Get the most out of limited opportunities to walk outside when stuck at home

Make the most of your limited outdoor time and you’ll maintain a high step count and burn more calories even if you’re rarely able to leave the house due to coronavirus prevention measures. Working from home doesn’t need to mean that you’re completely sedentary. Maximizing limited outdoor time means getting in an intense, efficient walk using methods like interval training while using in-home cardio to supplement your steps. If you are able to walk outside, choose times where few people will be out (like the early morning) and get out and get back in as quickly as you can.

If you’re in an area where you’re still able and permitted to get out and walk for short periods of time, here’s how to maximize your step count and calorie burn while ensuring that you don’t skip out on vital parts of a cardio workout (like the warmup).

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Warm up and cool down at home

Woman doing active warmup at home in living room
MIA Studio / Shutterstock

Use the limited time you have available for walking outside on intense walking by warming up and cooling down inside. Take advantage of the fact that it’s much easier to do a leisurely warmup indoors than it is to do brisk fitness waking. While walking is lower impact than most cardio exercises, like any form of cardio you should warm up before moving into your brisk walking workout.

In normal times if you have the time to walk outside you could simply head outside and start your walk with a 5-minute warmup. Because many people are currently limited in the amount of time they can or want to spend outside because of the coronavirus, You’re better off keeping the time you do have to your active workout time.

Warm up

Warming up helps prevent injuries by getting your blood flowing and your joints and muscles ready for your workout. If you have a preexisting injury, like back issues or a sore knee, make sure that area especially is warm and limber before stepping outside.

Aim for at least 5 minutes of warmup before starting your walking workout. You can start your light warmup by simply walking leisurely around your house or apartment. While you can walk in place, you can easily get a warmup in by taking the long way while getting ready to go out. Take a few laps as you get your keys and ID, get dressed, and get a drink of water.

Cool down

When you get back from your walk, do another 5 minutes (or more) of leisurely walking so that your body can adjust back to a resting state. As you exercise, your heart beats faster and your blood vessels dilate. Stopping suddenly can sometimes lead to dizziness or even fainting.

Try doing a light walk around your home, staying moving as you put back your keys, ID and anything else you took with you. Your cool down is a great time for some light stretching, as your muscles and joints are already loose from walking. It’s usually good to give yourself time for your heart beat to return to normal and to catch your breath before sitting down and stretching, however.

Boost your steps per minute

Man walking fast on a waterside trail
G-Stock Studio / Shutterstock

After you’re warmed up, an intense, efficient walking workout will maximize your steps in the time you have. If you don’t have the luxury of being in a remote area where you can take your time with your walk, get as many steps as you can in the time you have budgeted and get home safe. The best way to maximize your walk is generally interval training, or speed walking the entire time if you’re able.

Interval training

Interval training consists of short bursts of fast walking alternating with rest periods to recover. Intervals give you the benefits of an intense, heart pumping walking workout without having to go all out for your entire walk. You’ll actually be able to walk faster during your active intervals than you otherwise would be able to because you’ll only have to keep up the intensity for a short period of time.

Here is a sample 15 minute walking workout, but you can be creative and adjust your interval to any length of time or intensity level. To increase your time, simply add another fast and another moderate interval to the walking workout. You can also adjust the relatively lengths of the intervals to include more or less fast walking in your routine. Finally, you can make the “fast” intervals as fast as you like. Some people run sprints with intervals, while others may be fine with a basic brisk walk.

Speed/fast walking

If you’re an experienced enough walker (or if your walk is short enough), you may be able to maintain a very fast walking speed during your entire workout. Speed walking is a general term for walking speeds just below a jog, but maintaining walking form. There is some overlap with power walking in that you should use your arms to propel you forward, but instead of going for more of a full body workout you’re walking as fast as you can instead.

Make sure to use proper walking form, keeping your eyes up and shoulders back. Keep your arms bent at a 90 degree angle, and make sure you’re landing on your heel and rolling your foot through to push off on your toes. For more info on proper foot strike for walkers, check out our piece here.

You don’t have to speed walk, of course, and getting any steps that you can is always better than nothing. You’ll burn more calories and get more steps in a given time if you increase the pace, however.

Walk at the right time

Woman walking in morning with dog
Pavel Ilyukhin / Shutterstock

Walking at the right times, when few people are awake or out, can help you get outside and walk more.

Morning walking

Waking up to walk in the morning is always a great habit to get more steps, but it’s even more useful if you’re trying to get steps in when there are few people out and about. If you’re working from home, getting up earlier also lets you start (and finish) your workday earlier and resist the temptation to sleep in.

Set up your gear the night before, and create a morning routine that gets you up and outside with the minimum effort and work every morning. This will come in handy when you wake up tired and don’t have the mental energy to plan out your morning walk. Wake up early enough and you can get out and get back in before your neighborhood is even awake.

Night walking

Walking after dinner or the early evening can often be a way to get steps in when few people are outside. There will generally be more people in the evening than the early  morning, however, and make sure to take night walking safety into account.

Supplement your steps indoors

Man running in place at home for fitness
Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock

While it can be tough to hit 10,000 steps per day walking inside your home, doing some indoor walking combined with an efficient outdoor stroll can get you farther than you think towards your goal. You’ll also have less pressure to spend extra time outside if you know that you can still make the steps up later in the day.

Break up sedentary time

Working at home or working remotely usually means you’re sitting at a desk or on a couch and working on your computer all day. When you’re at the office, you’re forced to sometimes get up and talk to someone periodically. At home, you might be able to go the entire day without getting off the couch.

Try to get up and walk at least 2-5 minutes every hour. This minimal amount of walking can help to undo the damage to your body from prolonged sitting. Short walks are great because even in a small apartment, you can find a way to get moving for 2 minutes. Taking these walking breaks can also help you stay productive. It’s easy to get distracted checking your phone, social media, or surfing the internet but having to stop periodically and walk can break you out of unproductive behavior. Walking also helps make you more creative, which can help with your work.

Exercise sessions help keep you productive (and sane)

Exercise can help relieve stress, boost your mood, and help you generally feel happier. That’s more important than ever when you’re dealing with a stressful situation because of the coronavirus and you’re not able to get out or see many people face-to-face to relieve stress.

Getting up and moving throughout the day helps keep those endorphins flowing, and the effects of a walk can persist even after you get back to work. While you can get the same effect from doing a bodyweight workout or in-home strength training, it’s much easier to simply get up and move around every so often to burn more calories and get active.

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