Source: Best Health Magazine, May 2009
Walking is a health powerhouse. It strengthens your muscles and heart, lowers your blood pressure and helps build bones. It can even lengthen your life: According to research, walking vigorously for 30 minutes just six times a month may lower your risk of premature death by 50 percent.
It’s relatively easy on the joints and bones’walking puts about half the stress that running does on your knees, ankles and shins. But you’ll have to give more effort than you would for a casual stroll. To get all the great benefits, including boosting your cardiovascular fitness, you need to ‘power walk,’ moving at a pace that will bring your heart rate into the target zone.
To be clear, fitness walking is not as fast as race walking. Race walkers, who have an unusual gait that involves swaying the hips back and forth, can easily walk faster than some people jog.
Watch your form
A key element to fitness walking is proper posture. Many people slump over when they walk, which, over time, can lead to problems such as muscle strain and pain in the neck, lower back and hips. As you walk, point your chest straight ahead. And tuck in your belly, which is doing a lot of the work in holding up your back. Every five minutes or so, do a mental scan of your posture. If you’re not standing straight, pull yourself back into alignment.
Holding your arms still, or swinging them without bending them, will slow you down. Instead, bend your arms to a 90-degree angle and swing them in sync with the opposite leg. This motion will not only feel more natural, but it will also add speed and power to your walk.
‘ Stride length
Lengthening your stride in order to walk more quickly’known as over-striding’is a mistake. It puts you off balance without speeding up your pace. Since the power in your gait comes from pushing off your back leg and foot, it’s more effective to take short, quicker steps when you want to move faster. Also concentrate on pumping your (bent) arms quickly, which will help speed up your legs.
Ready to get moving?
See your doctor before you start any fitness program if you have any health concerns. And when doing any power-walking program, reduce your pace if you can’t speak easily while walking or if it takes more than six minutes for your pulse to normalize afterwards.
Try our 12-week walking program to get started’you could lose a pound a week!
This article was originally titled "Walk Your Way Slim!" in the May 2009 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!’and make sure to check out what’s new in the latest issue of Best Health.