How far? You should be aiming to walk for a minimum 1 hour to really make a difference
How often? 5 – 7 days per week. Walking is not too stressful on the body, so it can be done everyday if time permits. Let’s face it, we spend the majority of our time sitting down, the least we can ask is to walk for an hour a day, everyday.
How fast? Everybody is different, the fitter you are, or the longer your legs, the quicker you will go, but a good rule of thumb is approximately 6km per hour. Obviously if you are starting out very unfit, you would be slower than this. If you walk at this pace, you will burn roughly 4 calories per kg of you bodyweight in an hour. The slower you walk, the less you burn, for example, if you walk at 3km per hour, you would burn roughly 2 calories per kg of your bodyweight. The upside to this is that if you are quite unfit, you are probably also overweight, so you will burn more calories as it is measured as a percentage of your bodyweight.
Do you need to walk to:
a) Get fit
b) Lose weight
Getting fit and weight loss go hand in hand, if you are walking fast enough to get fit, you are also walking fast enough to lose weight, the only differing factor is good nutrition to aid in weight loss.
Walking will only ever get you so far in regards to fitness and you will reach a level where your little feet can’t carry you any faster, at this point, you might want to consider jogging, cycling, boxercise or some other form of cardiovascular exercise.
Q.Key benefits of a walking program?
A. Walking is a great form of exercise that is far less stressful on the body that jogging or other high impact types of exercise. It can be done every day, it can be done anywhere and it can be done at any time of day. You don’t need any fancy equipment and you can do it with friends.
Q.Why do many people fail to achieve their fitness and weight goals through walking?
A. Quite often people don’t know how to gauge a good speed to walk at to improve fitness. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you are breaking a sweat and you’re breathing is getting so heavy, it is difficult to carry our a conversation. If you can’t get to this point through walking, you need to find a more difficult route ie. Hills or stairs. Alternatively, you may be fit enough to start jogging, providing you are injury free.
Q.Should you carry hand-weights when walking? Or wear a weighted backpack/ vest? If so, how heavy?
A. Carrying weights can help to burn a few more calories, but the risks may outweigh the benefits. Obviously the heavier you are, the more strain you will place on joints, so if you are a small build, you don’t really want to be adding weight to your frame and risk injuring knees, ankles or spine. If you are a heavier build, the last thing you should be doing is adding more weight to your frame as you are already placing undue stress on your joints with your own body weight. If you insist on adding weight to your body whist walking, the best option is a vest and the weight should be spread evenly front and back of the vest. That way you barely change your centre of gravity.
Q.Best walking technique tips?
A. You should always walk tall, with good posture. Relax the shoulders, drawing your shoulder blades down and back. Keep your head up and your gaze forward, as looking down will encourage rounded shoulders. It is important not to overstride, the further your foot lands in front of the body, the more likelihood of getting shin splints. Try to focus on fast short steps rather than long strides. Bend the arms at approximately 90 degrees and swing the arms through a natural arc without rotating the torso excessively.
Q.What’s power waking as opposed to brisk walking?
A. In my opinion, power walking is just a very focussed, fast walk, maintaining a consistent fast pace, pumping the arms more dramatically than a brisk walk.
Q.What difference will walking up hills make?
A. Walking up hills means you have to fight gravity. Your muscles will have to walk harder and your heart rate will increase dramatically due to the increased effort required.
Q.How useful is a pedometer? What difference will this make to fitness and weight loss? How many steps per day for a) fitness and b) weight loss? Do you need to do these incidental steps on top of dedicated walking workouts?
A. Pedometers are useful if you think you are not walking enough. If you are getting out for a good hour walk everyday and you are living an active lifestyle, the pedometer may not be of much help, but it is very useful for someone who is just getting into exercise or someone who is concerned that there lifestyle is too sedentary. The basic recommendation is a minimum of 10,000 steps per day for good health, this includes incidental steps. But the more steps you do the better, so if you are focussed on weight loss, a 1 hour power walk plus 10,000 incidental steps is fantastic.
Q.Any useful gadgets for maintaining motivation to walk, aside from a pedometer?
A. A heart rate monitor is a great tool to ensure you are walking at the correct intensity. An ipod is also great for taking your mind off the task at hand. Load on some fast music and it inspires you to walk faster and it makes the time go quicker as well.
Q.Essential walking gear?
A. Sunscreen and a hat are essential walking items, unless you are out at sunrise or sunset. Loose comfortable clothing and good shoes.
Q.What about walking shoes, how important are these? Things to look for in a walking shoe?
A. Walking shoes are extremely important. If you are not wearing the correct shoes for YOU, you are putting your joints at risk. If your feet aren’t striking the ground correctly and you strike the ground thousands of times every walk, you could be putting undue stress on your feet, ankles, knees, hips and spine. The best thing to look for in a shoe is a good shoe retailer. Only a real professional can fit the correct shoe for your foot, not just the shoe that looks the best or is the most expensive.
Q.Does walking with a friend, family or walking group help?
A. Finding a walking partner is a great idea. It is much easier to find motivation when you walk with a friend. The time will pass quicker and you can push each other to walk faster. If you are having trouble sticking to your regimen, walking with a friend will help you to keep your appointed exercise plans, as you won’t want to let your walking partner down.
Q.Anything else you feel is worth mentioning about walking?
A. Just do it, get out there and explore your city, your suburb, the bush, the mountains, the coast. Walking can be great fun and you can discover all sorts of new sights you didn’t know about previously.