Walking comes with a whole-host of benefits, not just for our physical health but on our overall wellbeing and feelings of happiness too.
When we up-the-ante from a casual stroll to a burst of power-walking, it can only mean one thing for those benefits – bigger and better!
Whether it is for practical reasons, getting you from A to B, or for pleasure, most of us will find ourselves walking on a regular basis.
In the UK alone, a hefty 71% of the population reported walking at least once a week (according to the Active Lives Survey, published by UK government in 2019) and in the US, 2018 saw the number of people walking specifically for fitness to be a whopping 111 million. Such figures are expected to rise as the interest in healthy aging continues to soar and an ever-growing conscious of how we can reduce our carbon footprint, alongside government incentives, encourages us to switch the car for our feet.
The beauty of power-walking then, aside from the fact it is totally free (!), is that it can be incorporated into an activity you most likely already do! So, let’s delve a little deeper into the benefits it can bring and some top tips to make sure you maximise those benefits whilst reducing the risk of injury.
What is Power Walking?
The main difference between a normal walk and a power walk is the pace. By boosting the speed of movement in both your legs and arms as you walk, the technique used in power walking gets the blood pumping more than regular walking and is considered a great form of aerobic exercise. The pace is not to be confused with jogging however, which is much faster. Power walking lies somewhere between a stroll and a jog, and as with regular walking or jogging, even a small amount can have a positive impact on your health. Let’s take a further look.
Benefits of Power Walking
1. Cardiovascular fitness
As a form of aerobic exercise, power walking comes with the benefit of improved cardiovascular fitness when used as part of a regular, consistent fitness regime. These include reducing the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even diabetes.
2. Bone and Joint Health
In comparison to jogging for fitness, power walking is much gentler on the joints and therefore suited to a greater range of people such as those who require low-impact exercises perhaps due to injury or pregnancy. Healthline even sites a 2019 study which linked one hour per day of moderate-intensity fitness, such as power walking, helped to prevent disability in people with symptoms of joint problems.
3. Improved flexibility
The larger range of motion in your arms and legs required from power walking is great for increase the flexibility of your muscles and joints. As a result, this can improve our ability to perform everyday tasks like lifting and moving heavy objects.
4. Weight Loss
As with any form of aerobic exercise, power walking will help to burn calories, more so than a regular walk. There are adaptions to increase the calorie burn including adding weights to the power walk – more on this later. The advantage of losing weight with regular power walking, is that it is done at a healthy pace healthy pace.
We recently wrote a blog about the benefits of Nordic walking for weight loss too.
4. Mental Wellbeing
Power walking is usually done in the great outdoors allowing nature to have a positive impact on your mental health. This can include reducing stress levels, lowering anxiety and the risk of depression as you use it to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday lives.
5. Cost Effective
Power walking is one the simplest, most effective, and yet totally free, ways to improve your health and fitness. No need for expensive gym memberships or large equipment, just you and nature is all that is required.
Tips for Getting Started with Power Walking
It is the increased level of effort required from power walking compared to regular walking that can further improve your cardiovascular fitness. You want to aim for short steps where the brisker pace means you are completing more steps in a given amount of time than you would when walking normally.
As with any form of exercise, or movement for that matter, posture is of paramount importance. Try to resist a natural slump, which is not only bad for your health but can actually slow you down. Instead, stand up straight, with your head up and your shoulders back. You should find this helps with your breathing too.
3. Engage your core
You should engage your core muscles by squeezing the abdominals, i.e. pull your belly button in, as you move. This will also help you to maintain a good posture.
4. Active Arms
Power walking should be just as much a workout for your arms as it is your legs. Aim to bend your arms at the elbow at a 90 degree angle and gently swing your right arm forward, from the shoulder, as your left leg takes a step. Notice the word ‘gently’- just the back and forth movement should help you move forward and needn’t be exaggerated by swinging your arms across your body or up too high. Make sure you alternate your arms and legs with each step so that you get into the right rhythm.
Correct walking technique should involve the heel touching the ground first. The motion then moves into the toes, which are then used to push into the next step. If you find yourself touching the ground with your toes or even with both your heel and toe simultaneously (often referred to as flat-footed) then you should practise your technique with your heel first by walking at a normal pace before advancing to power walking.
5. Add Variety
Variety can be a great technique to challenge your body and it’s movements in different ways. You could use intervals by increasing your pace to a power walk for a set amount of time such as five minutes before returning to a slower pace or keep going until it becomes difficult. Remember not to push yourself too far and recognise your limits.
6. Add equipment
If you find yourself getting really stuck into power walking and want to add further challenge, you could try adding weights to your walk. Dumbbells are an easy option to hold whilst you power those arms and legs or you could try a weighted vest which distributes the weight evenly across your body. If weight loss is part of your aim in your fitness regime then using weights is a good option as it will help to increase the amount of calories you burn.
Check out our guide on the best walking equipment for more details.
Make sure your footwear has a sturdy sole to ensure your feet are well supported. For power walking on more varied terrain, you should consider investing in footwear that also has appropriate ankle support such as walking shoes.
Power walking is such an accessible exercise option and is perfectly suited to a huge audience including those who may be new to exercise or suffer from injuries thanks to its low-impact nature. The right technique, on a regular basis and without forgetting a sense of enjoyment can see you reap the benefits of power walking in next to no time. What’s more, it shouldn’t leave you quite as breathless as high impact training like jogging, so take a friend, colleague or relative and have a giggle or catch up in the process!