7 Tips to Get the Most from Your Walk

Add small challenges to get more fitness benefits

Photo: Happy women walking quickly

Walking is one of the easiest ways to exercise. It’s simple, it’s fun, and you can change your routine to keep it interesting. Maximize the benefits of your walk with these tips from Jowelle Mitchell, health and wellness director for Blue Ash YMCA in Cincinnati.

1. Check with your doctor first
Regular exercise, including walking, can help lower your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. To stay safe, it’s best to check with your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if you have a health condition.

2. Choose supportive shoes
If your feet hurt, you won’t want to walk, Mitchell says. Choose comfortable walking shoes with support in the arch but flexible at the mid-point of your foot. Make sure shoes fit properly without any pinching or squeezing.

3. Set reasonable goals
If you’re starting a new walking routine, start small to prevent injuries and build confidence. Instead of promising to walk five days a week, aim for a more realistic goal of two or three days at first. You’ll be more likely to say “I did it, and I can’t wait to do more” than “I didn’t meet my goal.”

4. Pick a different setting
Variety’s the spice of a walker’s life. If you’ve been circling a track every day, try something new. Walk in your neighborhood, and meet your neighbors and their pets. Check out a nearby park or nature trail. For an indoor option, walk at the mall during quieter hours.

5. Seek new terrain
Walking on different surfaces, like grass or sand, can add a challenge. Or add an incline to burn more calories and tone muscles, too. Start with small hills, then progress to steeper ones. No hills around? Look for a set of stairs or an outdoor ramp.

6. Increase the intensity
Add short bursts of faster walking to build your endurance gradually. Walk at an easy pace for 4 minutes, walk at a faster pace for 1 minute, and repeat for the rest of your workout. As you get stronger, spend more time walking at the faster pace and less time walking at the easy pace. You can also stop to do squats or push-ups during your walk.

7. Walk with a companion
Research shows support can lead to success. Grab a friend or several to spur each other forward and share the day’s stories.