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Nine ways to maximise the benefits of walking

Siski Green ( 16 June 2017 )

Studies show regular walking benefits health, increases our sense of wellbeing and even helps prevent depression. Find out how to get more out of your walks.

Mature man hiking with backpack and laughing
Speeding up and slowing down during a walk is a great way to get fit fast

How group walks help boost health and fight loneliness

Although walking is known to be extremely beneficial to health, only recently have researchers focused on how walking in groups affects us. A group of researchers from the University of East Anglia, UK, found that group walkers had a more positive attitude towards physical activity and felt less lonely and isolated too. If you need to find a walking group near you, go to

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Why the right posture for walking helps you tone up

Just as there’s good posture for lifting weights, there’s good posture for walking and the tighter you pull in your stomach muscles, the more benefit you’ll see.

How to walk properly - walking guru, Joanna Hall's guide to the right posture and movements for walking

Use your arms to boost the health benefits of walking

Walking like a steam train with those elbows pumping like pistons does wonders for your waistline and it’ll also tone up your upper body muscles. Add wrist weights to really push those muscles.  

Try interval walking workouts to boost fitness

Speeding up and slowing down during a walk is a great way to get fit fast. You’re more likely to be able to maintain speed in short bursts but as you continue walking, albeit more slowly, after the burst of speed, your heart continues to pump at a faster level. This method also means you’re more likely to stick to the workout, as you know a break – the slow phase – is near.

Try alternating between faster walking for a minute and then a minute of slower, recovery walking, then try splitting your faster walking to slower walking with 40 seconds for faster, 20 seconds for lower, or 30 seconds fast, 30 seconds slow.

Jogging vs walking - how do the health benefits compare?

Add some obstacles to get more out of your walk

Who said walking had to be all in a straight line on a flat surface? Walking on an incline burns far more calories and works your muscles harder too, but if there are no hills near you, you can use the curb, benches or tree stumps to do step-ups as you walk by, weave your way in between some trees, or circle trees, post boxes or whatever you pass by. Not only does this make your walk a bit more interesting, it’ll work different muscles to usual.

From walking football to walking rounders, how walking sports help you enjoy the things you loved as a child

How Nordic walking helps burn more calories

There may be no snow in the park but that needn’t stop you using a pair of Nordic walking poles to burn more calories during your walking walkout. Research shows that Nordic walking increases calories usage by around 40%. 

Find out more about Nordic Walking

Concentrate on your breathing as you walk

Mindfulness needn’t only take place in a large white room and yoga mats, you can focus on your breathing and relieve stress as you walk. Focus on your inhalations and exhalations and try to get into a rhythm so that your stride matches your breathing (ie two steps for each breath, for example). You’ll find that focusing like this will also help you go farther for longer.

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Why a 'walking sprint' might help boost your health

Walk as fast as you can until you need or want to stop, then return to your starting point at a slower but still brisk pace. Next time, do the same. You’ll soon be able to do longer and farther of the high-speed walking, burning calories and strengthening your heart as you do.

Try walking for longer for more health benefits

The advice is usually to do at least three sessions of 30 minutes of exercise per week, but why stop at that? Rather than walking for half an hour, ramp it up – walk for an hour three times a week, or even an hour and a half. Select an interesting route with lots of variation, download an audio book to your MP3 player or even learn a new language as you go to ensure that it doesn’t get boring.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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