Walking is a great form of exercise by itself, but there are ways to make it even more fun and challenging.
Are you ready to step up your walking game?
Thanks to its low-impact nature, walking is an accessible exercise to lots of different people. Walking is the most popular form of aerobic exercise in American adults, according to the CDC. Regular walking lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and a variety of cancers.
You’ve probably heard that 10,000 steps a day should be the goal. Turns out that number has little scientific basis, and for those age 60 and older, 6,000-8,000 steps are probably fine. But no matter how many steps you’re taking, you might be able to get more out of them.
In an interview with Eat This, Not That, Joanna Hall, walking coach and founder of WalkActive, said "[M]any people are not optimizing the amazing physical, mental, and cognitive benefits they can get through walking because their technique is suboptimal.”
From perfecting your technique to adding props or new technology, here are 7 ways to put more oomph into your daily walk.
Whether you want to hold small weights in your hands, strap on ankle weights, or wear a backpack full of books, adding more weight to your body will challenge your muscles and help you burn more calories.
Work on your form
Paying attention to your posture, stride, arms, and feet will help improve your performance. Be sure you’re standing up straight, walking with a wide but comfortable stride, and keeping your gaze straight ahead. Ensure your feet are hitting the ground lightly, heel to toe, and you are swinging your arms comfortably and naturally. Read more about proper walking form with this Mayo Clinic guide.
Track your steps
Use a pedometer or an app on your phone to track how many steps you take. Seeing yourself closing in on a new personal best can put an added spring into your step.
Head for the hills
Walking on hilly terrain will offer you more of a challenge, burn more calories, and build more strength. If you walk on a treadmill, hit the incline button every so often (and increase and decrease the speed as you go) as a sort of interval training.
Find some stairs
A flight of stairs is a great way to add more intensity to your workout (Hello, Rocky Balboa). So if you’re walking in a more populated area, try to find a set of steps to add some resistance. (Obviously if you have bad knees or any mobility issues, ignore this suggestion!)
Listen to music
Listening to some up-tempo tunes will usually boost your motivation and enthusiasm. Create a playlist that will energize you with an app like Spotify, Apple Music, or Pandora before hitting the road.
Work in some resistance movements
Stop mid-walk and do some squats or crunches. Find a bench and do a few reps of push ups or tricep dips. Or you can do some lunges or skips for a few yards instead of standard walking. Changing up your movement is a great way to build strength, burn more calories, and keep things interesting.
Stretching is a vital and often-overlooked aspect of exercise, so once you’ve walked (with an extra challenge or two), be sure to do some cool-down stretches before going about your day. Don’t forget your calves, hamstrings, hips, and arms.
As you can see, there’s lots you can do to add some challenge and pep to your daily walk. Listen to your body and do what feels good without overextending or straining yourself. And check with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program.
Need help getting started with exercise? Some Medicare Advantage plans offer SilverSneakers, a program that allows you access to certain gyms and fitness classes. To find out if your plan offers SilverSneakers, or to find a new plan that best fits your needs, check out our easy-to-use plan finder tool.
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