A Beginners Guide To Walking Fitness
Learn Everything You Need To Know On How To Get Started With Walking To Improve Your Fitness
Walking is an incredibly undervalued way to improve your overall wellbeing, to burn body fat and improve your general fitness. It’s easy to get started with and it can become an incredibly enjoyable way to exercise.
The key in beginning is to start where you are at today. What I mean by this is don’t try and compare your journey to anyone else’s and try and do more than you should to start. I want you to achieve your goals and succeed, so whenever you start, do so in a sustainable way by forming good habits that you can repeat day in and day out.
So on day one start with just 5 minutes, head out your door (or on a treadmill, more on this later) and begin with just 5 minutes. Do this every day for the first week and then add to that as you feel ready the following week. It’s about gradually building the habit and staying consistent with it day in and day out. To help you with this journey I have included beginners walking schedule to help you program it all into your week with ease and help you to stay on track. You will see this below and here is a short video to help you get started with your walking fitness.
Whenever you start something new, start off slow with short sessions and build it up gradually. If you go too far to soon, you will create fatigue and soreness and it will make it much harder to form a daily habit. You see its this daily habit of walking that is going to get you success long term, not sporadic bursts every now and then. Once you have gotten into the habit of walking every day you can pick up your pace and begin to add in some longer walks during your week as per the walking program below.
How To Walk
First, think about your posture. Walk tall, shoulders back, relaxed and down with your head up and eyes forward. Breathe naturally and walk at a pace that doesn’t make you overly breathless. Walk fast enough to lift your heart rate, but not so that you are gasping for air. As you build your level of fitness, steadily climb to a comfortably challenging pace. You should still be able to hold a conversation even though you’re breathing a lot harder. At the end of your session you shouldn’t be exhausted, but you want to have a feeling of having had a good walk. If you need breaks to achieve this initially then take them. Remember the key is starting and starting in whatever way that looks for you. I want you to succeed, so please don’t feel your walking should look a certain way, just start. 🙂
Then when you are walking don’t think you have to take huge big strides, find a stride length that feels natural and easy for you to maintain. In the beginning, you don’t want to worry about too much, but as you get more confident do think about good posture and make sure you use your arms naturally and let them swing with the movement (opposite arm to leg) as this is half the movement.
The hardest part of starting a fitness program is developing a habit so this is why I want to encourage you to begin at a distance that you can repeat daily and make it easy to achieve to begin with.
Are Activity Trackers Good For Walking?
As you get fitter you can increase your distance and you may want to do this on alternate days, to ensure you don’t overdo it initially. The goal eventually is to build up to being able to walk 10,000 steps per day long term and consistently. This doesn’t have to be done in one go, its accumulated over the period of the day. So you may find that you get that easily just because of your day to day life, or you may find you have to bring more walking into your routine such as 15 minutes before work, 15 minutes at lunchtime and maybe another 15 at the end of the day. A reasonable goal for most people is to increase average daily steps each week by 500 per day until you can easily average 10,000 per day.
If you don’t have an activity tracker you would want to aim for a good 30 minutes dedicated to walking per day with a total of 4 hours per week. This can be broken up throughout the day and built up over time. If you want to improve your fitness then you would want to aim for 45-60 minutes per day, again this can be broken up throughout your day.
The reason I love activity trackers is because there is nothing like getting facts on how much you are moving each and every day. It wasn’t until I got my fitbit that I realized some days I simply wasn’t moving enough and this gave me huge insight then to why I may feel flat on some days compared to others. Walking and movement in general builds energy and our bodies are designed to move. The more we sit, the more our energy and our body will reflect that sedentary, tired feeling. So by getting yourself an activity tracker such as a fitbit you have your very own accountability partner with you all the time and you can use this to help you move more and create a more energized and healthier body.
One of the great benefits of using activity trackers is that you can get info and insights of your progress by simply syncing it to a PC, Mac, iOS device or android phone. Many of the trackers out on the market can now provide you real-time information. You can display your activity info in graphs and charts so you can visualize how you are tracking and what you have or haven’t achieved. When you are working towards a particular goal such as weight loss, training for an event or simply wanting to improve your fitness level, this can be extremely valuable.
For those that need an extra push or drive to increase their movement and train a little harder, you can also share your progress with friends and even challenge each other to aim higher and achieve a little more! We have a fitbit 10k club within the online gym and this is a great way to help motivate each other to stay on track each day with those movement goals no matter where in the world you are.
