How to make walking a thorough workout?
September 11, 2011 2:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm switching from running to walking as my regular form of exercise but am concerned about getting as much of a workout from walking; any tips?

Bored with running and have been finding it hard on my feet so have switched things up to walking with 2.5 lbs weights on each ankle and keeping my stride as long as possible with my abs pulled in. Any other tips from runners-turned-walkers on ensuring I get as much of a workout from walking as I did from running?
posted by braemar to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
I'm interested in answers to this as well, but from what I've
heard it's bad news to wear ankleweights. You are supposed to distribute the weight more evenly, as in a backpack or similar, or pump hand weights while you walk. Your ankles aren't built to handle weight in that way. I am not a doctor or trainer.
posted by sweetkid at 2:20 PM on September 11, 2011

Find as much uphill as you can for your route.
posted by XMLicious at 2:26 PM on September 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

I was intrigued by the idea of adding weights while walking too (I alternate running with walking due to knee issues that are exacerbated by too much running), but supposedly they don't add that much in terms of exercise and increase your risk of injury significantly.

This site claims that 10 lbs of weight will allow you to burn only 8 more Calories per mile. At 120 Calories/mile (for an average 200 lb person), you are much better off just walking an extra 400 feet with just your body weight per mile you want to walk.

What works for me is to walk or run outdoors when I can, but when it's crappy or I don't feel like going out, I walk on the treadmill while reading or doing work (phone calls typically) instead. My pace is generally significantly slower, but I make up for it by doing it for longer. Being able to read or do work makes it easier to fit the longer time into my schedule.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:33 PM on September 11, 2011

I can't elieve that 2.5 pounds on each ankle really would put you at greater risk for injury, unless you are an emaciated anorexic.

That said, I do agree with those asking how effective it is. Holding weights in your hands is certainly one thing to consider, as is wearing a weight vest, walking up hills, etc.
posted by dfriedman at 2:43 PM on September 11, 2011

Take up an activity like disc golf.
posted by zombieApoc at 2:48 PM on September 11, 2011

A 10lb barbell in each hand, shadowbox while you walk?

I've seen people swinging around bundles (or singles) of 2-4' lengths of taped up re-bar.
posted by porpoise at 3:01 PM on September 11, 2011

Yeah, definitely go up hills as much as possible. Also, changing up your pace to create an interval workout (even running for short periods of time) is great for you.
posted by JenMarie at 3:10 PM on September 11, 2011

Without getting to exaggerated about it, straighten out your spine while lowering your center of gravity a little. Makes for much more strenuous walking.
posted by zachawry at 3:10 PM on September 11, 2011

I only run when chased. But recently I've been walking up and back down a pretty good hill (650 ft. elevation) using trekking poles. Used with an iPod playlist that builds from 110 to 125 bpm and back down again, the poles turn what would otherwise be a leisurely amble into a very enjoyable full-body workout.
posted by ottereroticist at 3:14 PM on September 11, 2011

I've never been a runner. But I found a really long stair case that I've added to my walks. It gets me huffing by the top. Also If I'm not feeling self conscious or I'm going around the track knee ups and kick backs are always good for getting your heart rate up.
posted by ljesse at 3:23 PM on September 11, 2011

We're approaching snowshoeing season, which is basically very aerobically intense walking. Anything you can do to walk on uneven ground (beach, park with a lumpy lawn) will use more energy and work different muscle groups. You can also improvise your own "fitness trail" by stopping during your walk to do push-ups, jumping jacks, etc.

I've heard that walking burns as many calories mile-for-mile as running, if that's something you're concerned about.
posted by momus_window at 3:51 PM on September 11, 2011

I had a free session with a personal trainer who recommended walking over running for me. He said power walking is as effective as jogging, provided you stay at a consistently high pace.
posted by DoubleLune at 4:22 PM on September 11, 2011

I've heard that walking burns as many calories mile-for-mile as running, if that's something you're concerned about.

Unfortunately not true, however the difference for a slow run and a fast walk is not as big as all that. Hills and stairs are definitely your friend. :)
posted by smoke at 4:59 PM on September 11, 2011

There was a fitness fad about weighted walking in the 1980s, called HeavyHands. I'm ashamed to call it a fad, because in reality it is one of the most effective forms of cardiovascular exercise that I've ever encountered despite also being one of the cheapest, easy to do/learn, and lowest risk for injury.

Essentially what you're doing is swinging dumbbells from your ass to your ears the whole time you are walking. There are a couple of other moves that you alternate but you can get as good of a cardio workout as running just with that.

I'm a runner as a hobby/sport, and in pretty good shape, but when I am injured, I find myself doing HeavyHands, and quite honestly I have no idea why this isn't the most popular form of exercise in the world, or why people who aren't interested in running races bother to run at all.

I guess the primary resource would be "The HeavyHands Walking guide". You can find it on Amazon. I don't want to shill, but it's worth getting.

Don't worry about getting the heavyhands branded interchangeable weights, the 3-5 lb handled weights from target or wherever work just fine (assuming you're a young in-shape male you should be fine starting with 3s).

Here's an article by Clarence Bass (old guy fitness guru):

Some other guys website that has some information:

A PDF overview of all of the moves:

If you don't believe me or think I'm just shilling, get the cheapest 3 lb dumbbells you can find and just walk as fast as you can, swinging them from your hips to your ears, with your heart rate monitor on. Compare the heart rate graph to your aerobic base training runs.

The alternative is racewalking, and the only caveat is that the technique has a somewhat steep learning curve and requires total concentration (you can't zone out like you can with running). The experts in teaching racewalking are Tim Seaman and Dave McGovern. I believe both have books, and both have travelling clinics -- I would recommend hands-on instruction for getting started with racewalking.
posted by robokevin at 5:20 AM on September 12, 2011 [5 favorites]

> I've heard that walking burns as many calories mile-for-mile
> as running, if that's something you're concerned about.

Unfortunately not true, however the difference for a slow run and a fast walk is not as big as all that.

I can believe that there's a difference in calorie consumption between walking and running but that article is comparing walking and running on a treadmill as opposed to the real thing.
posted by XMLicious at 6:14 AM on September 12, 2011

Put on some skates. (Not joking.)
posted by anaelith at 11:07 AM on September 12, 2011

What are you trying to achieve? For weight loss or just general fitness, simply walk as far as you can as often as you can. If you were accustomed to running 2 miles or 20 minutes, start with 4 or 40. For aerobic development, you may do better to take up swimming, but I'm increasingly convinced that chronic cardio is not necessary for optimal fitness. I'll still run, because I love it.
posted by sudama at 8:13 PM on September 14, 2011

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