People always say that not having stamina and the time to spare is whatâ€™s holding them back from exercising. At least thatâ€™s what they say. Turns out, exercise doesnâ€™t necessarily mean putting on your shorts and your gear and finding time to the gym or tennis court. Walking can also be exercise. Especially if you turn it into a power walk.
As a college student with classes taking up one half of the day and desk work taking up the other, the only time I have for the gym is when I pass from in front of it to go to class. However, one thing I find myself doing a lot is walking all over campus. It would be far too exhausting and not to mention sweaty to run everywhere between classes. So, about a year ago I decided to pick up a far more sustainable and efficient method of exercise (thatâ€™s also done wonders for weight loss!) â€“ power walking.
What exactly is power walking?
Power walking is different from regular walking in a number of ways. Firstly, it differs in speed. Power walking stands out because the speed is faster than strolling and not quite as fast as running, thatâ€™s around 3 to 5 miles an hour. Any slower than that and youâ€™re just walking at an everyday pace which might not burn as many calories.
Secondly, power walking has a unique rhythm and movements of arms, legs, and hips. As opposed to regular walking, these movements are amplified, which allows the walker to move faster.
Finally, power walking is usually done in an urban area, on flat or slightly hilly terrain. So, it is a very convenient form of exercise and an easy workout that can be done with hardly any equipment at all and in various, easily accessible locations.
What do you need to power walk?
Before you head out, ensure that the shoes you wear for your power walks are suitable for the activity. Walking shoes and running shoes are not one and the same.
For power walks, your stride involves rolling your weight evenly from the heel to the ball of your foot and then pushing off with your toes. For this movement to be efficient and comfortable the soles of your shoes will need to be softer and more flexible rather than thick and sturdy at the heel like running shoes. This is important because the shoes will be bending with the arch of your foot instead of taking an impact on the ground as with running.
It would also be beneficial to carry a refillable water bottle with room temperature water to prevent dehydration.Â These are the only two things you need for this remarkably easy workout and youâ€™re ready to go!
How does one power walk?
If the right technique is followed, power walking can burn as many calories as jogging without the extra strain and less than half the stamina. For the people here for weight loss, this is a revelation.
- Make sure your posture is straight and your shoulders are pulled down and back.
- Keep your arms bent at a 90-degree angle without tightening your muscles and pump them back and forth close to your body. The highest each arm goes would be about eye-level.
- Pull your abdominal muscles inward to engage your core and get better posture by keeping your lower back straight.
- While walking, take short, quick steps and always place your foot heel-first, then roll to the toes and push off.
- Donâ€™t try to incorporate a deliberate hip motion, instead focus on keeping a consistent pace. The natural hip movement will follow by itself.
- Sometimes, increasing your speed for short intervals may help burn more calories but only do this once your body has become used to power walking.
How does one prevent strain and injuries?
As with any other exercise or physical activity, it is important not to over-do power walking as well. Power walking would also require warming up and cooling down before and after. So, it is better to start with a slower pace and work up to a faster one. Similarly, for the arm movements, it is advisable to start with a shorter range of swing and build up to the full pumping movement over time.
For your cool down, remember to slow down before stopping completely and always stretch at the end of your walk. You should also start off power walking for a shorter distance and increase it per week, especially if you are not used to exercising, this way your body adjusts better and feels less sore.
What are the benefits of power walking?
Power walking has many health benefits similar to running, jogging or cycling. It can help to lower your cholesterol levels and lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease. When power walking you are able to use all of the muscles in your body, increasing blood flow and stamina. It also strengthens your back and joints at the same time. The fact that it has a low impact on the joints makes it much easier for beginners to pick up and is actually recommended to people who arenâ€™t much used to exercise.
These are the reasons why it is a particularly effective exercise for me. Never having the time to go to a gym and spend an hour or two there, I found that even 20 minutes of power walking 5 days a week made a difference in my stamina and made my body feel more toned. I was able to integrate it into my daily routine easily and did not have to force myself to work out after already being tired from work.
Power walking has made the long walks back and forth on campus a deliberate use of my time. I keep a music playlist that helps me maintain pace and the different terrains â€“ mud, grass, and concrete â€“ allow me to burn calories and keep me much more energized compared to the slow trudge I used to do before. It has been really effective in undoing the inflammatory effects and stiffness that comes with having to sit and work all day which is really all I was aiming for when I started. Plus, now Iâ€™m never late to class.