Walking is a great way to get exercise, but if you are a woman over 50, it can be challenging to find ways to make the activity more effective as well as offer some opportunities for weight loss. No worries, my friend. In this article we’ll discuss 5 tips for making walking workouts more effective.
Why are we spending time talking about working out and exercising as women over 50? There are so many good reasons, my friend.
As we get older our metabolism slows down, our bodies can become more prone to injury, and, well, we’re just not as quick or limber are we used to be. Walking is a tremendous way to incorporate aerobic exercise into your workout routine, and just about anyone can do it. So start walking today, and use these tips to take your walk from good to great!
First, let’s cover some of the basics of walking workouts.
How long should our walking workout be? How do we know if we’re walking quickly enough to engage our bodies and reap the benefits of an aerobic workout?
Ideally, about 30 minutes of walking at a brisk pace 5 days per week is something good to aim for. If you want to translate that into something numerical, taking about 100 steps per minute, or walking 3 miles per hour, is another way to look at it.
The ‘talk test’ is another good way to determine the speed of your walking workout. You should be able to talk to someone while walking, and not be too out of breath.
Here is a really helpful checklist for getting yourself ready for an outdoor walking workout. You don’t want to walk out the door and begin your workout with any old outfit on, from your pretty little head down to the tootsies:
- check the weather and see if you need a hat (is it windy? is it cold?)
- wear a proper-fitting bra that will hold the girls in place, and it should feel good, too. You don’t want anything to detract from your workout or cause you to cut it short
- breathable, comfortable workout clothes that allow you to move freely without getting overly hot or irritate with chafing
- based on the weather, consider layers, a jacket, a vest, etc
- shoes that fit well, are comfortable for the terrain, weather conditions, and with proper support are always essential
If an outdoor walking workout isn’t possible, hop onto the treadmill, my friend. You can do great things with a machine, regulating your speed and incline as needed.
Please note that I am not a fitness expert nor a medical professional. These tips are intended to be helpful suggestions for anyone who is in overall good health. Consult with your health care professional if you are uncertain about your ability to walk safely.
How to Make Walking More Effective
1 | Don’t Forget the Warm-Up & the Cool Down
Every workout, including walking for exercise, should start with a warm up. This will increase your heart rate and blood flow to prepare your body for the workout ahead. This is an essential beginning to every workout that I was always ready to skip until I started exercising along with the videos from Mighty Health. Fortunately, they have helped me forge healthier habits and remember the pre- and post-workout stretches.
Some simple stretching exercises will do the trick. You can also try some light jogging in place to get your blood pumping before walking. This is one of my personal favorite warm-ups!
Then, when your walking workout is done, don’t forget the cool down. This is just as important for your body to stretch out and cool down after a workout, it will also help prevent injuries.
Some of the great benefits of a cool down include: increased flexibility in muscles that are tight from walking; prevents cramping by increasing blood flow; decreases risk of injury due to stretching tired muscle groups.
To do a quick cool-down after a walk, try some of the following stretches:
- Roll your neck and shoulders in circular motions.
- Extend one leg straight out and sit your bum back to stretch hamstring muscles on that side. Then repeat on the other side.
- Rotate hips, spine, rib cage and arms as much as possible from head to toe. This will help loosen up tight spots after a long hike or walk around the neighbor hood.
- Extend arms overhead and stretch your fingers back to release tension in the upper back.
- Reach one arm across your body while bending it at a 90 degree angle, then reach over with opposite hand to grab other elbow or wrist (this will help lengthen tight hip flexor muscles). Repeat on opposite side of body.
2 | Walk for a Longer Period of Time Than Usual
If you want to make your walking workout more effective, walk for a longer period of time than usual. This will not only get the blood flowing through your body and help reduce stress levels, but it will also have an effect on fat distribution and metabolism.
If you typically walk for 20 minutes, stretch it to 25 minutes, then to 30 minutes. You don’t have to make a big change all at one time; give your body a chance to work up to the increased period of walking time. I typically walk for about 30 minutes so my goal is to stretch that to 35 – 45 minutes at times. I look for ways to make my walking workouts longer, whether I’m outside and I vary the route, or I’m inside and I walk in more circles. (Hey, it works!)
