Getting a more intense walking workout burns more calories, gives you a better cardio workout and often gives you more steps. While you could simply spend more time walking, more intense walks let you burn more calories in less time while giving you more of a strength-building workout as well. You actually don’t need to hit the gym or start running to make your walking workout a bit more intense.
These low-impact intensity boosts can be added to a walking workout to improve your strength, stamina, and balance. You’ll burn more calories, which can boost your walking weight loss, and you’ll get the benefits of walking in less time. Even if they don’t necessarily show up in your step count, you’ll feel the difference! Before you start your next walk, try one of these 5 intensity boosts for a more challenging, calorie-burning walking workout.
Note: Make sure to consult your doctor before getting very intense, and increase your intensity gradually over time.
Hit the Hills
See if you can find a walking route that includes some light hills. Both inclines and declines force your body to use its muscles in slightly different ways. Your cardiovascular system and your leg and core muscles can get a good workout by hill walking. Although walking up hills is daunting, many people find walking down hills is actually more difficult.
When adding hills to your walk, make sure to account for any health issues or injuries. If you have knee or ankle joint problems, try to plot a course without any steep declines. Make sure the path is clear and safe. Fallen leaves can be wet and slippery, and snow and ice in the winter can be dangerous on hills. Safety first is always a good principle.
Another side benefit of a hilly walk is that you’ll add some variety to your routine which can make your walks more fun. You might find a great view at the top of a hill that can be perfect for a walking photo.
Use Your Arms
You can add aerobic exercises using both your arms and legs to get a workout for your whole body. Since you’re already working your lower body during your walk, adding in some upper body exercises can help work the entire body. A simple upper body exercise involves “power walking,” or focusing on swinging your arms as you walk. Bend at the elbows and swing your arms purposefully as you stride forward. Don’t swing so hard that it throws off your form or balance though. Sometimes simply focusing on your arms can increase the work they’re doing.
You can also try adding hiking poles to get some weight and resistance in your upper body as you walk. If you’re a bit more experienced, you can try adding in more intense upper body exercises during breaks in your walk. Every little bit of activity helps!
Add a Bit of Weight
Adding a small amount of weight can make your walks more intense. If you’ve ever had to carry shopping bags or a backpack, you know it can be a lot more challenging than a regular walk. You can try carrying a backpack with a SMALL amount of weight during your daily walks to get a bit more intensity from your workout.
Make sure not to add too much weight, and as you can fatigue your muscles and cause bad posture while walking. Some stores sell small weights you can add to arms or legs, but these actually can be dangerous and increase your risk of injury or joint damage.
You can try carrying a comfortable, light backpack or bag with a few walking supplies like a water bottle, snack, and book to read on breaks. Another option is to work in some errands on your daily walk. You wouldn’t want to pick up an entire load of groceries (unless you’re feeling adventurous). Putting a few items in your trusty backpack can make your walk a little more intense and take care of some errands along the way.
Change Your Rhythm
While a leisurely stroll can get you out of the house and moving, adding a bit of pace to your walks can add up to great fitness benefits. You can increase the intensity of your walk by adding intervals of faster-paced walking. The CDC recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. 300 minutes (moderate) or 150 minutes (vigorous) give additional health benefits. By adding in fast walking intervals, you can move towards the “vigorous” category which can give great benefits even if you can’t get 300 minutes of walking in every week.
Start out slow, warm up, and then try walking faster than normal for a set period of time. Then slow down again to recover and try walking faster again. Make sure to pace yourself, and don’t burn yourself out too early. Build up your endurance until you’re able to walk further and faster. Even if you have difficulty doing more intense intervals, even taking a minute or two during your walk to consciously walk fast can add up over time. Here are more tips on intervals.
Listening to music can help you increase or decrease the intensity of your walks. Mix in some up-tempo songs for fast walking, and some slower tunes for your rest periods. You may find that switching up the music may naturally cause you to walk faster or slower without even thinking about it!
Walk Faster & Smarter
The most obvious way to get more steps and intensity in a given time is to walk a bit faster. It sounds easy, but trying to walk too fast can actually work against you if you become tired faster and can’t complete your route. It’s important to pace yourself and not try to go too fast, too soon. It’s easy to keep up a fast pace over a short distance, but hard to keep it up for your whole walk. Try pacing yourself by using Pacer’s GPS tracking to track your walks. See if you can walk a bit further or reduce your time by a minute or two every week.
When you increase your walking speed, try not to change your walking stride too much as you walk faster. Trying to take extra short or long steps can cause unnatural movements, so listen to your body and walk at a natural pace and stride. Remember that a very small change in pace can really add up over walks of a half-hour or more.
The Bottom Line
Tracking your steps and walking a bit more every day is a great way to get healthier and get active. With a little bit of effort and planning, you can make your walks a bit more intense and get a bit more of a workout in the same number of steps.
If walking time is an issue, or if you’d just like to mix up your workouts, you can try to get more intense or walk faster to get more steps in the time you have available. You may also find that changing up your routine helps make walking more fun again. As long as you’re getting your steps, how you do it is up to you!
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