Spinning enthusiasts and Zumba lovers may be able to torch calories faster than walkers, but as far as overall health is concerned, a daily stroll has all-round benefits. Not only are we more likely to keep exercising for longer, walking can lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure and the chance of heart disease – more so than other sport, according to a study by Harvard Health. Taking a walk also offers up a hit of endorphins, so don’t assume that only runners can get a natural high. Here, we find out how it can shift those unwanted pounds.
If you’re not already aware, visceral fat is the stuff that sits mostly in your middle and around your organs. It’s the internal belly fat that not only makes our waistlines bigger, but also raises the risk of us developing diabetes and heart disease, as well as insulin resistance. Walking is a great way to help reduce this type of fat, as a study carried out by Harvard University discovered. The research showed that engaging in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity most days, such as brisk walking, can help to dip into those reserves and burn that stored fat.
“Your pace has a huge impact on the power of your workout, so it’s important to assess what works for you and what you can easily and regularly maintain,” says PT Lucy Wyndham-Read. “If you’re looking for a more intense workout, you might want to amp up the pace.” Here is a breakdown of the three main speeds:
• Stroll: This is the pace you would usually use when you window shop. Strolling for an hour is a great way to get some activity into your day without feeling like you’re working out.
• Brisk walk: This pace should be faster than strolling but not so fast that you can’t hold a conversation. You might start breaking into a sweat here, so make sure you’re wearing the right clothes and walking shoes.
• Power walk: An hour of power walking should be done at a fast enough pace so that you cannot hold a conversation and only answer questions with ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It’s the closest thing to running, so you’ll want to make sure you have a bottle of water and proper shoes for this high-intensity workout!
Finding it difficult to maintain a power walking pace? Intervals are the best way to move forward. Warm-up with a gentle stroll, then do a brisk pace throughout your walk. Every five minutes, push to a power walk to get your heart rate up.
Head for the hills
Feel like you’re ready to graduate from your stroll around the park? If so, your next walk should be served with a side of incline. “One of the best ways to increase the intensity of your walk is hill walking,” explains Lucy. “Begin with walking up and down a couple of hills, gradually increasing the amount that you do.
You should feel this in your calves, quads and thighs, and the range of motion used through your lower body to power you will help you tone these areas.”
It all adds up
Government guidelines suggest that achieving 10,000 steps in a day will burn 500 calories (depending on your current weight and height), and doing that five days a week can burn 3,500 calories – enough to lose 500g (1lb) of body fat. “With so much wearable tech available, why not clock up how many steps you do every day to see the total amount you’re currently walking,” says Lucy. “It might not be very much to start with, so think of places that you can walk to rather than drive. It could be to a shop or a friend’s house – whatever it is that gets you moving, hitting 10,000 steps a day is an equivalent to five miles, which is a great achievement in your daily routine.”
Learn while you walk
“Instead of plugging in your headphones and listening to music, try downloading a podcast, learning another language or listening to an audiobook,” suggests Lucy. “That way you’ll be developing a new skill as you exercise.”