Can You Walk Your Way To Fitness?

If running isn’t your thing, and you’re not quite ready to head back to the gym, getting fit might not be as difficult as you think. According to the experts, brisk walking is proven to be just as effective as running when it comes to improving overall health. From why incline matters, to the benefit of tracking your heart rate, here’s what you need to know…

It’s Just As Effective As Running

“Walking and running are both excellent forms of exercise and regularly doing either helps maintain a good level of fitness. Walking also has lots of benefits – both physically and mentally – as it boosts your immune system and reduces stress. In fact, some research suggests brisk walking is as effective as running when it comes to reducing your risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Running isn’t necessarily a better workout, but if you’re looking to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time, consider running or brisk walking. Both exercises will raise your heart rate and are great forms of aerobic exercise.” – Michelle Njagi, senior MSK physiotherapist at Bupa Health Clinics 

You Can Target Key Muscles

“We use a lot of muscles when we walk and run; mainly the core and leg muscles, such as our hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes. Walking – and running – will directly improve the endurance of these muscles. Though walking and running mainly target the lower body muscles, walking briskly can also engage your arm muscles, abdominal muscles and your spinal muscles. While both forms of exercise use the same muscles, the main difference between the two is the impact and intensity. Running is higher-intensity, whereas walking won’t require as much work; but it’s still a great way to exercise.” – Michelle 

Fitness Newbies Can Handle It

“For someone who is injured, has never run before, is overweight or has joint problems, then walking is a good place to start as it puts less stress on the joints and spine. While running burns more calories than walking, jumping into running too soon can cause unnecessary stress on the body and ligaments, which can lead to injury. Injuries can affect your consistency, and for progress, consistency is key. Power walking is something to consider for those who maybe don’t want to run, but are keen to burn more calories than a casual stroll. Test out how your body handles brisk walking before jumping in at the deep end.” – Suzie Cave, 361° ambassador and GB Modern Pentathlete 

Your Heart Rate Matters

“For fat burning, you need your heart rate to be around 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. I use a Garmin watch and app to track my heart rate, but there are lots of other apps that also offer this feature. Age and fitness levels will affect your heart rate. The base calculation is 220 minus your age – this is your absolute peak, say if you were to work at 90-100% of your capacity. Working in different heart rate zones will have different fuel demands on your body. For example, you will quickly run out of fuel if you decide to sprint, whereas if you decide to go on a good-paced walk, keeping your heart rate at a steady 60-70% of your maximum, it will use fat as fuel, which is good for fat loss.” – Suzie 

Interval Training Can Take It Up A Notch

“Interval training – where you switch between different levels of intensity – has been shown to burn more calories and fat compared to continuous, same-paced exercise. Supercharge your walk with power walking as this will raise your heart rate and burn more calories – even swinging your arms more as you walk will have a similar effect. You could alternate between normal walking and power walking to achieve an interval-style workout, or simply change the terrain. Moving from a flat surface to walking up a hill will change the amount of effort you’re expending, too.” – Suzie 

You’ll Burn A Considerable Number Of Calories

“The exact number of calories you burn during a walk will depend on your weight. Walking briskly – at around 6.4km per hour (four miles per hour) for 30 minutes could burn up to 150 calories. Aim for a brisk walk where you maintain a pace that gives your heart and lungs a workout and where you increase your heart rate. If you can still talk but can't sing the words to a song, then you’re walking briskly.” – Michelle

 

Consistency Is Key

“The key to achieving any goal is consistency. As walking is low impact, aim for five or six sessions a week – but it’s best to start little and often rather than going all out and only managing a couple of sessions a week. Variety is also the key to everything, so mix up your walking routes, and add in some hills and interval sessions each week. Also, try to include a leisurely walk with zero pressure and incorporate some yoga or stretching on your rest days. Do make a plan each week – it’s important to have a routine. If for any reason you can’t stick to it one week, brush it off and move onto the next and make it count.” – Suzie 

Incorporating Weights Increases Intensity

“Holding onto small weights or dumbbells can be a good way to increase the intensity of your walk – if you move your arms quickly, you’ll not only increase your core muscle activation, it will also strengthen your upper body and increase your heart rate. You can also supercharge your walk by carrying a heavy backpack. This will encourage your muscles to work harder, particularly your legs. It’s important to make sure the backpack is adjusted correctly and has straps that can fasten around your waist and chest, which will help maintain good posture. Be wary of using ankle weights when you walk – there’s a risk of straining your ankle or leg muscles – so try picking up the pace or walking on an incline instead.” – Michelle 

Getting The Right Kit Matters

“A pair of running trainers needs to provide adequate support and cushioning in as light a way as possible. When running, the foot strikes the ground in a different way compared to walking. Walking trainers, however, need to be more robust, especially around the forefoot where scuffing can happen. Terrain can be rougher on walking routes, therefore the sole may be made of a heavier, more durable material. Knowledge of your feet is also key – you can have your feet analysed in a dedicated running shop or by a sports therapist who can tell if you have flat feet, normal arches or supinated arches and make a recommendation on what type of shoe would be best for your needs. For example, a flat-footed person would require more support than someone with a normal arch. I wear the 361 Nemesis shoe and highly recommend it for walking – it is a slightly wider shoe to allow for thicker socks, too.” – Suzie 

It’s Also Beneficial For Runners

“Adding walking into your routine if you’re a runner has lots of benefits. Brisk walking builds endurance and uses the same muscles, just at a lower intensity. Walking can strengthen your feet, too. Try to add ten minutes of walking after your run, as this will increase your total distance without adding the risk of injury through overexertion. It is also a great way to reduce load in your muscles and joints and if you run a lot, you can potentially get injuries associated with increased load and impact. This can be a good way to maintain endurance but reduce load on joints on alternate days to avoid overuse injuries in the future.” – Michelle
 

For more information visit Bupa.co.uk and follow Suzie on Instagram @SuzieBear_Cave.
 
*Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programmes.

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