Benefits Of Walking
The reason I value walking so much and why its the first part under exercise in our wheel is wellness is because of its huge benefits on health. Some of the healthiest populations in the world have a movement based lifestyle and the more sedentary we are the more it affects our health. So without throwing away our desk job and moving to the country to farm on orchard, we need to bring elements of walking into our lifestyle in what ever way we can and this is why it’s such a foundational layer to wellness.
If you do it regularly, it reduces the risk of heart disease and can help you burn fat and lose weight. Uphill walks work your calf muscles, hamstrings, and buttocks. Downhill walks are great for your thighs (quads), and on level ground, your abdominals and lower back get a workout. Walking is a great way to burn calories and increases stamina, energy level, and bone strength, not to mention improve your biomechanics. Regular walking can also help reduce your risk of developing breast cancer and diabetes according to this study.
To often I see people believe that the only way to burn body fat is to start running, so they head out and hit the pavements only to get injured 2-3 weeks down the track. You see our bodies biomechanics gets affected when we sit, so we need to give it time to build is alignment, strength, balance and posture back up without pounding pavements and stressing our joints out. So before you begin running, start by walking and creating this foundational layer into your lifestyle, it will not only help your joints and ligaments it will also help make this new lifestyle more long term and sustainable.
Walking also helps you burn body fat, without being overly taxing on the body. When we walk at a decent pace we tend to work around 60-70 percent of your maximum heart rate. This sort of intensity is ideal for fat burning, in fact 85 percent of your calories burned are of fats, 10 percent are carbs and 5 percent are proteins. So just by including more walking into your day, you are enhancing your bodies ability to burn body fat while you are moving. The calories burnt while walking is very dependent on your weight and your metabolism, so a 70kg/ 155-lb person burns about 298 calories in one hour and an 83 kg/185-lb person walks off about 356 calories at that pace.
Where to Walk
Walk anywhere you like, whether it’s indoors on a treadmill or outside at the park, by the sea or around your local neighborhood. Experiment with different routes that will challenge you with hills and varying terrains. Try parking your car farther away from your destination than you need to. Walk to work or to the farthest bus stop or subway station. Take the stairs. Or get off the elevator one floor early and walk that extra flight. Give yourself time to walk. Leave home a half hour earlier or take 10 extra minutes to walk to the store. The more you can make walking a thing you do while doing something else, versus something that requires motivation and willpower, the more active you will be. You see simply having to walk further to work each day has to happen. Verses you getting home at 5.30-6 tired and exhausted and trying to muster up the energy and motivation to head out for a walk is so much harder. So think about ways you make walking part of your life that doesn’t require you thinking about it.
If you can’t get outdoors either for safety reasons or because of the weather a treadmill is a great option and far better than sitting and not doing any movement. Ideally, however, do try and use the outdoors and nature as much as you can, because of the varying terrains, moving through space, nature, fresh air and sites you see are doing more than just burning calories. Mental, emotional, biophysical things are all happening without you even knowing about it and doing amazing things for the cells in your body and your overall well being.
To get you started in a sustainable way, here is a walking schedule you can program into your diary to build your walking fitness up. The goal being that in 8 weeks time you have the fitness and stamina to be walking 30 minutes continuously every day. This will help you reach those 10,000 step days with ease and help make them part of your life. Ideally aim to follow this schedule 6 days of the week and if you can 7, but give yourself one day off a week where you can rest if you need.
How To Be More Active And Move More
In order to become more active, it’s a mindset shift and you want to take ownership of how you spend your days and the hours outside of your working hours. Start telling yourself that you are someone who looks for movement (walking) opportunities. Think about how you can incorporate more movement into your life via walking.
In your office, get up walk around while on the phone, do standing meetings, walking meetings or intentionally put your phone somewhere that is a walking distance away and check it throughout the day. Try a stand up if you can and use this throughout the day to break up sitting.
Cut down on couch time and the hours you watch TV and squeeze in some time outside in the fresh air with nature. Catch up with friends for a walk versus coffee and become the new you loves to move. The more you tell yourself this, the more you will believe it and the more you will become that person who is active throughout your day and looking for more ways to move.
So start now and get that 5 minute walk in, it will help you bring more wellness, energy and vitality in your life.
You’ve got this!
Before you head off on that walk though, do make sure you download my free guide. It will help you get a good understanding of the Wheel Of Wellness and why walking is such a valuable foundational layer.
Then be sure to check out a beginners guide to starting exercise here