Running, lifting weights, and hitting the treadmill are frequently suggested choices for those who want to get and stay in shape. But not everyone has access to gym equipment, and running (unless you’re being chased by something dangerous) might not be your cup of tea. There’s an in-between type of exercise that doesn’t require expensive equipment or racing to your destination: fitness walking. This kind of movement increases your heart rate, which gets the blood pumping through your body and boosts your endorphins.
Walking is often taken for granted as the essential method of getting from Point A to Point B. But when you kick it up a notch, fitness walking becomes a cardiovascular exercise that packs a punch.
You don’t need a gym membership to engage in fitness walking and benefit from this powerful workout. The reasons you should start walking today, and the tips to help you, are right here.
1. The Physical Benefits Are Impressive
If running isn’t your thing, don’t feel guilty. There are plenty of solid arguments supporting your decision. Studies show that this exercise damages the weight-bearing joints in your body, like the knees, ankles, and hips. And running puts you at increased risk of a heart attack. Still, the health advantages of running, plus the “runner’s high” that comes with it, make it a popular workout. Fitness walking gives you many of these benefits without the drawbacks. Also referred to as power walking, the exercise combines the natural movements of a leisurely stroll with moderate-intensity energy. In your routine, you’re walking fast on flat terrain without stopping (aside from short breaks to cross the road or other necessary pauses).
Focus on Endurance, Not Speed
The aim is to boost endurance, so don’t worry about how quickly you’re walking at first. Set time or distance targets depending on your health. You might start with a 30-minute fitness walk at a moderate pace, then, when you reach that target, up it to 40 minutes.
Doing this consistently increases blood circulation, which prevents weight gain and aids in weight loss. The movement boosts your metabolism, helps stabilize blood sugar, and reduces your risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. Many studies show moderate-intensity walking links to risk reduction for high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease.
These benefits come from running, too, but with fitness walking, you don’t have the extra stress on your joints. It’s a major plus for people who suffer from pain regularly. You can engage in fitness walking without putting yourself in more discomfort.
2. Fitness Walking Makes You Feel Happier
Having a rough day? Head out for a walk in the great outdoors, and you’ll instantly feel better. Fresh air is invigorating, nature is relaxing, and power walking wakes our happy hormones. Walking increases your creativity, giving you the time and clarity you need to explore ideas and possible solutions. There’s a correlation between spending time walking and freeing your mind to generate new ideas.
This connection is not surprising if you consider how you likely spend most of your day rushing from task to task, thinking about what has to get done instead of giving yourself time to rest your mind. Knowing you’ll be power walking for the near future creates this open gap for you. Walking also activates the endorphins and other hormones that lift your mood and decrease depression.
3. Tips for Power Walking Safety
The physical and mental benefits are significant, but if you’re going to power walk, don’t jump right in without considering your safety.
First, find a place to engage in your workout for the full duration where there is safe lighting and flat ground. If this means walking on the street, follow pedestrian rules of the road and wear bright and reflective clothing. Pedestrian/motor vehicle accidents are more common than you realize.
Second, invest in the right fitness shoes for your body. When you’re power walking, you’re making long strides, which means your heel needs shock absorption, and your ankles need support. Look for athletic shoes with thick, cushioned soles and a heel that goes around your ankle.
Finally, staying hydrated is a must in any athletic activity. Find a method of carrying water that works for you. Some fitness walkers use a water bottle belt; others prefer a water bladder.
As long as you’re taking small sips regularly, you’ll continue to feel good long after your walk is over. If you notice symptoms like lightheadedness, dizziness, muscle cramps, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, or a fast heartbeat, you need to drink more water during your workout.
Fitness walking is the ideal balance between non-aerobic walking and overly aggressive running. Save your knees and other joints and still get the benefits of cardiovascular activity by power walking your way to health (safely).
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