LISS stands for Low Intensity Steady State cardio, and is easier for some people to use the LISS type of workout than HIIT (high intensity interval training) because it is less intense. Walking is a wonderful way to incorporate LISS into your workout. And it’s really simple: walk at a brisk pace (as described at the beginning of this article) for more than 20 minutes, preferably 30 minutes.
Here’s a tip: Walking in the morning or evening, weather permitting, will provide a good cardio workout because it can help to regulate your body’s circadian rhythms and hormones, such as cortisol levels which are related to stress.
If you’re looking for ways to burn more calories then try walking up hills! If they aren’t available, just walk up and down a set of stairs a few times. You’ll burn more calories and work up a sweat for sure.
3 | Walk to Quick-Tempo Music
Walking to quick tempo music will make your workout more effective because it will increase your heart rate and make you work harder, but you’ll be having fun listening to the music so you won’t mind! And, you’re more likely to continue your walking workout for a longer period of time whether you’re indoors or outside. Any opportunity to burn more calories, increase the intensity a little bit, and keep us active longer is a good thing.
So, find an upbeat playlist and start moving!
Here’s a tip: Walking with ankle weights or carrying light weights will also make your walking workout more effective because it not only makes you work at a higher intensity, increases your heart rate, and burns more calories, it also increases muscle tone, which is essential for women over 50. If you find that it is too difficult to use weights with walking workouts, no worries. Do what you can, and know that you are benefiting your body and overall fitness!
4 | Maintain Proper Form and Posture
Pay attention to your posture as you walk and make sure your form is correct. Sticking to good posture will help you build strength in the muscles that are used when walking and decrease the chance of injury. I don’t know about you, but I have to concentrate on standing up tall when I’m walking, not letting my back hunch over a little bit. Naturally straight posture is not in my genes; I have to work at it! I can feel my lower back getting stronger, though, as I hold it straighter when I walk a well as when I do a workout.
Keep your eyes facing forward as you walk, too, and not down at your feet. This can be a challenge, as many of us tend to look at our tootsies when we’re walking, sometimes out of an abundance of caution, but many time it’s just out of habit.
It helps to consciously think about taking a confident stride, swing your arms as you walk, keep the back straight, and look ahead. There! You’ve got it!
5 | Keep Track of Your Progress
One of the ways to make walking workouts more challenging is to keep track of your steps and distance, even calories if you prefer, with a fitness tracker. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a fancy or elaborate tracker, either.
A simple, affordable fitness tracker will do just fine, and you’ll learn everything you need to know with it. One thing I’ve learned from years of workouts, walking workouts in particular, is that we really don’t take as many steps as we think. So if you’re going for a walk, workout or just for leisure, make sure the tracker is on your wrist, friend.
Why Exercise After 50?
Lest we forget why we’re talking about how to make walking more effective, let’s quickly review the benefits to us as women over 50 when we take the time to exercise regularly, both aerobic and strength training. Sometimes it seems like a broken record, but keeping out bodies fit really is that important!
It improves our balance and flexibility (and posture!) which can ultimately help reduce the risk of injury from falling. Posture exercises, yoga, and tai chai are some ways to accomplish this.
It strengthens our muscles by using repetitive motions with weights, resistance bands, or our own body weight. (It is amazing what you can accomplish with just your own body weight when it comes to strength training!)
It increases our flexibility by challenging our body’s joints to move through a full range of motion. This helps us with range of movement for regular day-to-day activities.
It helps us maintain or lose weight by increasing our metabolism and building muscle mass. Our body will then burn more calories.
And, regular workouts can help us sleep better, boost our mood, and increase our confidence.
Knowing how to make walking more effective offers so many benefits to our overall health and well-being, it just makes sense to get up, move, and walk! Before you know it, your walking workouts will become a healthy habit.
And lest we forget, always have fun and enjoy your walk, whether it becomes a walking workout or a leisurely stroll. Any type of walking is good for the body, good for the heart, and good for the soul.
How about you? When will you be walking for your health next? Soon, I hope!
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