Healthy You - Every Day

4 Ways to Step Up Your Walking Workout

Try one or all of these ideas to help improve your cardiovascular health

In many ways, walking is one of the easiest and most accessible workouts. Just put one foot in front of the other and you’re off!

“You can reap these benefits with a straightforward walking routine.” - Carol Henwood, DO

Not only is it simple, but it’s effective. The perks of walking regularly include:

  • Better sleep
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved mood
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Less risk for certain cancers, diabetes and heart disease

“You can reap these benefits with a straightforward walking routine,” says family medicine physician Carol Henwood, DO, with LVPG Family Medicine–Pennsburg. “Or add some variety to your walking workouts to avoid boredom and meet different fitness goals.” Here are four new ways to walk, based on your objectives.

Goal #1: Enhance your endurance

How to do it: Pick up some poles

Walking workout

Nordic walking uses special weighted poles to better challenge your whole body. Research shows the method gets results. Even people with heart conditions could walk longer after a few months of regular Nordic walking.

Don’t have poles? Check with your local community or recreation center. They may offer both lessons and equipment.

Goal #2: Turn up the burn

How to do it: Dress in a vest

Walking vest

Weighted vests are sometimes used for high-intensity workouts and in tests for physically demanding jobs like firefighting. But they also may be a good way to get more benefits from the sidewalk, treadmill or trail.

Studies suggest weighted vests make each stride more physically demanding. “As long as the weight is evenly distributed, it shouldn’t hamper your gait or increase your risk for injury,” Dr. Henwood says.


Goal #3: Better your balance

How to do it: Walk backward

Walking workout

Check with your doctor to make sure that walking in reverse is right for you, but if it is, it can help enhance your equilibrium. “Improved balance goes a long way in reducing your risk of falling,” Dr. Henwood says.

What’s more, backward walking is often used to help in the recovery of people who have had a stroke, or those who have Parkinson’s disease or low back pain. It also seems to ease knee pain in people with osteoarthritis. But as noted before, ask your doctor about this workout style. 

Goal #4: Maximize your minutes

How to do it: Integrate intervals

Walking workout

Brief bursts of walking at an up-tempo pace improve your fitness in less time. Intervals might look like this: After a five-minute warm-up, alternate 60 seconds of brisk walking with 60 seconds at a comfortable pace.

No matter which variation you choose, start with a pair of well-fitting shoes, or boots if you’re going to walk on a trail. Share your plan with a friend to help you stay on track – or better yet, recruit a walking buddy to join you.

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