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By Katie Heilman

With the COVID-19 stay-at-home order extended to the end of April, it’s time to adapt our daily routine to fit our reality for this month. One seriously gratifying thing that we can still do is get outside to enjoy some fresh air each day.

Many of you have likely looked forward to taking daily walks as a way to get out of the house. One of the things we love about walking is that it is so versatile. A long walk taken at a comfortable pace is great for improving your health, relieving stress, clearing the mind, and taking time for yourself (like listening to a favorite podcast!). By being intentional about gait, pace, and overall intensity, you can get more out of your walk! Though the intensity of walking is likely not enough to be considered formal exercise for most of us, it is a great way to increase your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT).

Try a few of these fun ideas to make your walk more purposeful:

Pace Intervals

It’s common sense that picking up the pace will increase the intensity of your walk, but it may lack the variety to keep you engaged. A great way to have fun with adjusting speed is to perform pace intervals! For example, when walking on the road, you can adjust your pace after each house you pass. Three paces to alternate between are:

  1. Comfortable walking speed (3/10 intensity)
  2. Quickened pace (4-5/10 intensity)
  3. Speed walk (6-7/10 intensity).

Pay attention to your gait

By just making small tweaks to your walk, you can maximize muscle activation! Starting from the ground up, make sure your stride is purposeful. When stepping, roll through your foot heel to toe, and push off strong through the ball of your foot. This increases activation of the calves, hamstrings, and glutes. Another strategy is to move your arms! Not only does swinging your arms help you to walk faster, but it also incorporates the upper body and the abdominals.

Embrace the hills

Add some incline to your walk! Be thoughtful about the routes you take, is there a certain path that is steeper than others? If you are looking to elevate your heart rate, hitting the hills is your best bet!

Be creative

Put some pep in your step…or lunges, squats, and push-ups! Elevate your heart rate and target specific muscle groups by adding body weight exercises to your walk. There is no right way to do this, but a few ideas are to do push-ups with hands elevated on a bench, lunge from mailbox to mailbox, or squat at the bottom of a hill.

Log your walks

Using trackers such as a Fitbit or the MapMyRun app are a great tool for tracking walking distance and pace. Add a fun twist by challenging yourself to walk a marathon (26.2 miles) in a month!

Remember, it is important to stretch before and after walking. We suggest the following stretches: (1) Half-kneeling hip-flexor, (2) Standing calf stretch, and (3) Standing hamstring stretch. Watch Katie demonstrate these stretches in the video below!