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We all know the saying, “You have to walk before you can run.” But what if we told you running didn’t have to be part of a great workout? The latest fitness craze is often associated with old people in the mall, but now you can learn how to own it too.
That’s right – we’re talking about fast walking.
Cardiovascular exercise is brimming with heart-healthy benefits and fast walking is no exception. In addition to protecting against colds, stimulating weight loss and enhancing your mood, fast walking is also low-intensity enough to prevent against joint damage.
According to Penn State fitness walking instructor Dr. Andrew Hardyk, you need to keep your heart rate around 130 beats per minute to reap the benefits of a cardio workout. Depending on your fitness level, that’s somewhere between a 12 and 15 minute mile.
Fast walking is a great way to get your heart pumping and good-mood juices flowing. However, Hardyk says, “The more in-shape you are, the harder you’re going to have to push to get that same benefit.”
As your fitness level increases, so should your incline. You can up the ante by adding a few hills to your walking repertoire, whether you’re (briskly) strolling outside or on a treadmill.
“The higher you can get your heart rate during your workout, you’re going to get those benefits easier and quicker,” Hardyk says.
Walking on an incline heightens the intensity of your workout, activating your lower body muscles and stimulating calorie-burning potential so you can reach your fitness goals faster without breaking into a sprint. *Cue Hallelujah chorus*
No Bulk, No Problem
A lot of us fear muscle-building activities will add extra bulk to our feminine frames.
But while fast walking tones your legs, you can continue to put one foot in front of the other without worrying about bulking up. Fast-walking is a repetitive and aerobic exercise that, rather than using your fast-twitch fibers, activates your slow-twitch fibers, which Hardyk says don’t grow very much.
Haryk says people who fast-walk will get fit, but not bulky.
There are a few things to keep in mind when starting a fast walking fitness regime. Hardyk stresses the following in his fitness walking classes.
The first tip is to use your entire body – arms, legs, the whole shebang – to get your heart rate up. Investing in a heart rate monitor is always helpful, or learning how to count your pulse on your wrist can be important for making sure you’re reaching your target heart rate zone.
“It’s a great way to spot-check,” says Hardyk, “to make sure – ‘am I actually working hard enough?’”
A common complaint among fast walkers is shin splints, which come as a result of over-working your anterior tibialis – the muscle on top of your shin – when taking aggressive strides. To counteract this, Hardyk advises slightly bending your knees and making sure to hit mid-heel first when walking.
Experts at Active.com recommend 10,000 steps a day (about five miles) to stay healthy and 16,000 steps in order to lose weight.
To get your best fast walking workout, Hardyk suggests walking for a minimum of 20 minutes – with the option of breaking your workout into 10 minute intervals while still staying within the target heart-rate zone – at least three times a week.
Fast walking is an exercise you can do every day with long-term benefits.
“You can do it from when you’re very young, to, for some people, the day they die,” says Hardyk.
Get off the couch, lace up your sneakers and start making strides today.
Photo by Gabby Mannino