Walking is one of the most beneficial healthy habits you can adopt. Not only is it simple to incorporate into your regular routine, but it also sharpens your brain, improves heart health and can help increase your lifespan. One British study even showed walking outdoors near greenery can reduce feelings of frustration and put your brain into a state of meditation.
“Walking can be done anywhere and is accessible to nearly everyone,” says Bethany Rutledge, a USAT certified triathlon coach based in Atlanta. What’s more, it’s also a great way to tone your body. “Adding strength moves into your walking regimen is not only efficient, but it can help you torch extra calories and build lean muscle (which, in turn, helps you burn even more),” she says.
Here, Rutledge shares a four-week plan to improve your cardio endurance while also strengthening your entire body. Throughout the plan, you’ll see a few different buzz words. We outline what those mean, here.
Steady-state walk: Walk briskly, enough your breathing is elevated, but you can still talk easily.
High-intensity walk: Walk as quickly as you can. At this pace your breathing should be very labored and talking is difficult.
Recovery walk: Walk at a comfortable pace, and focus on catching your breath. This low-intensity walk is also used for warmup and cooldown walking.
Endurance walk: This intensity level is between recovery and steady state. You should be able to easily converse.
Walk strength circuit: After each 5 minutes of walking perform 30–45 seconds of two of the exercises below. You can mix and match to create your own sets, but try to incorporate each exercise at least once. For example, the first set could include 5 minutes of walking followed by basic squats and pushups. Set two could be 5 minutes of walking, then lunges and a 30–45-second plank. Do this for three sets, finishing with a 5-minute cooldown walk.
You’ll also incorporate a few basic full-body movements, including:
The move: Start standing with your feet at shoulder-width. Toes should be slightly turned out. Keeping an active core, squat as low as you can, maintaining tension through your legs, sinking your weight into your heels. Press back up to start for one rep.
The move: Start in a high plank. Keeping your elbows close to your rib cage and lower your body in a straight line toward the floor. Push through your palms back to start for one rep.
The move: Start with your feet together. Step forward into a lunge (your knee shouldn’t extend past your toes) and lower slowly for 5 seconds. Push through your front heel to return to standing. This counts as one rep. Continue for 30 seconds; repeat on the opposite side.
The move: Get into a high pushup position, maintaining a strong core and creating a straight line from head to heel. Hold.
The move: Start in tabletop position. Simultaneously lift your right leg and left arm, kicking straight back through the right leg and reaching forward with your left arm. Make sure your back stays in a neutral position throughout the entire movement. Hold for 10 seconds, then slowly return to start. Continue, alternating sides.
Incorporating three rest days each week, Rutledge’s goal is to enable anyone to get comfortable with movement and the different walking zones, before cranking things up another notch.
Make progress every day while you work on fitness and nutrition goals, like walking more steps. Go to “Plans” in the MyFitnessPal app for daily coaching and easy-to-follow tasks to keep you motivated.