We’re all familiar with walking, and its benefits, but when we look to get in shape or lose weight, we often forget about this simplest of activities.
Walking for fitness and weight loss is highly effective and doesn’t require expensive equipment or pricey gym memberships. You can do it wherever you live and enjoy the benefits of getting your body moving.
Adopting fitness walking into daily life will help you reach your goals and enjoy the multitude of benefits associated with walking.
We delve into what counts as fitness walking and tips for getting the most out of this exercise.
What is Fitness Walking?
Fitness walking is the aerobic sport of walking intended to improve cardio-vascular health, burn calories and support functional movement.
It helps build stamina and promotes a healthier heart.
Walking for fitness requires a faster pace than just a casual stroll. A brisk walk will get the heart rate up and start burning calories to reach your goals.
How you define the optimal speed for fitness walking very much depends on your personal circumstances and ambitions, as well as characteristics such as age, walk duration and overall personal health.
If you prefer shorter walks you may want to walk faster, whereas if you’re walking for a longer period, you may not be able to maintain such a fast pace.
As you get fitter, you should be able to increase your pace of walk.
Somewhere in the region of 3-5mph would constitute as a brisk walk and likely to get your heart beat up without it turning into a jog or more intense exercise.
Fitness walking is different from “racewalking” which refers to the competitive walking you see at the Olympics and athletic competitions. Racewalking requires a specific technique and goes beyond walking for fitness. This also applies to “power walking” whereby walkers try and reach their fastest pace.
Fitness walking, on the other hand, is more focused on a brisk pace that isn’t as fast or intense but that will get your heart rate up.
Tips for Fitness Walking
Everyone will start at a different fitness level so don’t worry about what others are doing or how fast you are going, nor how long you are walking for. Instead, start at a level you feel comfortable with and slowly increase this.
By approaching it this way, you will see gradual improvements over time and stay motivated to pursue it.
Listen to Music or Podcasts
Fitness walking is so easy to fit into everyday life. This is one of the reasons it is such an effective form of exercise because anyone can stick with it.
Listening to music or podcasts while walking is a great way to utilise the time. You could play relaxing music and use the walk to unwind, or play some upbeat, inspiring music to push you to keep going.
Maintain a Brisk Pace
Fitness walking is about maintaining a constant brisk pace. If you start going too quick and then need to stop, it turns more into a HIIT workout than an aerobic activity.
Find a pace that is comfortable and that you can maintain for the duration of the walk.
Focus on a Goal
Like any form of exercise, it’s useful to have a goal in mind.
Why are you doing fitness walking? Is it to lose weight? Is it to improve your cardio levels?
The answer to these sorts of questions may offer subtle nuances in how you approach your fitness walking.
For example, if you want to tone your glutes and leg muscles, wearing ankle weights would be a great addition to help your muscles work harder and get toned.
Enjoy the Outdoors
Fitness walking in the outdoors offers more benefits than doing it at home or in the gym.
Doing it indoors still offers the health and fitness benefits but walking outdoors will add a whole new plethora of benefits associated with exercising outdoors and in nature.
Fitness Walking Shoes
You don’t need much equipment to get started with fitness walking, but a good pair of shoes is worth the investment.
Good walking shoes should be lightweight, breathable and comfortable. This helps avoid blisters and rubs.
Warm Up and Stretch
Warming up, cooling down and stretching is still worthwhile for fitness walking. Although walking and other low intensity exercises may not seem like they need a warm-up, its always a good idea to stretch and keep muscles supple.
Benefits of Fitness Walking
So, what exactly are the benefits of fitness walking?
Walking helps improve metabolism, which means you burn more calories. This helps lose weight and get rid of unwanted fat.
The number of calories you burn while fitness walking will depend on the pace and distance.
Walking just 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week helps combat heart disease and other health complications associated with an unhealthy lifestyle.
Anything that helps support a healthy heart is well worth it – particularly something like fitness walking, where it is so easily incorporated into daily life.
Fitness walking helps support and develop muscles and overall strength, particularly in the lower body, such as legs and glutes.
Having stronger legs and glutes is a real benefit for functional movement and will help in living an active lifestyle.
Walking helps fight against one of the biggest health issues facing society – sitting.
Standing up and getting moving is something not enough of us are doing, so getting your daily dose of walking in will help ensure you don’t suffer from health issues associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
Walking is very much a functional movement so strengthens muscles and uses your body in a way that you need. Many gym exercises are good for building muscle but don’t move the body in a way that reflects everyday life. Walking, on the other hand, is a movement humans were designed to do.
Walking, particularly walking outdoors, is a great way to relieve stress and tension.
The brisk pace of fitness walking will get the endorphins flowing and help you unwind and destress after a long day.
Not only is fitness walking good for stress management, but it also helps encourage creative thinking.
Walking outside helps come up with creative ideas and think differently. If you’re struggling with a problem and can’t think of a solution, a walk is often a great way to clear your mind and ignite your creativity.
Walking, along with exercise and fitness in general, has long be associated with a plethora of mental health benefits.
Walking can help combat anxiety, depression and social isolation.
There are lots of walking groups that you can join to enjoy walking.
From Nordic walking, to walking dates, to adventurous trekking holidays, joining groups and clubs is a fantastic way to get more out of walking and make lifelong friends.
Walking with other people helps fights against social isolation and also helps keep you motivated and dedicated.
Walking is a low impact activity and can help offer pain relief for conditions such as arthritis and joint pain. The movement helps support and strength the muscles around the joints.
Measuring your Walking
Fitness trackers are a fantastic fitness walking accessory to help you get more out of your efforts. Fitness trackers, like Fitbits and others, help track steps, movement, calories burnt, distance covered and all sorts, to help you track and monitor your walking.
This can help you analyse your performance and quickly determine how you should proceed.
Fitness Walking Equipment
Ankle weights are a great way to enhance your fitness walking. Available in different weights, they simply attach to your ankles so you can make your walk more challenging.
The added weight will mean your legs have to work harder – helping develop strong muscles. Check out our blog for a list of ankle weight exercises you can also incorporate into your daily routine.
Walking shoes are worth investing in if you intend on walking frequently. Hiking boots tend to be more bulky and durable, designed for off-road walks where conditions may be challenging.
If you’re just walking in the park, on the street or on flatter surfaces, any type of gym/fitness footwear will be perfectly adequate for you.
Walking poles are a great addition for your fitness walking.
They help engage the arms, shoulders and core, helping utilise more muscles and creating a more complete workout. This is perfect for those looking to turn walking into a full body workout.
If you enjoy using poles, try looking into Nordic walking and the poles used specifically for Nordic walking.
Fitness Walking Program
The best fitness walking program to follow will very much depend on your personal circumstances. It’s always best to consult a doctor or health professional so they can advise on how to get started and what duration/intensity is most suited to your fitness levels.
Personal Trainers can also help craft very bespoke programs that are tailored to what you are looking to achieve – e.g. tone muscles, lose weight, or getting fitter.
Nevertheless, due to fitness walking being quite a low intensity activity, you shouldn’t need days to recovery from the DOMS (muscle soreness), meaning you should be able to commit to it frequently throughout the week.
The best fitness walking program would encourage frequent shorter walks, instead of 1 very long walk per week. 1 long walk will mean your muscles are sore and need rest. This could also increase risk of injury.
Opting for shorter walks (15-30 minutes) a few times a week is a great starting point. Once you feel confident, you can start to increase this.