You walk your dog. You walk off your dinner. More often than not, you consider these tasks rather than a form of exercise.
But exercise doesn’t have to mean lifting heavy weights or running on the treadmill. The simple act of walking gets your heart rate pumping and your muscles moving.
According to Tom Dodsworth, an ACE-certified exercise specialist at the Sewall Healthy Living Center at Sharp Coronado Hospital, consciously walking for more than 20 minutes can be included as part of your total active minutes of daily exercise.
To increase the benefits of your walk, Dodsworth shares seven easy tips for walking with purpose:
- Listen to music to change up your tempo.
“Try creating a playlist with a group of songs that are fast and slow — mix it up, walk faster and slower, respectively, to add an interval element to your walking program,” says Dodsworth.
- Use an activity tracker and try to top your last walk.
Use your own pace as a baseline, and work to increase your steps each week as a goal.
- Choose tougher terrain, such as uphill or stairs.
Simple choices, such as choosing the path with a slight incline or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, are great ways to increase your walk’s difficulty without any equipment.
- Increase arm movement.
“Arm swing directly affects locomotion and trunk rotation and extension, which is great for additional movement and exercise,” says Dodsworth.
- Speed up your walking pace.
Dodsworth suggests counting how many times your right foot hits the ground in one minute, then double the number and make that your pace.
“If you want to go faster, increase your steps per minute, not the stride length,” says Dodsworth. “This will increase your heart rate while placing less stress on the joints.”
- Find a walking buddy.
Having someone to keep you accountable is a perfect way to motivate more frequent — and more enjoyable — walks.
- Wear comfortable shoes.
“Ensure the toe box has space for the toes to reach out,” says Dodsworth. “Generally, active people should replace shoes about once per year.”
Dodsworth suggests trying your next walk barefoot. “Walking barefoot forces weak, tight muscles in the foot to stretch and grow stronger,” says Dodsworth. “This may be painful for some at the start — these are the individuals who need it the most!”
Another benefit of barefoot walking? “Removing the shoes allows one to de-stress and reconnect with the earth,” says Dodsworth.
Try incorporating one or more of these tips on your next walk and be conscious of increasing your heart rate for maximum health benefits.