Walking is probably the simplest form of exercise going. but don’t let its simplicity fool you. We may be talking about little more than putting one foot in front of the other, but all the same, walking remains one of the most effective forms of exercise available. In fact, countless studies show that it promotes good health, increases fitness and blasts fat, leaving you with toned, tight muscles. And that’s not all.
Why Do We Should Walk To Fitness?
According to the Health Organisation Osteoporosis Australia, walking is also great for maintaining bone strength and, therefore, decreasing your chances of developing osteoporosis, also known as brittle bone disease.
Best of all, walking provides all of these benefits without jarring your joints or placing stress on your body, says Simone Austin, Swisse Vitamins dietitian. “That means less chance of injury,” says Simone, who also points out that walking can be done with friends and family, or alone and that it requires little to no equipment at all. “All you need is a good pair of shoes,” she says. “Lace them up, step out the front door and you’re away.”
There’s no doubt that walking is good for your health and can increase strength and fitness, plus help you to lose any unwanted curves. So, exactly how long, how hard and how often must you walk to achieve those results?
We put that very question to three of Australia’s most qualified coaches and exercise scientists, and asked them to provide us with specific, results- driven 12-week programs. Here is what they recommend.
Walk For Weight Loss by Dr Gall Trapp, lecturer in exercise science at the University of New South Wales, aerobics instructor and author of The 8 Second Secret.
To achieve significant weight loss, you need to exercise at higher intensities, says Dr Trapp. ‘To make walking more “weight-loss friendly’, build up to power walking – long, rapid strides – and introduce eight-second intervals [short bursts of concentrated activity].”
Who’ll Love It? Those who like a challenge and aren’t afraid to push themselves a little. Sound like you? Why not gather some like-minded friends and work out as a group. This will help you to stay motivated when things get tough.
What You Can Except: The 8 Second Secret program will make you feel better, look better and will provide health benefits, says Dr Trapp. It will firm the muscles in your legs, backside and core. If you add hand weights in the later stages of the program, you will tone your arms, too.
Walk For Great Health by exercise physiologist and coach Dr Sarah Morante.
Walking is a great choice in terms of improving general health, since it is weight bearing, but low impact, says Dr Morante. “This means our bodies must work that bit harder than when doing exercise where our body weight is supported, such as swimming.
Who’ll Love It? Dr Morante’s program is perfect for anyone with a tight schedule because each of the walks can be broken down into 10 or five-minute intervals and spread throughout the day
What You Can Except: Those following this program will soon experience a lower resting heart rate and increased speed. At the end of the 12 weeks, you may also experience an improvement in blood pressure and cholesterol, says Dr Morante.
Walk To Run by Annie Crawford, running coach and director of Can Too, a community exercise program which provides professional coaching free of charge to its members, in return for their raising funds for the Cure Cancer Australia Foundation. For more information about the program, visit www.cantoo.org.au.
Who’ll Love It? If your ultimate goal is to become a runner, then this is the program for you. Stick with it and, by the end of the 12 weeks, you’ll be comfortably jogging 30 minutes at a stretch. This is also the program that is perfect for goal- oriented folk who relish a challenge.
What You Can Except: Follow this program and you are likely to rejuvenate yourself, both inside and out. You’ll feel healthier, look healthier and be healthier, plus you can expect to see the world in a whole new light. “Running makes you happier,” explains Annie.