Who says a walk can’t be a workout?
We’re halfway through our month-long newsletter series dedicated to the joys of walking. This week, we’re turning our walk into a workout.
Walking, at any intensity, is good for you. A slow, steady pace has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. But research suggests that increasing the length of your walk may reduce your risk of premature death and diseases like cancer, and increasing the intensity has further benefits.
To help us improve our walks, I reached out to Janet Dufek, a professor of kinesiology and nutrition science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I also went on a fitness-focused walk with Martinus Evans, a certified running coach and founder of Slow AF Run Club.
Evans and I explored Prospect Park in Brooklyn, where it reminded me that a training walk, more than anything else, should be fun. They weren’t elite athletes, she said. We are walking for joy, and we can make our own rules.
Engage your arms.
Walking engages large muscle groups like the glutes and quads, but if that’s your only form of movement, try adding exercises that focus on your upper body, Dr. Dufek said.
Consider bringing one- or two-pound weights with you, Evans suggested. You can use them while walking, he said, or pull over and do bicep curls or shoulder presses.
Dr. Dufek suggested trying arm movements like air punches: Hold weights and extend your arms out in front of you, as if you were boxing. You can also form a T with your arms while holding weights, bending and extending at the elbow.
Instead of weights, you can bring full bottles of water, which can serve as makeshift weights at first, Dr. Dufek added. They’ll also serve as motivation to stay hydrated later on your walk, he added, as you drink your stash.
If you don’t want to carry weights, you can swing your arms more vigorously or try arm circles. Start with large arcs and slowly minimize them until they’re very small circles, Evans said. Go in one direction for 30 seconds, then switch to the other direction.
Use your environment.
As you walk, Evans said, look for ways to build a little more business. When we passed a park bench, he suggested we do some squats. (Stand up, sit down again.) Another option: Stop and do 10 standing calf raises. (Lift your heels slowly, hold for a few seconds, then bring your heels back to the floor.)
Change your pace and route.
You can supercharge your workout by walking on different terrains, Dr. Dufek said. It’s harder to walk on a dirt path than a sidewalk, he said. If you can go to the beach, Dr. Dufek added, dry sand is an extreme walking surface that requires more effort.
You can also vary the intensity and speed, she said. Pick up the pace for 30 seconds, he told her, and then recover for three minutes.
If you’re with a friend, consider a contest.
If you’re walking someone, try engaging in a little friendly competition, Evans said. You can say, Okay, last person at the light and you have to walk, not run buy coffee.
Count dogs instead of minutes.
To build endurance and stay on the trail longer, don’t fixate on the tempo, Evans said. Instead, he suggested counting all the dogs you see and setting a goal of not going home until you see 25 dogs. Or you can count the traffic lights, he said, or the fire hydrants. Have fun, he said.
As Evans and I walked, we pointed at each other’s puppies. At the end of our walk, we sat down on a bench and added up everything we had seen. Ten dogs. Two hot dog vendors. And, Evans reminded me, a shirtless guy on a unicycle.
If you’re counting shirtless guys on unicycles instead of dogs, he said, your walk might be shorter.
A fitness walking playlist by Lindsay Zoladz of The Amplifier.
Need some motivation to improve your walk? Below, you’ll find a curated playlist and commentary from Lindsay Zoladz, pop music critic at The Times who writes our subscriber-only newsletter The amplifier.
Check out his recommendations and listen to the entire playlist while you walk.
1. Haim: I want you back
Practice your walking swagger by channeling the synchronized Haim sisters strutting through the deserted streets of Los Angeles in the stunning music video for this 2017 hit. (Listen on YouTube.)
2. Magnetic fields: when my boyfriend walks down the street
Just one of 1999’s historic triple album 69 Love Songs on the Magnetic Fields, this hazy power-pop track makes every stroll a little more cinematic. (Listen on YouTube.)
3. Nancy Sinatra: These boots are made for walking
Are you ready, boots? Lee Hazlewood wrote this classic and initially sang it himself on stage before Nancy Sinatra convinced him to let him record it. Coming from a man, he thought the song sounded harsh, even though it was perfect for a little girl to sing. (Listen on YouTube.)
4. Stevie Wonder: Uptight (It’s okay)
Nothing like a vintage Stevie to give that extra edge to your step. (Listen on YouTube.)
5. Hugh Masekela: Grazing in the grass
Despite what the title says, the tempo of this classic 1968 instrumental recorded by jazz great Hugh Masekela is a little too fast to skim. (Listen on YouTube.)
6. Mitski: The heart of the washing machine
Speaking of tempo, the pounding percussion that sounds like a pair of shoes bumping into a washing machine in this all-star TikTok hit from indie pop star Mitski is sure to keep you moving. (Listen on YouTube.)
7. Parquet courts – walking at a pace downtown
Released in 2021, this driving track from New York’s Parquet Courts perfectly captured the desire to hit the streets post-lockdown. As frontman Andrew Savage puts it in his characteristic deadpan, Walk a beat downtown and treasure the crowd that once made me act so annoyed. (Listen on YouTube.)
8. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: On the street
This fan favorite from Springsteen’s 1980 album The River is a staple of his live shows and a celebration of freedom after a long workday: When I’m on the street, I walk the way I want to walk. (Listen on YouTube.)
9. Fats Domino: I’m walking
How much richer is popular music because the word walking rhymes with talking? Among the many songs that feature this rhyme scheme is this ambiguous anthem by rock n roll pioneer Fats Domino. Good luck sitting still while these play. (Listen on YouTube.)
Women have more difficulty sleeping than men. Here because.
Research shows that women are significantly more likely than men to report difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Reasons may include hormonal changes that occur during a woman’s reproductive cycle and an increased risk of anxiety and depression, which can disrupt sleep. Fortunately, treatments are available, such as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia or CBT-I.
Read the article: Why do women have more sleep problems than men?
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Let’s continue the conversation. Follow Well on Instagram or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And check out last week’s newsletter on the beauty of a walk and a chat.