Walking exercise is one of the best and easiest ways to increase your fitness or lose some stress. This post includes four walks you’ll love – and they’ll love you back.
Each benefits your cardiovascular system – and nurtures your hormones – in a slightly different way. You’ve got three energy systems, and varying your walking exercise keeps “all systems go.”
You don’t need to do higher intensities for a long duration. You need them but just in small doses, and that’s most optimal for hormone balancing (bye, bye cortisol). Those little sprints can make your walking exercise feel more playful and fun. Indeed, they might be the reason these are walks you’ll love. These little bursts of quick movement support your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which we tend to lose faster as we age unless we do something to retain them.
Pick any one of these and head out in search of nature.
This short little energy boost doesn’t even require athletic shoes. This is what you do when your first flight is delayed and your second flight is not. You’re going to move intentionally, but you may be in your cute shoes. Just insert some “pick-ups.”
Pick-ups are brief bursts (10 seconds) of speed and energy in the middle of a walk. You can put them anywhere. Randomly pick the next light pole, tree, or driveway. Recover and do it again any time along the way. Alternatively, when you come to a hill or a set of stairs, keep your pace. By doing that, you’ll be increasing the intensity. Ten or 20 minutes of this super stroll will boost your productivity, focus, and problem solving for hours. Try it over lunch. No sweat required.
Energy systems you’ll use: aerobic and phosphagen
You’re going to want to change your shoes for this one. This is a perfect 30-minute-ish walk. Definitely do a progressive warm-up. I like to intentionally increase my speed every minute for five-to-ten minutes. That will ensure that in addition to your muscles, your ankles, knees, and hips are all ready for more.
Then do a short sprint (intense walk) for 30 seconds or up to two minutes. Recover for one-to-two minutes and then repeat five or six times. Cooldown five or ten minutes. Intense walking is good for balancing the hormone Insulin-like-growth-hormone if it’s too high. Start with shorter power walking sprints like this, and gradually you can increase the duration of your hard work.
Energy systems you’ll work: aerobic and glycolysis
When your schedule allows, and you’re adapted to walking longer, take advantage of the opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy autumn. Yet you want to break up a long walk with some changes in your gait that will keep you from getting stiff.
Another point to remember is the walks that you’ll love all start with a good warm-up. Walk for at least 10 or 20 minutes, so you’re effectively warmed up. Then increase your speed to a brisk pace for eight minutes. Recover for three minutes as easy as you like, so you’re ready to repeat the eight-minute brisk walk again. Continue until you’ve done three sets of the eight and three-minute “pick-ups.” Then continue on either cooling down or extending your walk.
Energy system you’ll use: aerobic.
Plan a longer jaunt in a scenic location. Keep your speed comfortable. There’s no need to worry about heart rate or intensity. Self-selecting your speed ensures you’ll enjoy it and repeat it.
This walking exercise benefits your aerobic base. Everything else is built on this. If you’re doing a lot of high-intensity interval training and not seeing results, try a little more light exercise of this nature – in nature – if possible. When your walks are green, or golden as in this time of year, they reduce cortisol. Though you won’t read anywhere that they “torch calories” or “burn fat,” if cortisol levels are making you hold fat, you may find the relaxed pace of this one boosts energy and optimizes your weight too.
Energy system you’ll use: aerobic
Finally, be careful on those leaf-carpeted trails! Tree roots or acorns can lurk underneath. Fast-twitch muscle helps you retain agility, but you don’t want to test yourself with unseen obstacles!
Walking poles can increase intensity and help steady you.
Walk on trails you know well if there will be fallen leaves rolling out a golden carpet.
Most importantly, make this about walks you’ll love with these last two tips.