Walking workouts are very popular with clients in our Toronto physiotherapy and sports medicine clinics for many good reasons. They are a great way to ease into an active lifestyle if you’ve been leading a sedentary life, and a good way to ease back into one after injury or surgery. For many people with arthritis and other conditions affecting the skeleton, muscles or other soft tissues, the low impact aerobic activity is one of the best options for staying fit.
For walking to become a workout, you need an athletic approach. It can also be something you do for fun, but walking yourself fit means having some discipline and getting the basics right. Here are five principles to keep in mind.
Mix it up – but be consistent. This sounds like a contradiction, but it makes sense. When it comes to any fitness routine, consistent effort is the key to success over time. You can develop routines based around walking workouts at 20, 45, and 60 minutes. Within those time frames, you’ll want to include a warm up, rev up to an intense level, and then cool down.
Max it out. Within your fitness level, make the intense portion of your workout as challenging as you can for at least 2 minutes. That can mean anything from a slow stroll at the low end to a power walk where you can no longer speak – nearly as strenuous as a sprint.
- Begin with a warm up, then ramp up the speed at two minute increments until you hit your peak.
- Roll back a level, then hit your peak again. Now, ramp back down in two minute increments.
- For longer routines, increase the amount of time at each level, and add more intervals at the peak level.
- You can also add two to three minute weight routines to your workout, using hand weights no more than 10 percent of your body weight.
- Remember that you’ll burn 25 percent more calories for every 0.5mph increase in your speed.
- Faster also increases your heart rate, boosting your aerobic gains.
3. Equipment matters. Walking doesn’t involve nearly as much equipment as many sports or fitness routines, but there are some essential components, and you can’t cheap out – quality definitely matters. You can increase and decrease your speed effectively in ill-fitting gear. Your Toronto physiotherapist or chiropractor is available for any advice related to your walking and other sports equipment.
- Your shoes are your friend, and they’ll either make your walk easier and more productive, or be a hindrance if not worse.
- Look for flexible soles and plenty of cushioning.
- They should be lightweight.
- Stiff heel counters prevent side to side movement.
- Choose lightweight materials for your walking gear – there are many high tech fabrics that will heat/cool you, and wick away any perspiration from your skin.
- Dress in comfortable layers.
4. Stay hydrated. This should go without saying, but even if you’re still at the lower end of the scale, and you may not feel like you are sweating much or losing a lot of fluids, you still need to hydrate.
- Water is still a good option, and better that questionable energy drinks that get their boost from caffeine and sugar.
- Some studies actually suggest that drinking more water – up to 17 ounces – will increase your metabolic rate, and therefore the amount of weight you should lose.
- A study in Brazil found that green tea might have some helpful correlation to faster recovery rates for athletes.
- Both green tea and coconut water have sufficient sodium to help replenish electrolytes.
5. Adjust for the weather – but keep going. Be realistic about our Canadian climate, but don’t let it keep you from getting the workout your body needs.
- Have a waterproof outer layer and footwear that is appropriate for each season;
- Adapt your walking time for the seasons – that means earlier in the morning in the summer to avoid heat, and later in the afternoon in winter to take advantage of the day’s highest temperatures;
- The extremes are the exceptions – days with a high pollution count, during a blizzard, or if you suffer from seasonal allergies, you’ll want to explore indoor walking options in your area;
- Have a Plan B route in mind in case your first choice is flooded, too icy, or otherwise undesirable.
Pro Tip: Use a pedometer and/or heart rate monitor to be sure you’re within your advisable rates. A personal coach can help you set your goals.
Above all, make walking a habit and not something that you’re adding on to your day. It should be an integral part of your daily routine.
Even if you feel healthy and don’t seem to have any issues, we advise that you get the advice of your healthcare professional about your fitness goals, especially if there are pre-existing issues, or previous injuries or surgeries. Our Toronto physiotherapists, chiropractors, and other sports medicine specialists are available for advice and consultation. Call us or drop by one of our Toronto physiotherapy clinics today to make an appointment.