I don’t know about you, but it seems the older I get the less exercise I get throughout the day from normal activities which is why walking exercise has become a daily activity – well most days anyway.
I have a soft spot for old movies and it struck me that people seemed to walk everywhere. Their walking exercise was simply walking to school or to work or walking to the store to get groceries.
My old uncle Bert used to walk 7 miles a day to get the newspaper. He dragged me along a few times with him as a septuagenarian and me as a pre-teen and I can tell you it was a trek for me. Of course, he never broke a sweat despite a rapid pace. Maybe that was what serving in the war trained you for.
Anyway, the point is that before the war and up to the ’60s most people walked everywhere including Sunday School. And if you look at old photographs people generally seemed thinner than today, because they were getting their walking exercise all through their day. Walking exercise for them was a stroll in the park on a Sunday.
The Age of Walking Exercise – 2019 & Beyond
I know a lot of my day, and most probably yours, is now spent sitting down at a computer or in an office. There are plenty of occupations that have you standing most of the time, of course. Nurses and teachers spring immediately to mind and postmen and deliverymen too though the milkman has long disappeared – and the last three vocations were definitely mostly carried out by men.
These days kids get dropped off in the school run, we drive to the station car park and hop on a train or catch the bus outside. Who walks to the grocery store anymore or does a 7-mile return trip to grab a newspaper?
Well the upshot is we now have delivery persons, postie or mail carriers but still no milk bottle delivery persons in this age of political correctness and a whole lot more of us are in sedentary jobs
To counter this we have the age of the Gym, maybe on the wane, runners and joggers and a whole raft of other ‘sports’ to practice – many now a driver for business in their own right. But to many, paying for yoga classes and the gym is a barrier – as well as the fact they may not be local.
Running & jogging is all a bit daunting and sweaty and isn’t actually very good for the joints anyway. Enter stage the age of walking.
What is Walking Exercise
It is beautiful!
You can do it anywhere, wear what you like, take it to any level you please and get remarkably fit without getting too sweaty or grinding your joints into arthritis.
Walking exercise can be anything from trekking to hiking, power walking to regular walking, city sightseeing to beach walking.
If you are a Fitbit user, you may have heard stories of 10,000 steps being a goal to aim for. I think that is rather misguided because everyone is different. A 70-year-old is not the same as a 40-year-old and a person weighing 140lbs is not going to be aiming for the same as a person who might be 280lbs – and there are plenty of people that heavy.
But walking exercise is beneficial to all types of people – young kids who are otherwise couch gamers, young adults who want to look cool and fit (and we all know why!), those into middle age where the food we used to eat suddenly starts to make us fat and older people who eat nothing and still can’t get slim. It is all a function of not just what you eat but the energy you burn which is related to metabolism, when you eat and how your body processes food.
Getting fit is not necessarily getting slim either. You can be overweight according to all the charts and still be fit or you can be slim and terribly unhealthy.
In the end, it is all a matter of what you want to achieve and then setting about to achieve it. The beauty of walking exercise is that you can control the pace, the effort, and the results and reap far more rewards than you aim for – like freebies at the store only more more more!
I do like the Fitbit idea and particularly like the look of the Fitbit 3 which has a really long battery charge life, monitors your heartbeat all day whether exercising or not, monitors your sleep and helps track a woman’s cycle – not much use to men as I think it takes a while to sync with your biorhythms. Anyway, men’s cycle’s are governed by a need for sexual release more than egg release and hundreds of millions of times more pressing.
Using a Fitbit with the app – doesn’t everything have an app these days – can help you track poor sleep patterns and how much exercise you are getting. That knowledge can help you understand your body better, plan walking exercise better and plan for getting better sleep. However, I think the Fitbit 3 has some issues so perhaps better to wait or get a different model for now. I have some ideas for you later in this article.
What type of Walking Exercise to Do?
Everyday Walking Exercise
If you are starting out with walking exercise then it's best to start slow around the local park, a circuit around your local neighborhood or if you must on a treadmill.
All you need is a pair of good quality walking shoes, a decent pair of socks to avoid blisters and appropriate clothing.
For shoes, you should definitely check out what gait you have. Ideally, pay a visit to a specialist store that has gait video analysis equipment. They will be able to analyze whether you supinate, overpronate or have a normal gait and your arch type.
If there is no store near you then read our informative guides on Supination and Overpronation to determine your gait and arch type. I have it all explained there for you to get a good handle on what shoe you might need.
