Walking is one of the easiest and most effective ways to slip in some exercise. Sneaking in a few extra steps before work, on your coffee break, at lunchtime or after dinner can add up to a whole lot of extra exercise by the end of the week.
And all that added movement can lead to some big health benefits such as helping you manage your blood sugar and weight, as well as supporting your heart and bone health.
But are you walking right?
I know, you’ve been hot-footing around this planet your entire life. Well except for those first few months when you were still figuring the whole locomotion thing out. So it may seem like a silly question.
But the truth is how you walk can determine how much you’re getting out of your walking workouts. Do it right and you reap even more rewards.
Following are a few tips to help you make sure the next time you hoof it you get the most out of your walk.
1. Don the right duds:
From comfy clothing to the right shoes, what you wear when you head out for a walk can have a huge impact.
When planning a walk opt for roomy (but not loose) breathable clothing that doesn’t constrict your movement or make you feel overheated. And, of course, the most important part of your outfit is your shoes.
Choose a pair of walking shoes that are a comfortable fit. You need enough room to wiggle your toes and not have any uncomfortable pressure points. But you don’t want a shoe that’s so loose that it moves around which can cause blister creating friction.
To make sure you’re getting the best fit visit a shoe store that specializes in athletic walking and running shoes, and talk to the salesman about what your needs are. And expect to replace them every three to six months, or somewhere between 350 to 500 miles of walking.
2. Fix your form:
If you’re like most folks you don’t think about your form when you walk. You just get up and go. But lots of us have poor posture or don’t adopt the best stance when we walk, and never even realize it.
Walking with a rounded back or taking the wrong kinds of strides can keep you from getting the most out of your walk, causing you to tire out quickly and not use your muscles effectively.
And even worse, poor form can lead to injuries.
When you walk be sure to…
- take even strides, heel first and pushing off with toes
- stand up straight with your shoulders squared
- tighten your stomach muscles slightly
- hold your head up and look about 10 feet ahead (use just your eyes to glance down for obstacles)
- keep your back, neck, and shoulder muscles relaxed
- tuck your buttocks in
- keep your arms bent at around 90 degrees, and swing them naturally
3. Bump up the benefits:
You can take your walks to the next level, and get even more benefits every time you step out by making a few easy tweaks.
Take shorter steps. It isn’t just safer it also adds more steps to every walk. A shortened stride forces your muscles to flex more giving you more of a workout and helping to raise your heart rate. Try timing yourself for 100 steps and then doing the next 100 in fewer seconds.
Pump your arms more energetically. You will automatically burn more calories, and it gives your arm and shoulder muscles a workout at the same time. Consider adding light hand weights to your routine (one to two pounds) after a while.
Try using a pedometer or fitness tracker to record your steps. The ultimate goal for most seniors is between 6,000 and 8,000 steps every day, but you shouldn’t expect to reach that number right away. Instead set daily step goals and work towards them.
For even more tips see 5 weird tricks to turn your next walk into a real workout.