Not a fan of running? Gym membership no longer an option? We’re here to show you seven wonderful ways your daily walk can get your heart rate up, help you shift the pounds (if you need to) or maintain a healthy weight. Time to lace up those trainers…
1. Practise interval-walking
It’s not just walking faster that burns more calories – changing pace will hike (excuse the pun) calorie-burn too, one study found. Researchers from Ohio State University found that changing pace can increase metabolic rate up to 20% more than maintaining one fixed pace.
- The study also found we tend to walk faster when we cover longer distances, contrary to what you might think. Once a week, plan a longer interval-based walk of 40-plus minutes to really notice a difference.
2. Part-walk or walk your commute
Incidental exercise, the stuff you can squeeze into your daily routine, is the exercise that will really make a difference simply because you’re more likely to stick to it. Walking burns around 4 calories a minute, give or take a calorie or two depending on your build, so if you manage to walk at least 15-20 minutes as part of your existing Monday-to-Friday routine, you could lose a pound over eight weeks! And the data to support this is hefty – a study published in the BMJ found those who actively commuted had both lower BMI and body fat than their non-active commuting counterparts.
The benefits don’t end there – researchers from UEA and the University of York found ‘active travel’ offered a boost to mental wellbeing too, in particular for stress management, decision making and mood-boosting.
- Jogging and running pretty much doubles your calorie burn so try breaking out into a gentle jog for a minute or two at a time. Nothing tough enough to leave you entering the office pouring with sweat but enough to get you a bit out of breath.
3. Change gradient
Expect to burn around 30% more calories by adding even a small gradient to your walk. It’s a no brainer that you’ll expend more energy walking uphill but a third is a worthwhile hike.
You’ll work hamstrings (backs of thighs) and glutes (bum muscles) more by walking uphill too.
- Taking smaller steps can lessen the impact on joints as you climb uphill, well as helping you to keep your balance.
- You may find yourself naturally leaning in as you tackle the hill – a small tilt’s okay but always try to keep torso positioned over hips.
- No hills? Try the treadmill! Aim for a 3-5% incline while keeping your speed fairly brisk.
4. Take the stairs
Including as many flights of stairs into your daily routine is a must if whittling waistline is one of your goals. Just over 10 minutes a day of climbing the stairs will burn off that mid-afternoon chocolate bar*!
And when it comes to your heart health, pace doesn’t matter – new research has found that sprinting up the stairs will do the same as opting for a slower pace. So you can mix and match your pace, depending on how you feel.
And there’s more… You’ll be giving your brain a boost every time you ditch the lift too. Researchers at Concordia University found the brain age can decreases by 0.58 years from daily stair-climbing!
- Taking stairs two-at-a-time will help to work the butt and thigh muscles.
- Keep good posture while climbing. If you feel your form is flagging, don’t hesitate to use the handrail.
5. Add in body weight exercises
Incorporating simple body weight exercises into your walk will help you achieve weight goals in two ways: firstly, you’ll be burning a higher number of calories while on your walk but you’ll also be helping to boost metabolic rate, so you’re burning more calories at rest.
- Stick to compound moves (those that work multiple muscle groups) to get the most calorie-burning bang for your effort buck. Walking lunges will work the entire lower body and can be seamlessly integrated into the shortest of walks. Ditto wall and bench push ups, while the park bench plank is a relatively straightforward add-on that acts as a total body toner. Combine all three and you’re looking at top-to-toe conditioning without even breaking a sweat!
6. Ditch the tracker
Contrary to what you may have been led to believe, your fitness tracker may not be helping you to drop a dress size as much as you think. A study published in JAMA found participants who didn’t use a tracker lost five pounds more than those who did. The authors concluded that “the gap between recording information and changing behavior is substantial.”
- If you’re looking to lose weight, avoid viewing your walking data as ‘extra calories’. See your steps as an added bonus that will enhance your weight loss efforts.
- Avoid getting discouraged by your device data. If you’re too tired to take one more step but you’re a significant way off your step goal, do what you can and move on. And avoid the urge to compensate by comfort eating!
7. …Instead, buddy-up
If you’re ditching the digital motivation, try replacing with a gym-buddy. It’s the social encouragement and positive feedback that comes from using a tracker that helps to create long lasting behaviour change, rather than the data alone. University of Aberdeen researchers also found enlisting the help of a gym buddy increased the amount of exercise participants took.
- Start a walking WhatsApp group to spur one another on to increase the number of steps you take. Set step goals, exchange walking pics (scenic as well as selfies)… Creating your own supportive and motivational exercise community will be rewarding on many levels.
*Based on 45g bar