Walking is a great way to exercise and if you’re walking regularly then your health and body shape will be benefiting from it. But if you feel like you could do a bit more and you would like to enjoy even more benefits, then here are some ideas to make your fitness walking more challenging.
Ways of progressing
To progress an exercise program, you need to increase at least one out of
- Frequency (how often you do it)
- Duration (how long you work for)
- Intensity (how hard you work)
Increasing the first two would be straightforward, but of course this would also be more time consuming. If you’re enjoying your walking and want to spend longer doing it, then this is a great way of progressing. More likely, though, is that you don’t have extra time to spare. If this is the case, then to get more out of your walking you need to increase how hard you work.
Increase your speed
This is the most obvious way of increasing the intensity of your fitness walking. To plan out an increase in your walking speed, consider the following:
- How are you going to monitor your speed? The simplest method is just by judging how hard you are working. For example, if you usually walk at a normal walking pace, you could pick up the pace so that you are breathing a bit more heavily and feel warmer. Alternatively, you can use a heart rate monitor and aim for a higher heart rate.
- Are you going to aim to cut down on your walk time or increase the distance you cover in the given time? The second option will give you more fitness benefits, but you may prefer to first achieve the new speed over your current distance and then increase the distance.
- Do you want to increase your speed across the whole walk or do it in intervals? For example, on a 20 minute walk you could split the time into 5 lots of 4 minutes, alternating between your normal pace and a faster pace.
Add gradient to your workout
Walking up and down hill challenge the core and leg muscles in different ways, giving you better all-round muscle toning. The uphill part will also be harder work aerobically. Being able to adjust gradient is one of the big advantages of a treadmill. If you’re walking outside, you would of course need to find somewhere to walk that is hilly.
Walk on different surfaces
Like varying gradients, walking on different surfaces is more challenging and gives a better all-round workout. Finding a route with different surfaces might be difficult, depending on where you live. Parks and other open spaces have plenty of grass and might also have gravel and stone paths you can walk on, or leafy areas. If you’re lucky enough to live by the beach, sand is ideal for adding a challenge to your walk.
Having extra weight to carry will make your walks harder, but you need to be careful with this. Weight can affect posture and/or add stress to joints. Carrying hand weights can cause you to lock out your elbows and using ankle weights can stress the knees. The safest way of adding weight is probably to use a weighted vest. These are usually adjustable so that you add as much weight as you want. This is useful, because you can continue to progress by increasing the amount of weight. Alternatively, a filled rucksack carried properly on your back will safely increase your effort level, as long as you make sure you maintain good posture.
Using one or more of these methods to add challenge to your fitness walking will help to give you both muscle strengthening and cardio benefits. In some ways a challenging walk is a better option than running, because running is high impact and has more potential for injury. However, you might eventually want to pick the pace up to a run to challenge yourself even further.