Walking is an effective form of exercise for anyone.
“Our bodies are designed to walk,” said Marysville Health & Fitness owner Pam Schroller. “It’s how we function. You can walk outdoors just about anywhere or indoors on a treadmill to reduce the impact on your joints as well.”
Walking is an appropriate exercise for all fitness levels, she said. People with healthy joints and no pre-existing health concerns may consider increasing the intensity and power walk instead.
“Power walking is a highly beneficial exercise in order to lose weight and stay fit and healthy,” Schroller said. “Power walking is often safer than running too as it involves much less impact on our joints. In many cases, you may actually use more muscles in power walking versus running. You can burn a comparable amount of calories and get the heart rate up to the same level as running.”
Power walking uses speed and arm motion as a way to increase the health benefits for a person. Done correctly, power walking is “amazing for cardiovascular health, joint health, and emotional well-being,” Schroller said.
Benefits a person gets from power walking could be maintained or improved cholesterol levels and high blood pressure; reduction for the risk of diabetes, strokes and some forms of cancer; a workout for both the upper and lower body to tone and strengthen the muscles and make bones stronger; helps eliminate stress, fatigue, sadness and many other psychological and physical problems such as depression and lethargy; and weight loss, Schroller said.
“Regular workouts will enable you to feel more energetic, active and confident to accept all the challenges of day-to-day life,” she said. “Power walking can divert your attention towards positivity. As a result, your brain releases endorphins which gives you peach of mind.”
Walking at a brisk pace of 4 miles per hour results in burning about 400 calories an hour depending on a person’s body weight. Schroller suggests people just starting a program begin with a 10-minute walk and gradually improve each workout.
Guidelines to follow to establish good power walking technique to maximize benefits and prevent injuries are to be aware of posture, swing arms gently, land on the heel first, and use short strides to set a pace.
Keep eyes forward, shoulders back and head upright, Schroller said. “Pull your belly button in toward your spine to engage your core muscles. If you find yourself slumping forward, take a moment to correct your body position.”
Relax and release any tension in the shoulders and neck. Good posture will help a person maintain speed and help protect a person from injury, she said. Bend arms to about a 90-degree angle, move the arms up and back so the opposite arm and leg advance at the same time.
“Adding the arm motion will help you walk faster, but control is key,” Schroller said. “Do not exaggerate the movements. This could actually slow you down and increase the chance of hurting yourself. Focus on the controlling your range of motion. Your hands should not rise higher than your collarbone and shouldn’t cross the center of your body.”
With every step, land on the heel and roll the foot forward toward the toe. Concentrate on moving hips forward rather than side-to-side, she said.
“Use short strides and aim for a brisk pace,” Schroller said. “Studies have shown that taking more steps per minute can have a positive impact on insulin levels, body mass index and waist circumference.
People who are starting an exercise program should talk to a certified personal trainer who will recommend a healthy pace. Gradually work up to longer distances and greater speed, she said.
Distance counts, Schroller said. People who walk more than 15,000 steps daily had no signs of metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of health factors that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
A study showed than an hour a day of moderate-intensity exercises like power walking prevents disability in people who have symptoms of joint problems in the lower extremity, Schroller said. Another study showed that walking four hours a week lowered the risk of hip fracture by 41 percent women in perimenopause.
Schroller said it is important to have good shoes, walk on a path or sidewalk and use reflective tape or clothing or bring a flashlight when walking at dusk or in the dark, make it fun and walk with someone else or somewhere scenic, and know the terrain to keep from falling, to notice uneven sidewalks, tree roots and other obstacles.
Fitness test – Landon Wright, coach and teacher
Put yourself to the test with this 25- to 30-minute workout that uses pushups, crunches, jumping jacks, bodyweight squats, V-ups, burpees and mountain climbers.
Warmup with short versions of the moves, such as two sets of five pushups, 10 crunches, 10 jumping jacks, three bodyweight squats, three V-ups, three burpees and three mountain climbers.
During the workout, allow for a one-minute rest between each exercise.
The workout is a series of one-minute intervals. Do as many of each exercise as possible in that one minute. Record the number on paper and try to improve it throughout the week.
The workout is one minute of pushups; rest a minute; one minute of crunches; rest a minute; one minute of jumping jacks; rest one minute; one minute of bodyweight squats; rest a minute; one minute of V-ups; rest a minute; one minute of burpees; rest a minute; one minute of mountain climbers.
Cool down after maxing out on all seven exercises. Your body should be fatigued. Focus on breathing during this series of exercises to help the mind and body recover.
Cool down with a 5-second high plank hold; five big arm circles forward and then backward; a 5-second low plank hold; five small arm circles forward and then backward; 10 seconds of hamstring stretches; 10 seconds of quad stretches; 5 seconds of pulling the left arm across the body; and 5 seconds of pulling the right arm across the body.
Balloon kicks – Scott Brown, coach and teacher
Use a balloon to try to keep it in the air using only your foot. If you have a partner, kick the ball to your partner and try to see how many times you can kick the balloon before it touches the ground alternating with one kick per person.
A second game with the balloon is to place an obstacle (a cone, cup, person, chair, etc.) about 8-10 feet away from you, kick the balloon as high and as far as you can. Take off running when you kick. The goal is to run around the object you have placed and return to your kicking spot before the balloon hits the ground.
Repeat the second game, but when you make it, have your partner take a step backwards. Kick the balloon again and try to run around your partner and get back to start before the balloon lands.
NOTE: This is the final week of the series. Thank you to Pam Schroller, owner of Marysville Health & Fitness; Crist & Pieschl Rehabilitation, Marysville; Brian Fragel, director of Marysville Sport and Recreation; and Marysville teachers and coaches Landon Wright, Mary Kessinger-Wassom, Scott Brown and Dustin Heuer for contributions to the series.