Walking as a form of exercise is often thought of as ineffective or too easy, so many fitness buffs add weight to their walks to experience more drastic results.
But is this the best way to make the most of your stroll through the neighborhood?
Benefits of Walking
Despite popular opinion, walking is a highly effective workout—when done properly. According to Art Weltman, an expert in exercise physiology, “Fast-paced walking, when combined with healthy eating, is hugely effective for weight loss.”
It also benefits your overall health, reducing your risk for everything from depression to heart disease. Additionally, studies have shown that women who walk at a high-intensity level for 30 minutes at least three times a week burn more belly fat than those who walk at slower paces more often.
Weights or No Weights
The trick to making your walks more effective isn’t adding weight, as some might believe. In fact, added weight may actually have a negative impact on your health.
Today, many trainers don’t recommend walking with added weight (think: arm bands, ankle weights, hand weights). That’s because doing so causes fatigue to set in more quickly, which means your form suffers. As a result, you compensate for certain movements, leading to low back pain or even injury.
Separate is Better
Instead of adding weight to your walking routine, try amping up your speed. Power-walk for thirty minutes a day, three times a week. Or turn walking into a HIIT workout by strolling for a minute, power-walking for two, then strolling again until you’ve reached the thirty-minute mark.
As far as strength training goes, don’t neglect it—just do it before you walk. Exercise physiologist and trainer Michelle Lovitt suggests, “Do one thing at a time as intensely as possible, and then move on to the other.”
Unless you’re an athlete in training for a competition, the only time adding weight to a walk is acceptable is if you’re only going to be walking for a short amount of time, like five minutes.
Even then, most experts recommend using a weighted vest so that your balance doesn’t get thrown off and affect your form.
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