Walking: the new ‘superfood’ of exercise

From the time we’re just mere months old, we’re eager to get onto our feet and to move… and with good reason. Walking can help increase our fitness and keep us healthy; provides us with an ideal mode of transportation; helps us connect with nature; and offers simple enjoyment.

For the past few decades, many Canadians have under-valued walking, believing only pricey fitness club memberships and equipment can help increase their fitness and optimize their health. As a result, many people have opted out and missed out on the incredible health benefits of taking more steps. With walking now considered the ‘superfood’ of physical activity, it’s regaining lost ground as the single best thing most Canadians can do to improve their health. Walk on!

Exercise is medicine:
Walking lowers or reduces the risk of many health conditions, including: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and breast and colon cancers. Walking also improves muscle tone in the lower body and uses up calories (a 45-minute walk burns approx. 270 calories, based on a 150 lb woman). Walking is a safe, low-impact and easy way to take steps towards the physical activity you need each day.

Pick up the pace:
I encourage brisk walking, or periods of moderate pace walking, alternating with periods of higher intensity walking, jogging, running, or skipping to get the heart pumping more vigorously. I also encourage walkers to keep tabs on the intensity of their walking workouts using the easy “talk test” method. Simply put, if you can string together six to eight words in one breath while walking, you’re likely in your aerobic training zone. If you can speak more words than that, you’re likely not working out hard enough. If you find yourself gasping for air and struggling to get more than a word or two out, it’s time to reduce your pace.

Let’s talk technique:
Watch your stride length: To help avoid injury, focus on shorter, quicker steps instead of lengthening your stride.

Challenge yourself: If you’re already a fitness walker, challenge yourself with greater distances, hills, and uneven terrain. Want to increase the value of your walking workout further still?

1 – Alternate periods of walking with higher intensity intervals such as jumping rope, jumping jacks, or running.

2 – Walking an uneven trail for a balance challenge will burn 82 percent more calories while providing a change of scene from city streets.

3 – Use an app or even a simple pedometer to count your steps and track your distance. Strive for at least 10,000 steps (or about eight kilometres) per day.

4 – Use Nordic poles to get upper body muscles involved. In fact, Nordic walking done properly, requires the use of over 90% of the muscles in the body.

Proper form and technique will ensure a better workout while reducing the odds of injury. Remember to stand tall and think about your alignment: ears over your shoulders, shoulders over hips, hips over knees and knees over feet. Try to keep your shoulders and hips relaxed and loose. Let your arms move with your steps, and keep them bent at a 90-degree angle without tensing upper back and shoulder muscles.

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