Easy Walking Workouts that will Improve Your Health One Step at a Time

January 22, 2011 · 3 comments

This is a guest post by By Aaron O’Connor.

The human animal is one evolved to run. While our days of chasing prey and fleeing other predators are (mostly) behind us, we still have bodies meant to move. Indeed, fitness experts avow that if there is one single type of exercise most beneficial to health, it is running.

However, many of us aren’t necessarily in shape to go straight into running or might prefer a less intensive ambulatory workout.

In either case, walking can provide the ideal introduction to cardiovascular exercise, and a treadmill can obviate the need to take to the wild jungle or savage sidewalks.

Treadmills provide precise control over the variables that contribute to the intensity of a walking workout (speed, incline and resistance), which is useful for beginning walkers. The simplest way to start walking the treadmill for exercise is to just get on and determine an intensity that’s sufficiently strenuous that you feel like you have to work, but not so tough that it wears you out quickly. Start with all your machine’s settings turned down low, then increase the speed and resistance bit by bit until you feel comfortable (but not too comfortable). Keep track of those settings, or program them into your treadmill, so you know where to begin next time.

Once you’ve found the right walking intensity, go at it for 15 minutes. Even if that feels entirely manageable, call it good for the first day. It’s better to take it easy to begin with than to risk overdoing it right off the bat. Depending on how you feel after your workout, and on the next day, decide on an exercise schedule: whether you will walk daily, or allow a day for recuperation between workouts; how often you will increase the length of your walk, and by how much; and the intensity.

While considering these kinds of questions, come up with a routine along the lines of the following:

Week 1: 15 minutes per day, every day;
Week 2: 30/15 minutes every other day, increase intensity;
Week 3: 30 minutes per day, increase intensity.

And so on. When plain old walking gets boring, too easy, or you feel like its returns are diminishing, look up another type of walking routine. One very popular option for beginners and experienced walkers alike (and an excellent way to transition into running) is interval training. This exercise strategy consists of alternating initially short bursts of relatively high intensity exertion with longer recovery periods of normal or lesser exertion. Gradually the length of the high intensity intervals may be increased, while taking less time for recovery in between. In walking, this means switching between a normal, brisk walking pace and a vigorous stride or power-walk. For a simple interval walking routine, start with a five-minute warm-up at an easy pace, then 30 seconds of fast walking, followed by one minute at a normal pace. Go back and forth for the duration of your walk, allowing time for five to ten minutes of cool-down walking at the end. You can easily build upon this basic routine to increase the strenuousness of your walking, or even transition into running by alternating fast walking with intervals of light running. Before you know it you may find yourself comfortably running for half an hour straight.

Whether your exercise goal is general cardiovascular fitness, improving your walking stamina, or working toward running, walking remains both the simplest and easiest way to start. Taking a walk requires nothing more than your two feet and with a little determination can readily be developed into a vigorous, substantial workout that will literally become the first step in your pursuit of fitness.

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RickGetsFit January 22, 2011 at 7:25 am

Great post. I prefer walking with my ipod, and always choose music with a fast beat. I can then take steps to the beat of the music. I really passes the time walking quickly. Cheers, Rick

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