Walking is my favourite way to exercise. I love that it’s free, doesn’t require any fancy gear and you can do it just about anywhere. Also, it’s pretty democratic — you don’t need a great deal of flexibility or even coordination to pull it off — and it’s a great stress-slayer.
The thing is, walking tends to be a little low-impact, especially if you get a bit distracted or lazy and allow them to turn into leisurely strolls. Don’t get me wrong, strolling is great — but it certainly doesn’t produce as many aerobic benefits as a brisker walk.
So if you’re using walking as a way to stay fit and burn calories, you’re going to have to make it work harder. In happier news, this is actually quite easy to achieve — give one of these six trainer-approved tricks a try:
1. Get elevated
The easiest way to turn a gentle walk into a tougher workout? In the words of U2, e-le-va-tiiiion is your friend.
Neil Russell, exercise physiologist and VIP trainer at Atleta, recommends looking out for hills and stairs — not just picking a flat, easy route — and incorporating them into your walk to get your heart rate up. "You're not increasing impact with the ground, but you're definitely upping intensity," he explains.
If you're fit and healthy and capable of doing a hill sprint, go for it; Russell says this can work as a form of interval training. But if you're not up for breaking into a run, you don't have to.
"If you're someone who just goes for walks and you're looking to make the most out of it, do, say, five times up and down those stairs or that hill, then go back to your walk. Then you're throwing a little interval session into your low-intensity walk," he explains. Even powering up a big set of stairs two at a time will get your heart rate up. (Post continues after gallery.)
The benefits of this approach are twofold. "When you're doing it your heart rate's significantly increased, you're going to be working the muscles slightly differently; but also for the next 15 minutes of your walk you're recovering, so you're working at a higher intensity to recover and walk," Russell explains.
"If you were just to walk and then go home and sit down, all your levels would come back to resting immediately, whereas if you did interval training then it'd take 30 odd minutes or a lot longer to get your metabolism back to a rest or a basic state."
2. Add bodyweight exercises
Walking can be a great cardio workout, but it doesn't offer a lot in the way of resistance training. Russell says there's an easy solution to this: add some exercises that incorporate your body weight.
"Throw in some basic exercises that require minimal equipment, like resistance-style exercises — squats, lunges, bench dips. If you're in a park and you don't mind laying in the grass, do crunches, a plank or some push ups or knee push ups," he says. You could even submit yourself to burpees if you're
a masochist into that.