Put your best foot forward – and get walking
With research showing that walking on a regular basis increases your serotonin levels (thus boosting your mood) and lowers your risk of stroke, dementia and heart disease, there are plenty of reasons we should all be stepping out more often.
But what about the fitness benefits? We spoke to personal trainer Jessica Smith, who champions this form of exercise – even making it the basis of her Walk On: Walk Off The Weight 30 Day Plan DVD workout set – as to why it is so important. ‘Walking is one of the best ways to fit in a free workout that can be done anytime,’ she explains. ‘Plus, it’s low impact, so almost anyone can do it.’
We’re going to admit: when we think of walking, we don’t automatically assume it will give us as good a calorie burn or the flat abs we might get from a more intense cardio session. Time for a rethink! ‘I find walking is more effective than too much high intensity cardio,’ reveals Jessica. ‘When many of my clients and students (myself included) do too much cardio their appetite increases, which won’t help with weight loss! If you power up your pace and walk fast enough, you can easily do a high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout.’
There’s plenty you can do to switch up your day-to-day walk, whether it’s popping to the shops, exercising your dog or collecting your children from school. ‘Try to change the variables of your walk,’ she suggests. ‘Add intervals one day (alternating periods of high and lower intensity effort), go for a longer walk at a steady pace the next, or add in some weights so you increase your calorie burn and challenge different muscles.’
She’s right: whether you’re young, old, new to fitness or a seasoned gym buff, walking really is great for all, and her Walk On DVDs reflect this. Featuring low, medium and high impact and intensity options, ‘we always encourage exercisers to listen to their body and go at their own pace,’ Jessica says. ‘And, because it’s low impact, it’s great if you’re dealing with knee, hip or back issues.’ Even her mum Debbie gets in on the action: ‘She is turning 60 years young this year, but says if she can do it, anyone can!’ Jessica laughs.
With 10 workouts spread over three DVDs, there’s enough variety here to make sure you don’t get bored. Jessica’s Walk On programme uses walking as the base but incorporate other exercise styles, such as strength training, Pilates and barre. ‘For best weight loss results and overall fitness, you want to include an even balance of intensity,’ she explains. ‘Many people are intimidated by new or different forms of exercise, but I try to make it as simple, effective and fun as possible with non-complicated but efficient and effective routines.’
Effective is for certain – here at healthy we do a range of energetic workouts, from kickboxing to Zumba, and Walk On definitely had us working up a sweat. Even better? You can do it in even the smallest of living rooms (trust us, we tried it), so whether it’s too grey outside or you live in a city, there’s really no excuse. As Jessica quite rightly suggests, ‘Do the best you can with what you have. Often people get overwhelmed, but start with a simple 10-15 minute walk – today. There’s no need to exercise for an hour a day to see results!’ Feeling inspired? Have a watch of the clip below to give Jessica’s HIIT walk a go and see just how easy it is to get involved…
Walk On is available to buy on amazon.co.uk (RRP £21.99), and you can visit her YouTube channel (youtube.com/jessicasmithtv) for more workouts and exercise tips.
Has walking helped you lose weight? Let us know by tweeting us @healthymag.