Who says you need a pricey gym membership to get fit and strong? As the weather gets warmer, the great outdoors can be every bit effective as a treadmill. A study published by the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that being outdoors has an overall positive effect on vitality, enthusiasm and energy.
Walking can boost mood, help tone and contribute to weight loss. Whether you want to be more active or find your get-up-and-go, we've got the easy walking workouts to suit every need:
If you needed an incentive to ditch your daily vending machine habit for a brisk stroll, look no further. A Journal of Personality and Social Psychology study found that a 10-minute walk provided more of an energy boost and a reduction in tension than eating a sugary snack. Heading outside for your walk will further increase energy, especially if you're getting enough sunlight to boost vitamin D levels.
- Start by walking at a slow-to-moderate pace for two minutes then speed up, but not so that you're out of breath, and walk at this pace for a further two minutes.
- Then, speed up again for four minutes, so that you're walking at a fast enough pace to raise heart rate and starting to get out of breath - but so that you're still able to hold a conversation.
- This increased blood flow will leave you feeling more alert.
- Repeat this cycle twice more.
Goal two: Fat burning
Don't knock walking when it comes to reducing body fat. One Duke University study found aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, the most efficient type of exercise for shedding body fat. Intervals are a great way to prevent workout boredom setting in and they'll also help to boost fitness levels. You'll also burn more calories exercising in this way.
- Start by walking at a moderate pace for five minutes to warm up. Then speed up so that you can still hold a conversation, but so that your heart rate is raised and you start to break a sweat.
- Hold this pace for three minutes.
- Slow down to a stroll for one minute and repeat.
- Repeat this four minute cycle a total of five times. As you get fitter, ensure you continue to up your walking pace!
Goal three: Improve muscle tone
Heading out for a walk is great time to multi-task - you can interrupt your walk with minimum hassle to incorporate multi-muscle moves to strengthen and tone while you're on the go. And equipment-free workouts may be just the thing to help you achieve your goals - research shows bodyweight workouts improve strength, endurance and power.
- Pick a route with a park bench
- Warm up by walking at a moderate-to-fast pace for five minutes.
- Stop and perform one minute of walking lunges to work entire lower body. Take a stride forward with right leg and lower hips towards ground bending both knees to 90° angles. Push off with your left foot and bring your left leg forward to your starting standing position before switching legs.
- Walk at a brisk pace for another five minutes and then stop at your bench to try some step-ups. Step onto the bench leading with your left leg. Keeping the left foot on the bench, step your right foot up onto the bench too. Step back down, leading this time with the right leg and bringing your left foot down to join it on the floor. Keep this going for a minute and then try it again leading with your right leg.
- Staying on your bench, move into push up position. Stand facing the bench, position hands on the seat and walk your feet out behind you until legs are fully extended. Bend elbows and lower chest towards the bench before pushing back up to starting position. Do two sets of 15-20 push ups.
- Walk at moderate pace for five minutes to cool down.
Goal four: De-stress
Need to unwind with a quick routine? A simple outside stroll is the answer you've been looking for! A University of Washington study found spending time with nature helps to boost cognitive function. The important thing to remember - when heading out for your R&R walk - is that (for once) speed and intensity aren't everything.
- Start out by strolling at a leisurely pace for five minutes focusing on each step. Concentrate on how your feet feel as they make contact with the ground - are your arms hanging loosely by your sides?
- Use this time to focus on your breathing: practise breathing deeply – you can inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth if you find this easier and more natural. Continue walking at a slower pace to maintain this breathing.
- Focus too on walking posture - keep your spine straight, allow arms to hang loose and take care not to over stride. Speed up your pace and maintain a moderate pace for five minutes. Just a small change in pace can further boost endorphin production which will help to alleviate stress.
- Stretch out upper body by standing with feet hip width apart and arms extended overhead. Interlace hands with index finger extended upwards. Breathing deeply, slowly bend upper body to the right. Hold for five seconds before returning to centre and repeat on the left. Stretching is not only relaxing, it also helps to improve blood flow to your muscles and range of motion in your joints.
- Finish your walk by strolling for five minutes practising the deep breathing technique above.