3 Trainer-Approved Walking Workouts

Sports & Activity

Here’s how to bring some heat to your walking routine.

Last updated: March 22, 2023
5 min read
3 Trainer-approved Walking Workouts

On days when you want to dial back the intensity of your workouts, switch it up and try low-impact exercises, like walking workouts.

These low-impact workouts (though still heart-pumping) are solid options for low-intensity days. That said, don't underestimate the health benefits of walking at any intensity level — from strolling around the park to power walking through the neighborhood.

According to research, taking more steps every day was significantly associated with lower mortality rates, said Sierra Nielsen, I.S.S.A., C.P.T.

She added that going for a daily walk — or several — can also improve cognitive function and may even reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, per a report from a 2022 issue of JAMA Network. Other research suggests that walking supports mental health by boosting fatigue-related mood. This may be in part because of increased physiological arousal (e.g. elevated heart rate).

In addition, walking is one of the most inexpensive forms of physical activity. All you need is a pair of comfortable walking shoes. For all these reasons, consider adding these three trainer-approved walking workouts (including treadmill walking workouts) to your fitness routine.

1. Add Intervals to Your Walk

One way to make a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood into a walking workout is by incorporating intervals. Rick Richey, C.P.T. and N.A.S.M. faculty instructor, noted that according to research, a normally paced walk combined with bursts of high-energy walking provides more benefits than walking at a steady, continuous pace. These benefits include increased VO2Max (meaning how much oxygen the body absorbs during exercise), improved glycemic control, and decreased body fat.

To do this walking workout, Nielsen recommended starting with a five-minute warm-up walk at a brisk pace — which she defines as a pace where you can talk comfortably with a bit of breathlessness — to get your muscles ready and your heart pumping. "Then, kick things up a notch with five to 10 one-minute intervals of faster walking, followed by two minutes of easy walking to recover," she said.

By faster walking, she means a pace where you can barely talk and are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Think of the pace you’d walk if you’re about to miss your flight at the airport.

Alternatively, Richey suggested repeating a cycle of three minutes of walking at a high intensity followed by three minutes of a slower walk for a total of 30 minutes.

Lastly, Nielsen said to end this walking workout with a brisk cool-down walk similar to the warm-up walk of five to 10 minutes, which allows enough time to bring your heart rate back down.

You can also replicate outdoor interval walking on the treadmill by increasing and decreasing the speed.

2. Go on a Hike for a Change of Terrain and Scenery

To increase the health benefits of a walking workout, consider turning it into a nature hike.

"Research shows outdoor exercise provides greater feelings of revitalization, positive engagement, decreases in tension, anger, confusion, and frustration, and increases energy," Richey said.

Hiking in particular, he said, is linked to increased mental and emotional well-being, decreased blood pressure, less stress, and a strengthened immune system, per research published in a 2016 issue of the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.

Start with a warm-up. Nielsen recommended going for a walk at a leisurely pace for five to 10 minutes. "This will get your muscles loose and your heart pumping," she said.

If possible, find a hilly area or more challenging terrain. Then hike at a moderate intensity for 15 to 20 minutes. "You should be able to chat, but you should be breathing harder than normal," Nielsen said.

She also recommended taking a short break after the 15- to 20-minute interval to catch your breath and drink water. Then repeat the interval one or two more times. Finish with a stroll at a leisurely pace for five to 10 minutes.

(Related: The Benefits of Hiking, According to Experts)

3. Walk at an Incline During a Treadmill Walking Workout

For indoor walking workouts, upping the incline on the treadmill can (literally) elevate your workout by strengthening knee joints and activating your muscles more than when walking on a level surface.

"Walking on an incline also requires more energy and incurs a greater metabolic cost than a flat-surfaced walk, which means you'll burn more calories. In fact, another study showed that, compared to flat ground, metabolic cost increased by 17 percent at 5 percent incline and 32 percent at 10 percent incline," Nielsen said.

For this treadmill workout, Nielsen instructed starting with a five-minute warm-up walk at 3 mph (or your average pace) set at an incline of 2 to 3 percent. Then increase the incline to 8 to 10 percent for three to five minutes. Follow that with a recovery period by lowering the treadmill back to a 2 to 3 percent incline for one to two minutes.

Repeat the interval two to five times depending on your fitness level, Nielsen said. Then end with a cooldown walk at 0 percent incline for five minutes at your average pace.

The key, Nielsen said, is to be mindful of your posture as you walk. "Think about engaging your core, keeping your torso upright and tight and engaging your glutes and hamstrings with each step," she said.

Once you get more experience with incline walking, Neilsen suggested challenging yourself by incrementally increasing the incline.

Words by Jessica Estrada

3 Trainer-approved Walking Workouts

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Originally published: March 21, 2023

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