Upgrade Your Walking Workout
Sunday, June 28, 2015
LifeTime WeightLoss in Exercise, Fitbit, Lifestyle, Walking, cardio, exercise advice, fitness tips, steps

Of all of the weight loss means out there, walking is one of the most effective ways to shed pounds.

Many people assume that in order to decrease body fat they have to log considerable miles running, spend numerous hours lifting at the gym or cut calories until their stomachs talk back. Not only are those tactics unnecessary, but they’re generally ineffective!

In addition to appropriately personalized workout sessions, daily movement like walking offers countless benefits. You can even “up” the physical (and mental) advantages by adding these variations.

Add Some Weight.

Want to work on toning your muscles as well as getting in your cardio workout? Try adding some ankle weights, or carry some light weights with you. While walking is a great low-intensity exercise that promotes fat burning, adding light weights can offer an extra challenge to target additional muscles and provide a new level of difficulty to your walking routine.

Trying it for the first time? Choose a shorter route that you repeat a few times, bringing the weights with you one time and leaving them on the next loop (so that it isn’t continuous).

Get Work Done.

Get more steps in during your day plus increase productivity, and schedule a walking meeting at work. For your next work meeting, bring it outside! Walking meetings can be a great way to multi-task and get some fresh air and sunshine while being productive at work.

When you switch up your work atmosphere, it oftentimes can be just the thing to spark creativity and productivity. Find (or establish) a good walking route near your building, enlist some co-workers, and head outdoors together for your next meeting.

Step It Up.

A surefire way to get the most out of your walking workout is to pick up the pace. Add intervals or periods of speed walking in short bouts and then decrease your pace to normal walking speed. Try 30 second intervals of speed-walking followed by 3-5 minutes recovery (normal/slower walking pace).

The variation in speed increases heart rate intermittently. As a result, you burn extra calories compared to a slow steady-state walk. The change of pace makes the walking workout more challenging and increases the overall number of steps you take as well!

Unplug.

Leave your phone at home, and while you’re at it leave your headphones, iPod and any other electronic device you usually tote along. I used to hate running without listening to music. The sound of my own labored breathing while running made me feel like I was more tired than I actually was. However, there were a few runs when my phone and/or iPod battery was dead and I was “forced” to run without music. While this was once a challenge for me, it's offered a peacefulness that I’ve come to love! Not only am I able to think more clearly, but the break from additional sound and screen time benefits my health as well.

Did you know that exposure to light, especially artificial light and backlit devices (i.e. phones, iPads, computers, TVs, etc.), stimulate cortisol secretion? In other words, it stresses your body. Ditch your device, and enjoy your walk sans screen time.

Now when I’m at the gym I’m more aware of those around me who get caught up in their phones - whether it’s taking “selfies,” surfing social media, texting, talking on the phone, checking emails, or a slew of other activities. Make the most of your walking workout, and take some time away from your electronics.

Help Yourself and the Community.

Adding more to your walking workout may not always mean adding more aspects to physically benefit you. Maybe you’re looking for a way to relieve stress or improve your mood. Although just getting out for a walk will naturally help with those efforts, another way to add a “feel-good” dimension to your workout is to do good for the community and environment.

Grab a bag (and gloves), and pick up any garbage you see while out on your walk. You’ll be amazed at how quickly small wrappers and random items on the side of the road add up. It will offer a more challenging dimension to your workout physically, too! You could even consider “adopting a highway” and making it something you do a few times a year alone or with others.

My family and I have done this in memory of my uncle, and I look forward to improving the community each time we go (and getting in my steps)! It’s always uplifting how many passers-by will honk, wave or shout their appreciation.

Add Variety.

For many people, walking is simple exercise that helps them ease into more challenging workouts, but for others it seems not challenging enough. For those people, I recommend many of the above tips but especially this one.

To turn a walk into more of a full-body workout, add in calisthenics. Cali-what? Calisthenics involves using your own body weight to help build muscle. For example, push-ups, lunges, pull-ups and calf-raises are all forms of calisthenics (although you can add weights or do these via exercise machines as well).

Throughout your walk, you can find places to stop for calisthenics. A curb or park bench can be a great place for calf-raises, incline push-ups, tricep dips and step-ups. Stop at the park for a quick set of ab exercises on the grass. These quick moves don’t have to be time-intensive but can switch things up from your regular walking routine.

Hydrate.

Going out for a walk? Be sure to bring your water bottle with you! Water throughout the day is critical and especially during times of activity. Adequate hydration is pertinent to help support basic cellular health and to maintain overall energy levels.

Even being slightly dehydrated can negatively impact exercise intensity and our overall mentality and motivation to exercise. By sipping on water throughout your walk, you’ll help your body function more optimally, burn more fat, and maintain energy - maybe allowing you to go farther than you would otherwise.

Power up with Protein.

Before you head out the door, consider what you've eaten. The food that you eat throughout the day actually greatly impacts how your body burns calories during activity. Depending on what your health and fitness goals are, you can and should plan your food accordingly.

To help burn fat (rather than carbohydrate), be sure to include adequate amounts of protein in your meals and snacks. A good standard to follow is about a palm-size serving of protein (e.g. chicken breast, fish fillet, etc.) at meals, and about half that (or so) for snacks.

Eating a ¼ cup of nuts or drinking a quality protein shake, rather than grabbing a sugar-filled granola bar, can make a big difference in your body’s ability to be a more effective fat-burner.

Track It!

While walking itself confers numerous physical and mental health benefits, seeing just how far you went, how many steps you took, and/or how many calories you burned (approximately), can be quite a motivator! There are many apps and websites that allow you to track your route to estimate its distance, or you can invest in an activity tracker and/or heart rate monitor. These devices are easy to use, allow you to see progress throughout the day, and may help hold you accountable to your workouts.

Test out some of these tips on your next walk, and take note of how you feel during and after. Walking is a great daily habit, and by periodically adding in new dimensions it can keep your routine fun and challenging.

Would you like more ideas for upgrading your step time? Talk with a fitness professional or weight loss coach today! Thanks for reading.

In health, Becca Hurt, MS, RD, Assistant Program Manager of Life Time Weight Loss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

Article originally appeared on LifeTime WeightLoss (http://www.lifetime-weightloss.com/).
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