Are you a walker! I am! I’m all about walking for health, fitness, and even weight loss! As walking devotees know, it’s an ideal weight-bearing exercise for women over 50! Today I’m going to let you in on why I walk, what my walking routine looks like, and I’m going to share walking plans that will help you meet your goals. (Whether they’re health, fitness, or weight loss.)
I am not a medical professional! I’m simply sharing what I’ve learned as I’ve researched the benefits of walking and walking techniques and tools. Be sure to check with your physician before starting any fitness program.
Why I Walk
About two years ago, I was diagnosed with Osteoporosis. Several years earlier, I was diagnosed with the precursor, Osteopenia, so I knew it was coming. Unfortunately, I also fall into several high-risk categories for the condition.) Despite what you may hear from supplement brands, osteoporosis cannot be reversed, although there are things you can do to curb the symptoms and protect yourself from falls.
Also, in late summer 2021, I herniated a disc in my lower back. The pain was nearly unbearable. Unfortunately, my case was not operable, and I’m allergic to ibuprofen, so I struggled through with acetaminophen, physical therapy, and my life-saver, Voltaren. (I shared more about Voltaren in THIS post.)
Walking was something that my doctor and physical therapist prescribed for both of those conditions! I’ve always worked out but somehow, walking never seemed “difficult” enough, so I wasn’t a big fan. But now, I’m a believer. And a big fan.
Good Walking Technique
Just like any exercise, proper form is essential! It will help you avoid injury and get the maximum benefit! According to the experts, there are a few things to be aware of when walking for health.
- Walk with your head up. Looking forward, not at the ground.
- Relax your neck, shoulders, and back. Don’t hold them stiffly upright.
- Swing your arms freely, bending your elbows slightly. Pump your arms for a little added cardio!
- Walk with a straight back and slightly tightened core muscles. Don’t slump forward or arch backward.
- Walk smoothly, rolling your foot from heel to toe.
Walking for Health
You’ve probably heard about the 2016 study that encouraged people to take 10,000 steps per day. That works out to roughly 5 miles of walking! If that’s not a reasonable amount for you, set a feasible step goal and work to achieve that. According to multiple studies, any movement, from housework and gardening to doing dishes and getting the mail, can affect and help overall health.
Walking is one of the best things you can do for your general health! Think outside the box about how you can increase your step count by making small changes in your daily movement patterns! Here are a few ideas:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Park further away from the door at shops or work.
- Walk to lunch, dinner, work, or other activities.
- Take walking breaks throughout the day instead of sitting for long stretches. of time. (I set the timer on my Apple Watch to remind me!)
- Don’t let the weather slow you down! If the weather isn’t ideal for walking, consider walking in a shopping mall that offers open times for walkers.
Health Benefits of Walking
- Walking improves cardiovascular health.
- Walking reduces stress.
- Walking helps with joint pain.
- Walking boosts immunity.
- Walking improves sleep.
- Walking enhances mood and reduces symptoms of depression. (Thanks, endorphins!)
- Walking increases life span.
- Walking helps prevent or manage conditions like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
Fitness trackers can help with motivation! I use the built-in fitness app on my Apple Watch. If you don’t have an Apple Watch, here are a few fitness trackers that are highly rated.
Walking for Fitness
Walking is a great way to improve or maintain your overall fitness. Just 30 minutes every day can make a big difference in your overall fitness and energy level! It’s a type of cardiovascular activity that increases your heart rate. The improved blood flow delivers oxygen throughout the body, which helps to boost energy levels.
People tend to think that walking isn’t as effective as high-impact workouts. It’s not true! A large study of runners and walkers found that after six years of follow-up, the walkers showed similar health benefits (think lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and lower rates of diabetes) as the higher-intensity runners. (And, I’m guessing, lower rates of injury and joint damage as well. 🤔) Do note, however, that the faster the walking pace, the greater the risk reduction observed.
Fitness Benefits of Walking
- Walking increases energy levels.
- Walking increases endurance.
- Walking builds core, hip, and leg muscle strength.
- Walking improves with balance and coordination.
- Walking strengthens bones.
- Walking improves cognition and memory.
Walking for Weight Loss
The key to walking for weight loss is interval training. It’s not complicated! You simply alternate periods of brisk walking with more leisurely walking. This burns more calories than regular walking because your body is forced to rev up and slow down repeatedly. The good news? Interval training can be done in less time than regular walking for the same (or improved) benefits.
Alternatively, you can interval train while walking by walking on varied terrain. It burns more calories! Walking up hills, stairs, or inclines builds your hamstring and glute muscles. Walking downhill builds your quadriceps. Consider slowing your pace slightly and incorporating resistance exercises to build muscle like lunges, squats, or even tricep dips on a nearby bench! Think creatively about how you can burn more calories and increase muscle mass during your daily walk.
Weight Loss Benefits of Walking
- Walking burns calories.
- Walking burns fat.
- Walking builds muscle mass. (Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, which means the more muscle you have, the bigger your resting energy expenditure—which means that your body burns more calories overall, no matter what you’re doing.)
- Walking lowers blood sugar.
For more about walking for weight loss, I recommend the excellent book Walking Your Way to Weight Loss: A Simple Two-Part Approach to Becoming Fitter, Healthier, and Happier in 49 Days by HealthFit Publishing.
Stretching & Walking
If your muscles are tight, they can create tension in certain areas of your body and pull you out of proper alignment. Stretching helps loosen those muscles to keep your body in the proper position. That, in turn, helps you become more efficient at walking and reduces your risk of being sidelined by an injury.
You can stretch either before or after walking! The key is to be sure your muscles are warmed up first. I usually start off walking slowly and stop after 5-10 minutes to stretch.
Important Stretches for Walkers
- Hamstring Stretch
- Groin Stretch
- Calf Stretch
- Quadricep Stretch
- For more stretching ideas for walkers, click HERE.
At the end of my walk, I gradually slow down my pace to lower my heart rate and help my muscles cool down. Sometimes I stretch again after that.
Workout Gear for Walking
Thanks to the V-shaped waistband, these leggings are so flattering! They’re soft and stretchy knit, and I’m ordering them in “midnight navy” too! They fit TTS.
If shorts are more your style, THESE are the ones I recommend! They have a convenient hidden cell phone pocket on the inner liner and a back zip pocket to securely stash keys, credit cards, or whatever. The waistband is comfortable flat elastic, so nothing digs in, and the sweat-wicking fabric of the inner liner means no chafing! There are ten color options.
When it comes to shoes, look for proper arch support, a firm heel, and thick flexible soles to cushion your feet and absorb shock.
The takeaway? The faster, farther, and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefits. Want more info? Check out the highly-rated books below that tackle the subject in greater detail.
Isn’t it encouraging to know that physical activity doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive? (And you can do it while catching up with friends!) I love cute workout clothes, but the bottom line is that all you really need is a good pair of sneakers. Get out there, girls!
Are you a walker? Let me know your best walking tips and tricks in the comments below, okay?