Once you know your type you can browse suitable shoes from our reviews for your type and gender and be able to get a shoe that will suit you well.
We particularly like the Brooks Addiction Walker (Men’s & Women’s) for Overpronators – my full review here, the Hoka One One Bondi 6 (Men’s Shoe & Women’s Shoe) with optimal cushioning for neutrals and the Saucony Echelon 7 for Women supinators and the Brooks Glycerin 16 for men or for women who supinate – my full review here.
But as I say read our reviews for a great overview of each.
For socks, you will want ones that give some protection to your heels. If you are walking in a temperate climate then something like these Puma Quarter Crew Socks for men or these from Addidas for the girls.
The thing with socks is not to buy poor quality cheap socks. They will not wear will, will not wick away moisture well, will provide no cushion or will wash up badly. It’s a false economy. But of course there are many options available and the links above are examples of the type. I chose those because they are quality brands with good protection to your Achilles which is the most likely area to suffer from blisters. You don’t want blisters.
So now you are all kitted out for walking exercise what about the walking itself. You might think there is nothing to be said on this topic since you’ve been walking all your life right? To some degree that is true but be consider the ideas below.
A few key points to avoid pain when starting any form of walking exercise:
- Get properly fitting shoes that suit your gait
- Get decent socks to avoid blisters
- Start walking normally to warm up before picking up the pace
- Be aware of your posture, stand straight without stooping
- Pull your stomach in, belly button towards the spine
- Look straight ahead about 6-8 meters ahead is good
- Carry water & some music device to keep amused
- Build up distance and speed over time
Any sort of walking is better than sitting down but if you want to lose weight or you want to ramp up your health then brisk walking is the king of exercise. You’ll have seen this mentioned elsewhere but it can be a bit confusing.
What is Brisk Walking Exercise?
Brisk walking is walking that is about 100 paces a minute, a little faster if you are fit and a little slower if unfit. When brisk walking you can hold a conversation through more rapid breathing without gasping between words.
This is according to a study funded by the Institute of Aging and National Institute of Health which you can read up on here.
The point with brisk walking is not to dive headlong into rushing around the park at breakneck walking speed because you will just injure yourself. Take it nice and slow to begin with, maybe 15 minutes twice a day and slowly increase your pace and length of time walking.
By the way, if you are walking at only 60 paces a minute then you are not walking at a pace that brings anywhere near the same benefits so ramp it up a bit!
If you want to stay abreast of what exercise you are doing grab yourself an inexpensive fitness tracker like the best value VivoFit from Garmin or if you want something with more bells and whistles then the Alta HR from Fitbit.
Personally, I like the Samsung brand but the Gear Fit 2 has a few issues and it will be upgraded soon. The Garmin above is cheap enough to replace for a better one later and the Fitbit is a nice bit of kit that will survive the next latest and greatest offerings and so give some value for money.
Once you have been walking regularly for a month or so it will be time to introduce some tougher challenges such as:-
You walk at a normal brisk pace but instead of keeping up that steady pace you walk fast for a minute before returning to your brisk walking pace. Try to up the pace to about 20 paces more than you have been doing for the interval sections of your walking exercise.
The second method of upping the ante is to change your route to add a few inclines into the mix. On a treadmill, all you need to do is push the button to raise the incline to 4 or 5 degrees or program it in before you start.But outside walking is healthier unless you are in a city – fresh air, and I find it brings more benefits psychologically as looking at the birds and bees lift my mood more than staring out the window.
The aim here is to find inclines that are not overly steep nor overly long and add them into your route to increase heartbeat temporarily before returning to flatter terrain. If you cannot return then continue on the incline just at a slower pace – maybe 10 paces a minute less than before but it depends on the incline and your state of fitness.
This is a sufficiently different form of exercise to deserve a post of its own and so I one coming soon on this method which is a great way to up your exercise benefits without seemingly exerting yourself more.
It is basically the use of poles whilst walking which utilizes and exercises your upper body as you walk. – a truly excellent alternative that is better than walking, running or cycling and less effort – something for nothing if you will.
What is Power Walking (Fitness Walking)
Power Walking and fitness walking are really one and the same thing and refer to very fast walking with an upright posture and exaggerated swinging of the arms which is maintained over an extended timeframe. It can be done on various surfaces and often used as training for marathons or as supplementary training for runners.
Power walkers need different shoes and outerwear than those who are walking for exercise in a more measured fashion. Fitness walking is at a speed where any faster you will be jogging or running and is an extreme form of walking.
