Adding in other exercises midway through a walking workout makes your walks more fun, burns extra calories, and helps you get stronger and tone your muscles. There are a variety of easy exercises and workout moves that you can do almost anywhere – all you need is an open area. Giving your walking muscles a break can help you walk longer, and you can get your strength training or stretching done while you’re already warmed up and ready to go.
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Build strength & flexibility while having fun!
Adding variety and some challenging moves to your walking routine can keep your walks fun and fresh. If you’d prefer to do all your exercise at one time, work your strength and flexibility exercises into your walking routine. While it’s not always easy to get a full-body resistance workout, a few easy moves will be more effective than you think.
When should you mix in other exercises?
If you want to add in other exercises to your walking routine, it’s best to do them either midway through your walk or at the end of your walk before you fully cool down. Don’t try an intense workout before warming up, as your muscles and joints are not ready and you risk injuring yourself even through basic stretches. Once you’ve got some walking in and your joints are limber, you can try some more intense fitness moves.
Parks are great places for bodyweight exercises, as you can use the grass if you need to sit down and you can use any paved spaces for standing exercises. You can also stretch or work out in your living room when you get home, but in that case you don’t want to cool down at the end of your walk and you do want to get straight into your exercises. You’ll have less motivation to start again and more risk of injury once you’re fully cooled down.
Engaging your core can turn your regular walk into a mini-ab workout! While walking, tighten your abs, glutes and lower back as you walk and hold it for a few seconds. It sounds easy, but holding your core tightened for a long time is harder than it seems! Engaging your abs is different than sucking in your tummy. You’re not trying make your ribs protrude, but instead you’re trying to lightly flex your muscles as you walk. Imagine someone is going to poke you in the stomach, and you want to harden your abs temporarily. should feel your abs and glutes as you’re walking, and you may notice that you stand straighter and have better posture while your muscles are engaged.
In addition to toning your abs and butt, engaging your core dramatically improves your walking posture. You’ll stand straighter, slouch less and your gaze and head will naturally move forward as opposed to looking into the ground. As you practice holding core walking, you’ll be able to hold good posture longer than ever! This is especially useful on long walks.
Simple bodyweight exercises can help you build strength and burn calories. Before starting a strength or aerobic workout routine, make sure you’ve warmed up by walking and try not to wait too long between pausing your walk and starting your exercises.
A great way to mix up your exercise is to find a flat, relatively secluded spot along your walking route to do some quick bodyweight exercises. Parks are great, especially if you’re allowed to walk or sit on the grass, but playground areas or paved open spaces can work in a pinch.
Examples of bodyweight cardio exercises:
- Arm circles or leg swings
- Jumping jacks
- Running in place
Examples of bodyweight strength exercises:
- Bodyweight squats
While bodyweight strength exercises are safer than using heavy weights, they still can be dangerous if not performed properly. There are plenty of online resources to help and you can practice in a mirror, but ideally see if you can find a trainer or someone experienced to critique your form. Go slowly, and stop at the first sign of pain. Exercises work your muscles, not your joints and ligaments, and you shouldn’t feel joint pain (in your knee, for example) when working out.
You can use your walks as a warmup for a stretching, yoga, pilates or other flexibility workout. There are many basic stretches that you can do standing up, including stretches for your neck, shoulders, arms, waist and legs. For an advanced workout you may need to sit or lie down on the ground. A patch of clean, dry grass can work in a pinch (especially if you don’t mind getting your clothes dirty).
Dynamic, movement-based stretching is usually safer than static deep stretches. It’s important to know your flexibility level before stretching, because trying to stretch too fast, too far can lead to injuries. Some slight tightness is ok during stretches but you should never feel pain or push yourself past the point where you feel comfortable. Ease into stretches slowly and build flexibility over time. The goal is a more flexible version of you, not to compete with anyone else as some people are simply more naturally flexible than others.
Use simple workout equipment
Simple, light exercise equipment can give you a more intense workout during breaks in your walks. Taking something light and easily carried is important to ensure it doesn’t interfere with the rest of your walk! You’re better off carrying any gear in a walking (or running) pouch, or a light backpack. It’s inconvenient to walk with something in your hands, and anything heavy in your extremities can throw off your posture.
Resistance bands: Resistance bands are light, small and easy to carry. By wrapping them around a (sturdy) tree, pole or other fixture or sometimes by standing on them you can use them to do strength exercises like weights. Some resistance bands are designed for stretching, which is great too.
Jump rope: The basic jumping rope is a great way to do some intense bursts of exercise nearly anywhere. Weighted ropes can work out your arms, but they’re less fun to carry on a long walk.
Yoga mat: If you do feel the urge to do some yoga or stretching in the park, a light mat can help you keep your clothes clean and cushion you while sitting down. If you’re taking your mat with you, invest in a strap or carrying case so you don’t need to keep in in your arms for the entire walk.
Walk a different way!
Mixing up walking styles can make your walks more interesting, while working different muscle groups. You don’t need to build an entire walking routine around walking up steps or walking backwards, but you can try working different ways to walk in for small bursts and seeing how you feel.
Find some stairs: Walking stairs may be the most intense walking workout you can do. Finding an outdoor staircase to walk up and down can burn some calories and give you a challenge mid-walk.
Power walking: Power walking is more than just engaging your core. By focusing on swinging your arms, engaging your core and walking quickly you’ll burn more calories and get a more intense workout.
Walk backwards: Walking backwards helps train less-used leg muscles, and gives you a whole different feeling from walking forwards. Safety is important, of course, because it’s easy to trip or walk into something. If you have a walking track or little-used walking path that you often walk, try walking backwards for a few seconds at a time and see how you feel.
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