Active Walking: Keeping fit between hikes
As a hiking woman I love walking in the countryside at the weekend and trekking in the hills during holidays but loose fitness between trips. What can I do? I leave for work early and get home late with no time for the gym and anyway I like to be outdoors.
Effective walking for half an hour or so each day seems to be the answer. It’s proved so popular in the US that it’s been estimated there are now four times as many walkers as joggers. However, it’s not yet taken on in such a big way in the UK.
Why the change? Well walking is thought to be better than jogging as it’s not so hard on the joints. The difference is that walking requires at least one foot to be always on the ground, so the body is brought down with less force and this results in less wear and tear.
So how does a walking workout differ from normal walking? It is not your everyday amble and although techniques differ somewhat their main features are:
- Walk from the hips
- Take short strides and walk at your own pace
- Walk through each step from heel to toe
- Swing your arms, but don’t exaggerate, as apparently it’s the speed of the arm swings that set the pace not the speed of the legs.
- Keep your head up high
And what are the benefits? Well a walking workout improves fitness, which we hikers want, tones the leg and bum muscles which is not a bad thing, improves the posture especially for those of us who spend our days hunched up over a computer or TV, and burns up the calories so we can better manage our weight or simply worry less about what we eat. It’s also said to help with sleeping patterns, boosting immune system and be anti-ageing. Better alignment of body also reduces the risk of injury or aching joints.
There are a number of techniques for working out, the main being Power (Speed) Walking, WalkActive and Nordic Walking. So what are the differences between them?
Power Walking tends to stress speed, claiming speeds of up to 4.5 mph (7-9 km/hr) compared to a brisk walking pace of 3mph (5 km/hr). This is as fast as jogging and burns as many calories.
Nordic Walking uses poles. It was first developed in Finland for ski-training in the off-season ski-training. Specially designed poles are held behind the body throughout at an angle of 45o and help propel the walker along. These give a better upper body workout than walking without poles and it’s claimed that more than 90% of body muscle is actively employed compared to 70% in normal walking, so around 40% more calories per mile are used up.
WalkingActive was developed in the UK by Joanna Hall, a movement and diet specialist who applied the latest scientific research and have developed a technique that helps align your muscles effectively, minimising impact through your joints, improving posture and most significantly improving your body shape and fitness
Walkers working out on the street can look a bit odd at first and may attract comments of ‘the ministry of silly walks’ type from passersby– but does it matter! Moon-walking it is not though – rather it’s a pleasant and inexpensive way for hiking women to keep fit and healthy between hikes.