Spice Things Up

Avoid boredom, spice things up to help improve your fitness.

 

Humans are designed to be in motion, and walking takes you step by step to better health, a sunnier outlook and a longer, fitter life. Walking a set distance on a regular schedule boosts bone density, muscular endurance, strength and flexibility -- and could keep you moving into a ripe old age. 

Constantly changing your workout is doubly beneficial. For starters, it keeps away boredom, which can land you right back on the couch. Plus, it will make sure you work your body in more than one way. A week of walking should ideally feature a day doing a faster, cardiovascular-type workout, a day working on muscle endurance through distance, and a strength-training day with hills that work the legs and help add lean muscle, says Kemp Salvato. You can go a step further, she says, by strength training (at home or a gym) and stretching to improve flexibility.

Or add variety within workouts. For instance, Kemp Salvato suggests having fun with cardio exercises by walking fast for a few minutes and then slow for the next few, alternating until you've hit 30 minutes. You can base your speed on distance, walking quickly for a quarter mile, then slowly the next. Racing from streetlight to streetlight or from house to house—with a slower pace in between sprints—counts, too. 

The beauty of walking is that you can modify it to suit your lifestyle, whether you have to fit exercise in between picking up the kids and making dinner or do it on your lunch break from work. Your start can be slow or speedy. Do it alone or with a friend. "Most sports require a certain level of fitness or body type—strength, ideal body weight, good alignment without knee problems and back problems," says Kemp Salvato. "Walking really welcomes everyone with open arms."

Steps to a Longer Life

Walking your daily mileage or minutes works your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, shins and foot muscles. But it can also ease back pain, lower mental stress and protect against dementia and depression while extending your longevity and your ability to live independently.

Harvard Medical School reports that a meta-analysis of walking studies shows that walking 14.5km a week lowered the male premature death rate by 22 percent; 30 minutes a day decreased the chances of men developing coronary artery disease by 18 percent; and walking for three hours a week lowered women's risks for heart attacks, cardiac death and stroke by 34 to 35 percent.

Take 10,000 steps every day and you will meet the Department of Health’s recommendation to log at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. Ten thousand steps translates to roughly 8 kilometres.