Updated: Jul 13, 2021
START THINKING OF WALKING AS EXERCISE
If you enjoy a long walk outside through the neighborhood, off-road through a nature trail, or around the local high school track then this post is for you!
Anytime you move your body you are technically exercising! Grab a glass of water and take a drink... you just did a bicep curl. Stand up from sitting on the couch... good work on that squat. Reach up for a bowl on the top shelf of a cabinet... shoulder raise! These are simple movements we perform everyday, much like walking. You may not be thinking of exercising, but you're still moving your body, exerting yourself, and burning calories to do so. So have you ever thought about walking as an exercise? In this post we will debate why walking should taken a little more seriously, how to warm-up & cool-down your walk, and teach techniques on how to relieve pain and prevent injuries from walking.
TREAT YOUR WALK LIKE A WORKOUT
When exercising at the gym or at home we are more focused on form and moving correctly to prevent injury. But as soon as you stop working out you probably won't think about how you're moving until the next session. It is hard to keep thinking about the body when the mind has so much more to focus on. However, the more you lose focus, the higher risk for injury you become! How many times have you hurt yourself simply by living life? Now consider an everyday movement like walking and the unexpected forces that act on the body while doing so.
According to PUBMED,
"The force each step absorbs into the body is equal to 1.0 - 1.5 times your body weight."
That means someone weighing 180 pounds could load 270 pounds of force into their lower body with every step. Consider a common goal of 10,000 steps per day and you can see how long walks can place a lot of stress on the body!
The body does a great job of protecting itself and can, without much thought, naturally distribute much of that force throughout the body to prevent serious injury from occurring. In fact, the body absorbing impact is a critical ingredient for healthy bones, muscular development, and maintaining posture against external variables. So why should we take walking more seriously as an exercise and less as a thoughtless, leisurely activity?
At the beginning of a workout you feel strong, energized, and mentally focused. By the end... quite the opposite. Dozens of sets and hundreds of reps, or steps when walking, deplete energy from both your body and mind. Muscles have less energy to lift weight or absorb impact and the mind struggles to maintain proper form and cueing. Walking may not be as intense as many of the traditional exercises (push-up, squat, pull-up ect.) but it usually results in thousands of more repetitions compared to its counter parts. Not to mention non-stop walking for 20-30 minutes at a time can be exhausting! No wonder why it is so difficult to stay focused! When you perform any task for a high repetition and over a long duration of time it is a recipe for acute and chronic injuries. This is why we should warm-up, cool-down, and treat walking like any other workout session.
YOUR NEW WALKING PROGRAM
Anytime a new workout program is started we take time to organize the order, sets, repetitions, and resistance of each exercise. We integrate variety and creativity into the program because only performing one exercise during a workout is insanity, not to mention extremely boring! Why not get more out of your walking workout, too? There are dozens of ways to add new ideas to your walking regimen no matter if its through a neighborhood, trail, or track. Below we will structure a proper warm-up and cool-down plus provide exercise ideas to incorporate throughout your walk.
The warm-up and cool-down section will be divided into three sections with several ideas to choose from - self-massage, mobility, & exercise. Experiment with different combinations from each section to find which works best for you!
#1 | Starting with a Warm-Up
A proper warm-up should always include two phases - mobility & exercise. If you do not have enough time for a cool-down you can incorporate self-massage techniques into your warm-up as well. The goal for the warm-up is to mobilize our body through a full range of motion and activate our muscles to maintain tension and improve mental awareness while walking.
STEP 1 | Mobility
STEP 2 | Exercise
#2 | Break Up the Monotony - How to Add Exercise Variety
Remember, high repetition over a long duration without rest can lead to injury and pain. Breaking a long walk into sections, or distances, will allow our walking muscles to rest while we focus on other parts of the body. During these breaks you can choose from any of the mobility or exercises from the warm-up or cool-down or add in some new, creative ideas. Below are some simple body weight exercises you can take with you on your walk!
#3 | Ending with a Cool-Down
The purpose of a cool-down is to calm the neuromuscular system and leave the muscles in a rested, lengthened state. Following a workout the neuromuscular system continues to send a strong signal to the muscles of the body resulting in a constant state of contraction. To help calm this process down we will focus on two phases - self-massage & mobility. Note: We do not want to add exercises to a cool-down!