Walking

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Getting Started - Walking


Walking has recently gained attention in the health news, largely due to research done at Canada's University of Alberta, which concluded walking alone may not be enough to result in significant health benefits.

"Generally, low-intensity activity such as walking alone is not likely to give anybody marked health benefits compared to programs that occasionally elevate the intensity," says lead researcher Dr. Vicki Harber.

The conclusion was drawn by comparing a 10,000-step walking program of moderate intensity to a more traditional fitness routine. The study found that those who participated in the more traditional exercise routine had greater improvements in fitness levels than those in the walking program.

But fitness expert Liz Neporent, MA, CSCS, author of 'The Fat-Free Truth,' disagrees.

"First of all, I would urge people to remember that this is one study in a sea of thousands. Other studies have shown that any activity, even low intensity, can be effective. Also, you need to define what the word 'effective' means for you. Effective can mean improving health, losing weight or improving stamina," she explains.

She stresses that as long as you do it long enough and frequently enough, walking at any speed can impact your health and stamina positively, but admits that walking for weight loss is a bit more challenging.

"Even if you start off slowly, you're going to have to work harder at some point to drop the pounds."

So, what do you do if you're looking to lose weight, get a J.Lo-esque butt or improve cardiovascular fitness, but the thought of running makes you cringe?

Neporent’s Five Walking Tips

1. Head for the Hills Walking uphill is a great way to up the challenge without having to up your pace. Even if the hill is modest, you'll still work more butt and thigh muscles and burn more calories. Find a hilly outdoor course or set your treadmill to a 4-8 percent incline and either sprinkle the hills into your workouts or do repeats (Find a hill or increase the incline on the treadmill for 1.5 minutes, decrease incline and rest one minute on the flat). Repeat 6-8 times.

2. Swing, Swing Although carrying hand weights while walking ups the calorie burn by almost 5 percent, the strain on your shoulder and elbow joints just isn't worth the risk. But since most of the additional calorie burn comes from the increased arm swing and not the weights themselves, you can still give your walk a boost by swinging your arms more forcefully and in a bigger arc for similar benefits with no risk!

3. Intervals Short bursts of higher-intensity exercise will work wonders for your butt and thighs (ever wonder why sprinters have such amazing assets?). If you're not ready to do an all-out sprint, try alternating fast and slow intervals. Walk at a slow pace for two minutes, a moderate pace for two minutes and then a really quick pace for two minutes. Repeat the pattern three to six times and start feeling the burn.

4. Get on the Poles Poles are a great alternative to hand weights because they're safer, they involve more muscle groups and, according to some studies, they can skyrocket calorie burn by almost 33 percent! You can use them on the track, on the roads or even in the mall. Although very popular in Europe but just catching on here, pole walking or Nordic walking is not only effective, it also gives you a wonderful gliding feeling. And depending on the angle in which you push on the poles, you will use various different muscles in the arms and back.

5. Listen to Your Heart To get the most out of your walk, you need to pay attention to your heart rate and aim to work out at 60 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate or effort. Subtract your age from 220 to quickly estimate max heart rate, but keep in mind that this formula is not 100 percent accurate; getting it tested by a knowledgeable trainer or doctor is your best bet. Another option is simply bypassing heart rate all together and grading your intensity by how you feel on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being very easy and 10 being an all-out effort. If you choose this method, make sure to stay between 6 and 9 during the majority of the workout (excluding the warm up and cool down where you should stay between 3 and 5).

By upping the challenge and intensity of your walking workouts, you'll burn more calories, tone and tighten your butt and thighs and increase your fitness level. Integrate these tips into your routine at least three to five times a week for 30 minutes per day and start seeing your body change.
Source: By Natalie Vavricka, body.aol.com/fitness/walking/basics

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