I’ve had to make some changes to keep my walking effective exercise.
You and I are strongly encouraged to get at least 150 minutes of moderate level activity every week. If you walk a mile in 20 minutes, and then keep walking for another two minutes, you’ll reach that minimum level every day. And, if we maintain that commitment to physical activity we are lowering our risk to a bunch of bad health outcomes.
As I get older, those bad outcomes become even more real which provides even more motivation to make my exercise even more effective. The bottom line of exercise is to push our bodies so they can get stronger.
Culture increasingly encourages us to move less. Remote controls, drive thru’s, home deliveries all mean we barely have to move if we don’t want to. The less we move, the faster our bodies wear out. That almost doesn’t make sense, right? The stuff we own usually lasts longer the less we use it. But, not our bodies.
Exercise is more important than ever. The more we push ourselves, the healthier and stronger we get. Of course, it is possible to over-exercise, but most of us our closer to sedentary than we are to the other extreme.
Even though I continue to receive job offers to be an ER doc, I’m not a doctor. Please consult with YOUR doctor before starting any exercise program. The only reason people think I’m a doctor is because I share a name with an ER doc who lived near me when we were still in Maryland. I can assure you, I am not someone you’d want to get medical advice or treatment from.
While research indicates that all movement is beneficial, not all movement counts as exercise. And, not all exercise counts the same. The more we push, the stronger we get. There are three basic ways to make walking an even more effective exercise
No great surprise here. The more you walk, the stronger you get. There are a couple ways to do this. If you take a daily walk for exercise, you can simply increase how long (and far) you’re walking. Make your 30 minute walk a 40 minute walk, for example. If your walk is based on distance, say one mile, you can add more. An additional half-mile would take you ten minutes longer.
The other way to walk more is to increase the cumulative number of steps you walk each day. If you currently get 5,000 steps you could boost your daily goal to 5,500. As I’ve written before, it’s better to increase gradually. Your body needs time to build the capacity to do more. Often when we are motivated to exercise, our emotions write a check our bodies aren’t ready to cash yet.
Our neighborhood in Maryland was hilly. Within five minutes of leaving the house we had to walk up a mountain. I exaggerate, but that’s what it felt like. When Ava and I would walk together we often would stop talking while walking that hill. Our heart rate increased and so did our breathing. It was tough to talk and breathe hard at the same time. Our reward for getting up that hill was another hill five minutes later. But, that wasn’t all. To complete the circuit we had four more significant hills. They all got our hearts beating faster. It was great exercise.
Then we moved.
Our new neighborhood has no hills. We live a couple miles from the beach, so it’s pretty flat here. I actually like that because I have a new one-speed bike that is perfect for where we live. Riding that bike is more about relaxing than exercising. But, I digress.
If you live near some hills, don’t be afraid to take advantage of them. Walking up (and down) hills is a powerful way to make your walking more effective exercise. If you don’t live near hills, how about stairs? They work just as well. I’ve made it a habit to take the elevator or escalator instead of stairs when possible.
But, guess what? Our new home doesn’t have any stairs either. I’m hill-less and stair-less so I needed to do something else.
I already walk fast. Now, I’m walking even faster. This is how I’m making my walking more effective exercise without the hills or stairs. I’m not at the speed of those Olympic Race Walkers, but I’m pretty sure to those who see me walk by, I look a bit odd.
The minimum speed to be considered “moderate level activity” is three miles an hour. Easy math indicates you are walking a mile in 20 minutes. Can you bump that up to a mile in 15 minutes? That means you’re now walking 4mph.
And, just like walking more, it’s better to increase gradually. Start with small bursts of increased speed. Don’t try and do the entire mile faster. Work up to that.
Because I’m walking at speeds that are not normal for me, I have to stay focused to maintain my faster pace. If not, I default to what I’m used to. I expect this will change, but for now I need to be thinking about my pace more than I’m used to.
As your body gets stronger you can combine these three walking exercise opportunities. In other words, take longer walks at a faster pace up and down hills.
It’s ok to feel a little worn down when you’re done. When I get back from my fast and long walk, I’m ready to sit down for a bit. I think that’s good. That means I’m pushing myself.
Honestly, I miss the hills. They weren’t always fun, but I knew it was a good workout.
If you’re ready to make your walking more effective exercise you can also take The 30 Day Walking Challenge. There are three levels to this challenge. Choose the level based on where your walking is right now and then supersize it for the next 30 days.
If you don’t have a Fitbit I recommend the Fitbit Inspire 2! The Inspire 2 has double the battery life, and also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress. This is also the Fitbit I use to track my steps every day!
(By the way…if you use the link above to buy a Fitbit Inspire 2 this blog will receive a small commission. It won’t add anything to what you pay, but letting you know is the right thing to do)
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