Dr. Tannenberg offers another tip for incorporating intervals into your workout: “Create a new playlist with upbeat songs followed by slower songs. Alternate the songs on your playlist. When you are walking and hear a faster song, you increase your pace. When the slower song comes on, you slow down the pace a bit. This is an easy way to make your normal morning walk an interval workout.”
Getting blood pumping around your system and raising your heart rate provides a perfect workout for your heart and circulation system, and regular walks can even reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes. Through lowering levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, the bad cholesterol) and increasing levels of its high-density alternative (HDL, the good cholesterol), you can keep your blood pressure in check. And by helping prevent and control high blood pressure you can reduce your risk of a stroke.
Every session of aerobic exercise should include a warm-up and cool-down. The warm-up period should not include static stretching, but should instead be a gradual increase in pace and intensity of the exercise. This allows for the body to increase blood flow to the muscles, and decreases the likelihood of a muscle or joint injury. The warm-up should last between 5 and 10 minutes. The cool-down session should last a similar amount of time as the warm-up, with the pace gradually decreasing. Stretching exercises would be appropriate after aerobic exercise.
“Cardiovascular health is defined by your capacity to exert yourself,” says Nicole Belkin, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/ Columbia University Medical Center. “Regular physical activity trains the cardiovascular system to expand the level of demand and increase its capacity. This results in increased blood flow and blood volume to the heart.”
Add strengthening exercises to your walking workout to build muscle. Even though strength training does not burn considerable calories, it replaces your fat with lean muscle mass. Your body works harder to sustain your muscle mass, raising your resting metabolism so you burn more calories throughout the day. Invest in light hand weights or wrist weights and pump your hands as you walk. Build lower body muscles by lifting your knees high during part of your walk. Stop every five minutes and do a series of squats or lunges.
Stumped for an idea? Take a quick stroll around the block. Whether you need a solution to a problem at work or you’re looking for inspiration for your novel, walking gets your creative juices flowing in all areas. A recent study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience found that walking improved both convergent and divergent thinking, the two types associated with enhanced creativity.
Stay hydrated. Drinking enough water is an important part of a walking workout. Remember that you lose water through sweat even in cooler weather and that you don't start to feel thirsty until you’re already starting to become dehydrated. Drink about two cups of water before you start and another cup about every 15 minutes. Don't wait until you get thirsty.
Aerobic exercise comprises innumerable forms. In general, it is performed at a moderate level of intensity over a relatively long period of time. For example, running a long distance at a moderate pace is an aerobic exercise, but sprinting is not. Playing singles tennis, with near-continuous motion, is generally considered aerobic activity, while golf or two person team tennis, with brief bursts of activity punctuated by more frequent breaks, may not be predominantly aerobic. Some sports are thus inherently "aerobic", while other aerobic exercises, such as fartlek training or aerobic dance classes, are designed specifically to improve aerobic capacity and fitness. It is most common for aerobic exercises to involve the leg muscles, primarily or exclusively. There are some exceptions. For example, rowing to distances of 2,000 meters or more is an aerobic sport that exercises several major muscle groups, including those of the legs, abdominals, chest, and arms.
Whatever makes you feel comfortable is the easy answer. There is no need for fancy spandex or workout clothes, unless that’s what you like. As you start moving farther and faster, you may want to get dedicated fitness walking clothes that wick away sweat or allow you to layer for different weather conditions, but for a beginning fitness walker, comfort trumps everything else.