Make the Most of Your Spring Walks
Turn a stroll into a strength training workout
Springtime is here and let's face it: walking is one of the most leisurely and often preferred way to enjoy the season's changing scenery and warmer, fresh air. It's also a great way to squeeze in some cardiovascular activity.
But, you ask, how can you boost your health benefits when the act of putting one foot in front of the other can sometimes be downright monotonous? Try adding these five techniques to add a heart-pumping twist to your next stroll.
Go the distance
Recruit a walking partner or carry a pedometer to push beyond the 10,000 steps you should take daily. Make it 12,000 to 15,000 steps if you're trying to lose weight. You can also tack on an extra mile (or three) and really burn off weight by mixing up your walking with a jogging interval every few minutes.
Walk with poles
Engage all — yes, all — of your major muscles by incorporating Nordic walking poles into your regimen. Similar to cross-country skiing, Nordic walking uses 90 percent of your muscles and helps you burn an average of 400 calories per hour compared to the 280 calories burned during traditional walking. Frequent weekly use also helps reduce muscle pain and increase oxygen consumption during workouts. Learn about the technique at anwa.us.
You don't need any equipment for this calorie-torching technique. You just need to turn around — and walk backwards. According to researchers, walking in reverse uses more energy in shorter bursts and is easier on the knees and hamstrings. This also is a great change for anyone looking to improve balance.
Vary the terrain
Tackle tough or uneven ground to give your muscles a new challenge. If you usually go for flat ground, try hills or hill intervals to pick up your pulse. If you already hike hills, try sand or dirt trails to give those calf muscles something to scream about.
Jump while you walk
Ramp up your cardiovascular activity by incorporating plyometrics, or short bursts of energy focused on muscle contraction. Simple exercises can include jumping from the sidewalk onto ground-level grass or, to increase the intensity, leap onto a nearby bench or jump in place with your fingers pointing in the air. These sweat-inducing moves improve bone density, muscle power and agility, among other benefits. For more ideas visit this Plyometrics guide.
Whatever your fitness level, there's always a little tweak you can add to your walking regimen for a greater challenge this spring. For example, try adding hand weights or a weighted backpack.