10 Ways to Make the Most of Walking
Has it ever been more important to look after body and mind? All of us have experienced a change in routine and it can be to let physical health fall to the wayside as we try to adjust. But, in the case of a pandemic, that is exactly the opposite of what the body needs to protect us. So how can we still ensure to put our best foot forward?
While the gym may not be available to you right now, you can still make full use of your other freedoms in this unusual time. Walking is brilliant exercise that often goes under-recognised for its benefits, from strengthening and toning the leg muscles and glutes to helping with balance in a low-impact way.
Turn your daily walk into something to look forward to with our 10 simple tips:
- Dress for it: Treat the walk as a purposeful part of your day by wearing clothes that let your body move freely and trainers that support your posture and muscles from the ground-up. You don’t have to wear full workout gear if that’s not your style, just an exercise-ready outfit that helps you get into the right mindset to move.
- Plan your route along ‘landmarks’ to give you a sense of purpose and direction. Swap out the usual halfway coffee break for a church, some particularly pretty houses, floral displays, a post box to send something to a loved one or even a lamb field.
- Loosen up - after spending more time sedentary than perhaps you would normally, make sure to switch your joints and muscles into gear before exercise. ‘Baby rocking’ is a fantastic way to gently activate the whole body. Simply find a soft surface and position yourself on your hands and knees. Place your knees directly underneath your hips, and hands directly underneath your shoulders. At your own pace, sit back as far as you feel comfortable then rock forwards to return to the starting position. Take care to only rock forwards to the starting position, as pushing further could upset your lower back. Repeat until your body feels light and free to move easily, which will usually only take between 30 seconds and 1 minute.
- Breathe! Now you’re on your way, enjoy the restorative fresh air by relaxing your shoulders and opening the ribcage laterally to breathe more deeply and allow the air to flow freely to your lungs.
- Be mindful of your posture to ensure that you don’t put unnecessary pressure on joints and so that the correct muscles are engaged, starting with the core. Relax your shoulders and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your eyes forward and level with the horizon, and increase the space between your ribcage and your pelvis. Remember to check in with your body a couple of times during the walk to keep this good posture up and soon it’ll become a habit!
- Keep pace to ensure that the walking time is put to good aerobic use. Invite a companion or bring the dog along with you, or else find a great playlist with a BPM (beats per minute) that pushes you to walk faster but is still doable. Spotify offers run and walk playlists that are specific to different paces.
- Time yourself in intervals by challenging yourself to walk faster for a certain duration then a period of rest walking. Try to beat your personal best, and give yourself weekly targets to shake things up!
- Add upper body cardio to the walk by swinging your arms alternately at a right angle without clenching your fists, tucking your elbows close to either side of your ribs. On the forward swing, raise your hand only as far as the breast bone.This adds resistance to your mini workout, and you can add small hand weights or weighted wrist straps if you would like to step it up.
- Where safe, try “retro” (backwards) walking for thirty seconds or so at a time. This strengthens your lesser-used leg muscles and takes pressure off the lower back and knees for short periods. It also helps to rewire the brain and improve coordination. Just don’t try this near traffic or oncoming pedestrians!
- Take the pressure off by using the walking time to meditate. Walking meditations can be as simple as disconnecting from technology and the ever-present news cycle, making an effort to notice the small details of natural beauty in the springtime. We’ve talked more about different ways to meditate here, but a great way to start is to devote a couple minutes at a time to sight, smell and sound. If you prefer a more structured approach, Headspace offers guided walking meditations to help make walking a restorative and calming daily practise to help you through this time.
Staying home as much as possible doesn’t mean that you should miss out on the joys of springtime that are within walking distance of your home. Infuse your day with healthy structure to keep your body and mind in good shape to give yourself the best chances of staying well.
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