Are you just getting into fit life? No worries. Nobody is expecting you to crush a five-mile run your first day at the gym. Walking workouts are a great way to get started on the path to health, and Aaptiv can help.
The best part? Walking is an option almost anywhere and anytime—you can head right out your door at home or during a work lunch break, or, in inclement weather, you can walk on a treadmill or inside a mall. It’s a low cost, easily accessible workout that requires only proper footwear.
Just like going for a run, walking will get your blood pumping and build your stamina. Whether you’re just getting started on your fitness journey or you’re in recovery mode, making walking workouts part of your lifestyle has a ton of benefits. Most people think you have to run to achieve significant fitness gains, but walking can provide the same benefits as long as you include the following tips:
- Pace: Pick up the pace to the point where your heart rate reaches the mid-to upper range of your training heart rate zone. Speed walking really amps up the intensity by maintaining a pace between 4.5-5.5 mph, but avoid this pace if you have joint issues that may be aggravated by the added force that stride creates.
- Distance: The longer you walk, the more you’ll be working in the fat-burning aerobic zone, so try and build your time as you become more fit.
- High-intensity bursts: Vary your pace with periods of the fastest walk you can do. Swing your arms as you walk and build in some hills.
- Add-ons: You can use hand weights or wear a backpack that is weighted to help boost your workout intensity.
- Proper footwear: Choose shoes that fit the requirements for walking. They should provide stability and shock absorption, be lightweight, have an appropriate fit for your foot shape and size. Look for a gel or air midsole, an outsole that provides traction, and a heel collar that is comfortable and non-chafing. Invest in a fitting at a sports footwear store to ensure you get the best fit for your feet.
You can drop pounds by walking. “Fast-paced walking, when combined with healthy eating, is hugely effective for weight loss,” says Art Weltman, Ph.D., director of exercise physiology at the University of Virginia, as told to Health.com. For beginners, a workout such as Cardio Walk to Remember (in Aaptiv’s treadmill section) is a great place to start.
Walking can help with “fat burning and toning,” says Candice Cunningham, Atlanta-based Aaptiv trainer who specializes in women’s health and fitness, pre- and post-natal corrective exercise, and fitness nutrition. Walking puts your body right in the fat burning, aerobic zone, helping to burn stored energy. Plus, adding hills and interval of a higher intensity pace can boost muscle development and strength.
Keep in mind that you may need to boost your daily protein intake when you increase your activity level. Becky Kerkenbush, MS, RD-AP, CSG, CD, FAND says that research has shown that protein intake for people who are doing moderate to hard levels of exercise should be between 1.2-1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight. She recommends eating 20-30 grams of protein at each meal, and says you should try and eat a high protein meal within two hours of exercise for optimal muscle repair and growth.
If weight loss or toning is your goal, keep in mind that you want to make your walking session a workout—that means it should be challenging and at a moderately hard intensity level. What can you do to make sure your treadmill walking workout is more intense than a midday stroll? “Keep your hands moving as though you were outside. You don’t want to hold on to the rails,” says Cunningham. “To make it more difficult, add an incline, or increase the pace.” You will start to feel a good burn once the intensity begins ramping up.
As with all higher intensity workouts, make sure that you allow your body to warm up by walking on a flat surface or at a more subdued pace. Gradually increase the intensity as you warm up and build in HIIT midway into your walk to make sure your muscles and joints are ready for more intense exercise.
Better Fitness and Bigger Goals
If walking workouts have been part of your routine for a while or you’re more inclined to lift weights, walking can be a springboard for bigger goals and a complement to your current routine.
“You can do a cardio walking workout on the same day as lifting; it’s a good addition to weight training once or twice a week,” says Cunningham. “Although opinions differ on this, most trainers suggest doing your walking after strength training. You may find it feels better to do strength training after your body is warmed up from aerobic exercise—either way is fine as long as you take time to warm up before doing strength training.
Over time, if challenging walking workouts are starting to get comfortable for you, you’ll know you’re hitting your goals! That also means it’s time to step it up! Start incorporating some jogging or HIIT into your walking sessions. If you prefer to continue walking instead of adding jogging, try using a backpack with some weight added to boost your workout. It’s a great way to build more stamina and muscular strength.
To get started, log on to the Aaptiv app and try the Aerobic Speed Walk in Aaptiv’s walking section.
If you’re walking as part of an injury recovery plan, your goals (and workouts) are going to be a bit different. Pay attention to how you feel. Are you uncomfortable or in pain? After an injury, “you want to ease into your workout after taking time off,” says Cunningham. “Train at a point that you feel comfortable.” Avoid overloading by doing too fast a pace or distance before your body is ready, and pay close attention to signs that you may be overdoing it. If you start to feel pain or discomfort at your injury, take a couple of days off to allow recovery and then start back at a much slower pace and distance. If you continue to experience pain or discomfort during or after walking, discontinue exercise and discuss your recovery plans with your doctor.
Beyond Weight Loss
The benefits of regular walking workouts go far beyond weight loss. Decreased risk of disease, a stronger immune system, and diminished joint pain are among the many health benefits that walking workouts provide, according to Harvard Health Publications. A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that walking can help build muscles that support the function of joints, and decrease pain associated with a disability. The key is to avoid overloading the joint too quickly and build slowly enough to allow time for the muscles and joints to adapt to the exercise. Also, keeping your walking pace at a moderate level (avoiding a pounding pace) and swapping out concrete or other hard surfaces with a dirt or gravel path will put less stress on joints.
Walking is also good for our mental health—it “reduces anxiety, depression, and negative mood, and improves self-esteem and cognitive function,” says Cunningham. If you’re looking to focus on your mental well-being, try one of Aaptiv’s meditation walking workouts, such as “Mindful Outdoor Walk”.
This zen approach to walking calms the body, clears the mind, and allows for deep thinking. Another way to boost the mental health benefit of your walk is by joining a friend or a group walk. The benefits of buddy walks are two-fold; spending time with friends and talking is a sure-fire mood booster, and having someone who keeps you accountable (you know they’re meeting you, so you’re less apt to skip your walk) makes your workout something to look forward to.