While many people think losing weight involves slogging it out for hours at the gym or burpeeing their way up and down the beach, in reality, small adjustments to our daily walking routine, to engage our muscles, can make a world of difference and help us work harder.
Helen Beckley, a Nordic walking coach with ProActive, a sports and fitness event-management company in Abu Dhabi, says walking is the perfect exercise. “Walking is great for those looking to get back into physical activity. It’s cheap, very social and you can do it anywhere,” she says.
“What’s a better way to get to know a new area than by exploring it on foot? Not only does it have physical benefits but also emotional ones – it’s a great natural energiser. It boosts circulation and increases oxygen supply to every cell in your body, helping you feel more alert and alive.
“With vitamin D deficiency being so high in the UAE, a good bit of fresh air and sunlight can do us all good.”
Here are five ways to get more from your walk.
Speed is everything: “There are many ways you can ensure you are getting more of a workout from your walk,” says Beckley. “One way is by walking faster. Plan your route and time yourself. Then try to beat that time on each walk.” Interval training, particularly high-intensity, has gained popularity because of its effectiveness at burning calories, but the method can also be used when walking. “Increase and decrease speed throughout the walk,” says Beckley. “For example, between lamp posts, pick up speed until you get to the next one and slow down until you hit the one after that, when you can increase speed again.” You could also try listening to music with a faster beat to help you pick up the pace.
Walk with a dog: Pet ownership is associated with many benefits on the physical and mental level. Major pluses are reduced stress, lower blood pressure and increased activity. A cross-sectional study in Australia, published in 2001 in the Medical Journal of Australia, found that dog owners walked an average of 18 minutes more per week than non-dog owners, while a study in the United Kingdom, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1991, found that dog owners exercised significantly more than cat owners or those who did not own pets. Even walking a dog at a light pace has benefits, and dog owners are more likely to walk every day.
Vary the terrain: One great way to work harder when walking is to traverse different surfaces, and varied terrain is one thing we have aplenty in the UAE. Most of us live close to the beach or the desert, and for the weekends, there’s always hiking in the mountains. In 2006, researchers at the department of sport management at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town, South Africa, studied the difference between walking on sand compared with walking on grass and found walking on sand burnt 1.8 times more energy. If ever you needed an excuse to go to the beach, this is it.
Get equipped: One of the biggest advantages of walking is that it is free and can be done almost anywhere, but if you really want to amp up your workout, try walking with poles, also known as Nordic walking. Beckley says there are two major benefits to Nordic walking. “The use of poles means the upper body muscles are used as well as the legs, and the poles help to propel the walker along, which means he or she works harder than usual, yet the support given by the poles makes it feel easier.” In fact, upper-body muscle activation is anywhere from two to 15 times greater in Nordic walking than in regular walking, which also results in greater energy expenditure, according to a research article published in Plos One in March last year. Beckley says Nordic walking can burn up to 46 per cent more calories than normal walking and is ideal for those with neck, shoulder and back problems.
Mix it up: Walking may be your preferred form of exercise, but why not shake it up with a few other exercises? Beckley suggests using local surroundings as props. “Tricep dips can be done on a park bench,” she says. You could add 20 lunges every five minutes, run up the stairs, throw in a one-minute squat sit against a wall, or do push-ups against lower ledges. These activities will help work other muscle groups and increase your heart rate, which helps to burn more calories.
Source: art & life