Walk yourself fit

You don’t have to join a gym or train for a marathon to get fit. We show you how getting healthy is as easy as a walk in the park.

Can you really get fit by walking? Everyone agrees walking will make you fitter, and there are some techniques which deliver a better result than others – and in less time, too!

Brisk walking is probably the best overall exercise for most of us as it has better compliance rates than other physical activities. Walking for at least one hour, five days each week is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

These health benefits can be achieved through structured or non-structured physical activity, accumulated throughout the week. To turn these health benefits into fitness benefits, you need to walk at 60-70% of your maximum capacity – a pace which allows you to talk, but not sing a tune. Walking at this speed for as little as five weeks can increase your aerobic fitness by 10-20%.

If you’re looking to boost your aerobic fitness further, you need to challenge your body. Continually performing exercises your body isn’t used to forces it to adapt, so your body becomes more efficient and in effect, fitter. You can do this by changing either the frequency, intensity or duration of your walks.

There are plenty of ways to coax your body to better fitness. Walk six days each week instead of five; include stairs, hills or jogging during your walk; or increase your walking time. Up your pace, but walk for the same length of time. Try a pedometer to monitor this – aim to boost the number of steps you take on each walk.

Adding in resistance exercises throughout your walk will also help: do push-ups on the ground or against a tree; stop for some walking lunges and sit-ups; or vary your terrain by walking through the bush or on the beach instead of the pavement. The added weight of carrying a backpack will give you an extra challenge, too – so now there’s no excuse for avoiding the walk home with the shopping!

First published: May 2009

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