As such you will need to buy running style shoes as the gait pattern is different to more measured walking. Shoes similar to Brooks Ghost 11 for neutrals (men’s & women’s), the Brooks Glycerin 16 (men’s model & women’s model), or the ASCIS Gel-Venture 6 for more trail like surfaces (men’s shoe and women’s model both available)
Outerwear will also be different as you will sweat much more and need to wear more sporting attire to suit where you will be walking. There is such a wide range of suitable clothing and design styles to choose from that browsing the category is the best way to hone in on what you like for this strenuous exercise. Since it might be useful for you, here are links to the athletic clothing for men and for women at Amazon.
Some points to bear in mind here is the weather you will be dealing with, hot or cold, humid or dry which will determine how thick you need the material. If it is going to be wet then you may want some type of waterproof outerwear on top which you can remove. Bear in mind waterproof clothing traps moisture in to some degree as well as keeping water out and that applies to the breathable materials as well.
As for shorts or pants, that is a personal choice unless you are running through long grass or wetlands where you may want to be protecting your legs against scratches or from getting soaked through the dew.
Serious Nature Walking Exercises – Trekking vs Hiking
Whilst trekking and hiking are similar in some respects, the key difference is time-span.
Trekking and Hiking are both done outdoors over somewhat rugged ground and variable distances. The difference between trekking and hiking is that trekking is usually a journey over more than a day with rest periods at night – like a multi-day long hike if you please.
Hiking, on the other hand, is more a single day or few hours long rugged nature walk. It is broken into mild terrain and rough terrain and each needs different equipment.
In the field of shoes, you will need a sturdy waterproof hiking boot with ankle support for trekking to ensure you are protected against various different environments over the trek. I particularly like the Merrell MOAB 2 Mid GTX Waterproof hiking boot as I am a man, but there is also a woman’s version.
If you want some inspiration then take a walk up Castle Crag in the Lake District, around Borrowdale UK, or if you are in Canada may be a hike in Jasper National Park north of Banff. Links to hikes below.
That boot is also well suited to hiking over more advanced trails where you may encounter small streams to cross and underfoot may be quite rocky, with some of those stones quite sharp.
For milder hikes that are still quite long, it is still a good idea to have good ankle support which a mid boot will give you.
But if you are taking a shorter hike or the route is mild then a hiking shoe will be enough. I like the Addidas Men’s AX2 hiking shoe for its lightweight ruggedness or the Keen Voyager Hiking Shoe for women are both excellent examples.
Don a pair of hiking shoes and easily access sights such as you might find in Noosa National Park, Queensland, Australia or maybe staring down canyons in Gunnison National Park in Colorado, USA. Links to hikes below.
Another great form of exercise and super healthy from the ozone intake, is beach walking.
Obviously, you will be walking on sand which may be wet near the water’s edge or dry further away from the sea edge. This gives an excellent opportunity to do intervals since the dry sand is much more difficult to walk on than wet sand and you can easily alternate surfaces
If walking near the sea though be sure to wear high SPF sunscreen because the water greatly increases the effect of the sun’s radiation on your skin and skin cancer is something you can do without. It's incredibly dangerous.
It is fine to walk barefoot if the beach is clean enough and there is little danger of broken glass or other sharp objects. The problem is that there are very few beaches where you can be sure there is no danger.
The other point to remember is that sand can get very hot, very quickly when the sun gets up and can easily burn you. So at the very least take some light footwear to carry in case you need it. Something like this Speedo Water Shoe for men or these Crocs for women.
These shoes are pretty inexpensive, very lightweight and you can run in the water with them too.
Sunday Afternoon Stroll
I think my article would not be complete without mentioning the staple of the weekend which is the Sunday Afternoon Stroll.
You can do it whenever you all have time but it is an excellent bonding opportunity for the family before they get too teenage! Then it’s the dog for company, I guess – and a partner if you have one.
Whether it is in the park with the kids, through the forest and learning a bit of orienteering, on a short hike to an amazing hidden view or through the meadows examining flowers & butterflies and listening to the birds be sure to have fun and lap up the fresh air and nature.
I wish you the very best of fun, exercise and awesome experiences in your walking exercise!
Walks in the Lake District, Cumbria, UK – Guardian Newspaper ArticleJasper National Park Hike – Article on Hikes in Canada – Canadianliving.comThe Best 10 Easy Hikes in the World – Gunisson National Park – National GeographicStudy on Walking Cadence referred to in the text from the British Medical Journal.