallenging, here are 27 ways to put the bounce back in your step:
1. Step out with your spouse. Walks with your significant other can work wonders for a relationship because they ensure uninterrupted time to talk through problems … or just talk.
2. Take the kids. Having children walk with you (bribe them with a reward if necessary) gives them exercise and makes you a better role model. Toddlers and babies can be pushed in sturdy strollers with bike tires.
3. Dog it. Your pooch needs exercise, too, and you’ll feel safer. No dog? Your neighbor will owe you one if you regularly volunteer to walk her restless rover.
4. Reboot your routes. Plodding the same route every day is a motivation killer. Vary your routes as much as possible, even if they all start and end at your front door.
5. Change the surface. A golf course fairway, beach sand, the dirt shoulder of a bike path and even powdery snow are among the soft surfaces that can make your walk more challenging—and ease the pounding on your joints.
6. Call a friend. Never have the time anymore for a long chat with your neighbor or best friend? Sure you do—on your next half-hour walk.
7. Join the club. Make new friends by joining walks organized by a local club or group. Many hospitals, YMCAs, park departments and health clubs have walking groups.
8. Meet a friend. Start your own walking group with one or more friends who can meet regularly on the same days and at the same times.
9. Measure the mileage. Use a car odometer, a step-rate pedometer or a GPS watch, depending on your budget, to measure and record each day’s walking distance. Then challenge yourself with goals that gradually increase your mileage.
10. Gauge the gait. Strapped for time? Walk faster rather than farther. Divide walk time by walk distance to determine your per-mile speed or average miles per hour.
11. Estimate the effort. Heart-rate-monitor watches make it easy to keep track of your effort level so that it’s just right on walks—and the constant feedback should motivate you to maintain or increase your pace.
12. Take the stairs. The more flights of stairs you fit into your day at home or work, the more you will challenge your heart, lungs and legs.
13. Trek to the top. Striding up hills will make you fitter and stronger. Add one big climb or several small ones once or twice a week. If you live in a flat area, walk inclines on a treadmill.
14. Go to the mall. Do climate-controlled walks at the nearest mall, which may open early for walkers or walking clubs.
15. Walk errands. Anytime you have errands within 20 blocks of home or work—the mailbox, the bank, the pharmacy—walk rather than drive.
16. Change direction. Walking backward strengthens your muscles in a different way and enhances your coordination. But stick to a safe and smooth surface, like a track or treadmill.
17. Add intervals. Alternating between a moderate and brisk pace every one to three minutes burns more calories and gets you fitter than steady walking.
18. Power up. Power walking—striding with quick, compact steps and a powerful arm swing at chest height—gives you a better full-body workout.
19. Enter an event. Find a fundraising walk or run/walk—such as an AHA Heart Walk, ACS Relay for Life, Walk MS, Avon Walk for Breast Cancer or Race for the Cure—to add a goal and purpose to your daily walks.
20. Do a circuit (indoors). After every few minutes of walking on your gym or home treadmill, step off to do a different exercise, such as crunches or dumbbell lifting, then immediately resume walking to keep your heart rate up.
21. Do a circuit (outdoors). Try doing a nonstop cardio/strength “circuit” outside. Find a park or bike path with parcourse or Fit-Trail equipment, or improvise by doing midwalk exercises using lampposts, lawns and logs.
22. Get smart. Listen to audiobooks by downloading them to your iPod or streaming them to your smartphone. Or learn a foreign language that way.
23. You bet. Plunge into the new phenomenon of “social betting” by staking money on achieving your walking goals on sites like stickk.com or gym-pact.com.
24. Take a hike. Don’t wait for your next vacation or road trip to explore trails at nearby county and state parks. Consider using hiking poles to engage your upper body and enhance balance on hikes.
25. Prep for a trip. Plan a trip with your spouse or family that’s focused on walking or hiking, or book a walking or hiking vacation.
26. Try racewalking. If brisk walking becomes too easy, switch to racewalking form to go even faster for a great workout. Learn how in a beginners clinic (check racewalking.org).
27. Walk + run. If walking at any speed feels too easy, gradually phase in short segments of jogging (wear running shoes).
Knee or hip pain slowing you down? Gwinnett Medical Center offers a variety of ways to help you stay on the go. Find a board-certified sports medicine physician near you at gwinnettsportsmed.com.