Fitness hack: Make your walk work harder
Too tired for that Zumba class? Not a natural gym bunny? Turns out you don’t need to be addicted to the latest, buzzy high-intensity class to reap the health benefits. Walking can be just as effective, says a new study.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge revealed last week that a 20-minute daily walk can slash your risk of premature death by a third. A short walk, which will zap off 100 calories, can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. ‘Just a small amount of physical activity each day could have substantial health benefits for people who are physically inactive,’ lead author Professor Ulf Ekclund explained.
While walking might seem the most natural thing in the world – some even do it in their sleep – marching away the pounds, like any exercise, requires a little bit more effort. Read these five things you should know about making your walk workout-worthy.
1. Walk…like you’re late
Move at a brisk speed as leisurely strolls won’t quite cut it. ‘Think about a pace that feels like you are in a hurry – that‘s when it’s burning fat,’ says walking expert and mastermind behind the Walk At Home: Belly Blasting Walk DVD workout, Leslie Sansone; ‘Your heart needs to beat faster, and your breathing needs to accelerate.’
While slow and steady has been proven to lower blood pressure, speed is vital for burning fat. Get a heart-rate monitor, suggests researcher Jennifer Kuk from York University’s School of Kinesiology and Health Sciences in Canada; writing in the journal Plos One. Alternatively, increase your pace until you can only say one or two words between breaths.
2. Walk…with your tummy tucked back
Good posture is essential for moving your body correctly. ‘Tuck your tummy back to activate core muscles,’ advises Sansone. ‘Include small rotations to activate the waistline muscles. Combined with calories burned with your brisk pace, you can get that belly slimmer than ever.’
Muscles throughout your body will be engaged as you walk, including back end, thigh and core, to improve your stability and balance. ‘The rewards go way past the muscles,’ Sansone adds. ‘The entire body benefits: bones, heart, lungs, brain and circulation.’
3. Walk…when it’s windy
Embrace gale-force weather for a walk with benefits. ‘Wind against us adds intensity, giving a better burn,’ says Sansone. ‘Try and include in your route some hills, slight inclines or steps, as they will really get the muscles working.’
The most effective walks are the ones that challenge your body. ‘The beach is ideal when on holiday, as soft sand will give a real bootcamp,’ Sansone adds. However, unlike Pilates or Insanity, walking can be done absolutely anywhere. Be it a lunchbreak dash to your favourite shop, or the school run – it still counts.Read more: How to #JustMoveMore with your family
4. Walk…in trainers (always)
If there is one thing you must invest in, it’s sensible footwear. ‘Fitness shoes are so important to stay safe, you need the support and reduced impact,’ explains Sansone. We say embrace fashion’s continuing love affair with zingy-shaded trainers paired with your go-to outfits, and ditch those heels. Your ankles will thank you.
5. Walk…for 5 minutes
The snappiest of walks can give huge benefits. ‘Your body benefits from as little as five minutes of fast walking as you start to regulate blood pressure, blood sugar, blood lipids – even stress,’ Sansone explains. ‘Gradually work up to walking fast for 20 to 25 minutes in a single session.’ This should be super easy to incorporate into even the busiest schedules.
Want to challenge yourself further? ‘Try and achieve a one mile walk in 15 minutes to get really strong and fit,’ Sansone suggests. ‘Also, work muscles from head to toe by moving in more directions than a traditional walk. Move forwards and backwards, raise knees and do kicks.’
You may think you know how to walk, but using your daily twenty minutes in the most effective way to #JustMoveMore can maximise the toning, weight loss and general health benefits to your body. Went on a really beautiful or quirky walk today? Tweet, Facebook or Instagram us your pics. We’d love to see!