Tips to Get Walking
It’s one of the easiest forms of exercise – walking. It suits any fitness level and any age, and perhaps best of all, it’s free.
Steve Stonehouse, NASM CPT, USATF certified run coach and director of education for STRIDE, says the “benefits of walking range from strengthening your heart and lungs to boosting immune function and overall energy.”
And, he adds, “Walking can absolutely be as good, or even better, than running.”
Walking and running, he explains, both produce many cardiorespiratory benefits. And while it’s important to train at different intensity levels for different lengths of time, he says, walking poses less risk of impact and overuse injury than running.
Chad Alexander, founder and personal trainer at Fitnessminimalists.com, enjoys walking so much that he spent four and a half months walking 2,650 miles from Canada to Mexico on the Pacific Crest Trail.
“Regardless of your current fitness level, walking has multiple health benefits that are backed by peer-reviewed research,” he says. “For example, in their randomized controlled study consisting of 54 healthy adults, Drs. Boros and Wang (2021) found that those who walked one hour per day saw significant improvements in terms of their sleep quality and duration over a 12-week intervention.”
Alexander points to another study, by Drs. Hanson and Jones (2015), of people who joined walking groups. Researchers found significant reductions in the following areas:
- Blood pressure
- Resting heart rate
- Body fat
- Body mass index
- Total cholesterol
- Waist circumference
“Personally, I love walking because it can range from being an extremely gentle form of cardio to a highly intense workout,” Alexander adds. He remembers being “quite out of shape” when he was training to walk the Pacific Crest Trail, and finding it challenging to walk up mild hills.
“Fast forward two months, and I found it relatively easy to run 10 miles with a pack on. The only cardio exercise I had done during that time was walking. It turns out that walking up and down hills with a pack on throughout varying altitudes, temperatures and durations makes walking one of the most versatile and scalable forms of exercise,” he says.
“Whatever physical shape you may be in now, walking can be a powerful way to improve your fitness, overall health and well-being.”
One way to make your walks even more fun is to bring a friend (or a dog!) with you. Having company also boosts the mental health benefits of walking.
And if you’re going on a solo walk, WW has curated a range of audio content to keep you company. For music lovers, there’s a WW walking playlist on Spotify. For the podcast crew, there’s WW Presents: The Podcast series, which is the official podcast of WW Canada. In it, coaches Emily and Kelly chat with WW members, coaches, and surprise guests. And brand new for WW members is WalkTalks, a library of 30- to 40-minute guided interval walks with health and wellness insights from celebrity guests like Oprah, Matthew McConaughey, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
If you want to take your walks up a notch, Stonehouse shares the following tips:
- Increase your pace: “Try interval walking for your next workout. Begin at a normal pace for three to five minutes, then go to a brisk pace for two minutes and repeat.”
- Wear weights: “You can also increase the intensity of your walk by using some variation of weights, whether it’s wearing ankle weights, a weighted vest or carrying light dumbbells. The added weight will increase your heart rate and increase resistance, further engaging your muscles to help you get lean. It’s best to start out light with five to 10 pounds and work your way up as you get stronger.”
- Go for longer distances: “The farther you go on your walk, the longer you go, and you’ll inherently burn more calories doing so.” Stonehouse knows it can be difficult to stay on a treadmill for more than half an hour, so he suggests walking around town or finding a natural trail nearby.
- Incorporate other exercises: “Walk at a mildly brisk pace for five minutes, then stop and do body squats for a minute, and repeat for roughly 30 minutes.”
- Find variable terrain: Stonehouse says a change in your terrain is one of the simplest ways to increase the intensity of your walking workout. “Whether you’re using a treadmill or find an outdoor route, you’ll increase your heart rate and engage your leg and core muscles more for a short amount of time.”