These boots weren't made for walking.
January 29, 2010 5:03 AM   Subscribe

Another walking as exercise question.

How can I maximise the benefits of my daily walk to work without injuring myself? I'm overweight and I don't want to screw up my knees, they're the only ones I've got. My walk is about 40% uphill and tiring, which is why I can't do it particularly fast. It takes me about 30 minutes to cover 1.6 miles. I feel as though I'm not getting any benefits out of the walk because I don't feel sweaty afterwards and my heartrate hasn't gone up - but my legs ache. This is not the only exercise I do, but at 5 days a week it is the most consistent (and enjoyable). How can I improve my walking so that it actually feels like a workout, without killing my legs?

I've always walked, I'm just increasing the distance now by skipping the bus that gets me up the hill.
posted by Ziggy500 to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Walking uphill isn't bad for your knees, and muscle ache has nothing to do with joint pain, so feel free to tear up the hill as fast as you like. It's going downhill that can damage your joints.

Basically, if you suddenly sprint up the hill without warming up you might tear a muscle, but than that it'd be pretty hard to injure yourself.
posted by creasy boy at 5:12 AM on January 29, 2010


Yes to walking faster, but increase your speed slowly.

Regardless of how fast you walk, you're still getting a weight loss and circulatory benefit. You're _strengthening_ your knees (and everything else) by using them, not making them weaker. An ache is a good sign, as long as it isn't in your knee itself.
posted by paanta at 5:38 AM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's not clear from your question whether you are having knee or muscle pain after your walk.

Anyways, the key to not hurting your knees is to strengthen the muscles around them. There are lots of knee strengthening exercises out there, but go slowly, and do them regularly.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 6:06 AM on January 29, 2010


You don't need to sweat to get a good workout. Anytime you're walking instead of riding a bus, you're helping your body. What is important is your heart rate. Check your heart rate at the beginning and at the top of the hill - it will most likely have increased, regardless of your pace. Muscle soreness is fine, it means you're working your muscles (sharp pain is a different issue, and should be taken seriously). Over time, you will feel more comfortable at your pace, and then you can go faster. Wear good walking shoes, with the proper arch support for your foot; drink plenty of water; try carrying hand weights to increase your benefit. Also, make sure you don't compensate for the walk by overeating ("I walked to work today, so I can have a cheeseburger for lunch"); the best things for muscle recovery are water and good, nutrient-rich foods. Congrats on committing to a healthier lifestyle!
posted by melissasaurus at 6:13 AM on January 29, 2010


Pump your arms, strongly and with purpose, when you walk. If you don't mind looking a little silly bring your arms above your head (like jumping jack arms) as you walk, alternating these arms for 5-10 minutes with the arm pumps. You'll get a great low impact cardio workout this way.
posted by Pineapplicious at 6:15 AM on January 29, 2010


It's not clear from your question whether you are having knee or muscle pain after your walk.

It's not my knees, it's the muscles beneath.

Thanks for all the answers so far. I already feel much more positive :)
posted by Ziggy500 at 6:56 AM on January 29, 2010


my heartrate hasn't gone up

I find this difficult to believe. How are you measuring it? Are you saying it's the same during your walk as it is before your walk begins?

You should strive to be in your target heart rate for most of your walk, but you need to have a good monitor, typically one of the ones that straps across your chest. I've heard that the ones that consist of a wrist device alone aren't that accurate.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:57 AM on January 29, 2010


Anyways, the key to not hurting your knees is to strengthen the muscles around them. There are lots of knee strengthening exercises out there

But all you really need is one, and it's the squat.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:08 AM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


But all you really need is one, and it's the squat.

This is correct. However it's important to note that proper form is vital when doing this or any other free weight exercise.

Doing squats properly will strengthen the muscles around your knees, which will help with your walking.
posted by dfriedman at 7:17 AM on January 29, 2010


Back when I used to racewalk, if I had a layoff I'd have to work back to speed slowly and gradually, even though I was otherwise in good shape, because it was easy to get shin splints or other muscle soreness/strain in the lower legs. My sense is that walking-as-exercise causes some specific stresses that differ from more minimal walking-just-for-everyday-needs.

Leg strengthening is certainly a good idea (although if you're going to do squats, please get a form check from someone knowledgeable -- it is indeed an excellent exercise but also a good way to really strain your back if you do it wrong). You can also increase level of exertion in your walks by wearing a weighted backpack, or by the arm exercises Pineapplicious mentions. But basically, just keep at it, be patient with your body, and slowly/gradually increase distance/speed. Your legs will eventually build the strength, and you will (hopefully) avoid an overuse injury that will set you back to square one.
posted by Kat Allison at 7:25 AM on January 29, 2010


my heartrate hasn't gone up

I also agree that you may be wrong about this, especially since you describe your walk as "tiring." If your HR is in the low range of the target heart rate for your age, you might not feel like you're working particularly hard, but you're still getting a benefit.
posted by Mavri at 9:06 AM on January 29, 2010


It's not my knees, it's the muscles beneath.

Well, are you hurt or are you injured? If your muscles are sore and hurting, then probably nothing to worry about. If your knees (tendons, ligaments and bone) are sore and hurting then that's a possible indicator of an injury.

If you get to a point where you think you can load a backpack with weight, then please just do squats like ludwig_van suggested. Weighted backpacks do not engender good biomechanics, and could easily lead to injury.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:34 PM on January 29, 2010


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