Walking for Exercise

There's little doubt that walking for exercise can help you achieve your weight loss goals and make a significant difference to your overall health. Far from being another fitness gimmick, walking is proven to deliver outstanding results.

Here's are just some of the documented health benefits ...

  • Even if there are no changes in your diet, just 45 minutes of walking four times a week will see you shed 18lbs of fat over a year. (Dr James Rippe, University of Massachusetts Medical School)
  • Three hours of walking per week reduces your risk of heart attack by 35 per cent. (www.medicinenet.com)
  • As a weight bearing exercise, walking positively impacts bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis. (Effect of walking exercise on bone metabolism in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Keio University School of Medicine, Tokyo.)
  • Walking for 30 minutes each day can reduce cancer death risk by 34 per cent. (Physical activity and mortality among Norwegian women, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm)
  • Walking can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes by 58 per cent. (www.medicinenet.com)

Taking Your First Steps

In order to get the most out of your walking, it's vital to make sure you have the fundamentals nailed down. Consequently, check out the
techniques you'll need to help you turn even a casual stroll into a weight loss workout.

Level 1

Try to walk at a comfortable pace, paying particular attention to your posture by lifting up through the centre of your body, relaxing your shoulders and swinging your arms in beat with your stride. When you swing your arms, it should be from the shoulder, making sure your arms don't cross the centre line of your body. When planting your heel, your toes should be raised towards your shins. Next, make sure your foot rolls from your heel to toe and then pushes off.

Intensity Level: 4-5 out of 10.

Level 2

Building up to a brisk pace is achieved by bending your elbows to 90 degrees. This allows your arms to swing faster, which causes your stride frequency to increase. However, try not to swing your arms from side to side like windscreen wipers. Instead, keep your elbows close to your body and focus on making a smooth forward and backward movement. Make sure your legs aren't straight, as you want a smooth motion, and a locked knee has the potential to make you wobble or bounce. As your speed increases, your hips rotate quicker – but it's crucial to allow this to happen naturally as opposed to wiggling your hips. Additionally, try to increase your forward lean, but make sure it comes from your ankles (not your waist), as you want to avoid backache.

Intensity Level:6-7 out of 10

Level 3

This level is all about speed. This means it can't be maintained for extended periods, but instead used in short bursts. Attempt to focus on increasing your stride frequency (not stride length) and make sure your arms are pumping. When making contact, overstate the lift of the toes, trying to move smoothly from the heel to the ball of the foot in an uninterrupted rolling motion. Make sure to add a strong push off your big toe. If you want more speed, try narrowing the width of your stride. Additionally, if you'd like the feeling of being able to push harder against the ground, lean forwards from your ankles. This will also help you avoid over-striding – as that can slow you down.

Intensity Level:9 out of 10


If you want a fantastic workout, try picking a walking route and mixing the three levels up. To begin, warm up for 3-5 minutes at Level 1, building to Level 2, adding in shorts bursts of Level 3 and then cooling down with 2-3 minutes of Level 1. Try to use markers (the next tree or a lamppost) to gauge distances for a spurt of Level 3. Alternatively, crank up the volume on your iPod and hit top speed for the duration of the chorus. The best thing is that there are no concrete rules – simply throw in brief Level 3 'sprints' (often referred to as interval training), as it's been proven by sports scientists to be the most effective way to burn calories.

Remember: it needn't be a military style regime, as walking for exercise can be as little as a 10 minute session. However, try to do as much as you can in the time you have, making sure you keep rest periods to a minimum if you're in a shorter session. This will allow you to squeeze the most out of your workout. Additionally, try to vary the routes you take and mix up the times and distances. This should help you avoid boredom. Listen to your body if you've worked particularly hard one day, as you may need a well-deserved rest day.

*Information within this article courtesy of Dean Hodgkin (deanhodgkin.com), Ragdale Hall and Energie Fitness.

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