Fitness and Training

The Best Strength Exercises for Walkers

You might think of walking as just a lower-body exercise. That’s not necessarily the case, says Carrie Boyle, a walking coach with the Bridgehampton, New York–based virtual walking program 99 Walks and a National Academy of Sports Medicine–certified personal trainer. “We’re activating the entire body when walking.”

Your core, upper back, and shoulders support good posture, while your arms swing or pump at your sides. With each step, your glutes (buttocks) engage, and your calves, ankles, and feet keep you stable, Boyle explains. Those muscles work even harder if you walk uphill or add weight (by wearing a backpack or weighted vest), she adds.

Uphill walking also targets the quadriceps (the muscles in the front of your thighs), glutes, and calves more than walking on level ground does, research finds.

Walking is great exercise, and you can maximize benefits by pairing the activity with strength-based training, says James N. Robinson, MD, a primary sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “In general, for good health you need full-body strength training, which will help you function better in day-to-day life,” he says.

In fact, research shows that combining a 10-week walking program with resistance training at home can improve muscle quality and size in older adults and enhance their ability to do everyday activities.

In addition, pairing walking with strength training may be a practical approach to maintaining a healthy weight. A study that included nearly 12,000 healthy adults of all ages found that those who met weekly recommendations for aerobic exercise (150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, such as walking) and resistance exercise (two full-body sessions) had the lowest risk of developing obesity, compared with those who didn’t meet either exercise marker.

When building a strength routine to complement walking, focus on targeting the muscles most used in your workouts, such as your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings (the muscles in the back of your thighs), ankles, and feet.

Begin with 10 reps of each exercise, and build up to 15 as you become more advanced. Go through the sequence once to prepare your legs for a shorter walk or to squeeze in some strength training on a non-walking day.

Boyle recommends doing these movements at least twice weekly, but she adds that you can safely perform them more often because they are not high-intensity. She also advises supplementing this routine with additional body-weight or weighted exercises for your upper and lower body. To meet the physical activity. recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here’s what you need to do: at least two full-body strength sessions per week, targeting all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms) and working the muscles to the point of fatigue.

If you’ve never tried strength training, seeking guidance from a personal trainer can be helpful. They can ensure that you’re doing appropriate exercises for your needs and abilities and that you are using the proper form. Not only will this guard against injury — it will also help you get the most from each exercise.

Check with your doctor before trying these exercises. “It’s always advised to talk to your doctor when making lifestyle changes, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are working through or recovering from an illness or injury,” Boyle says. In general, the advice to “start low and go slow” holds. Your body should adapt to the stress of strength exercises over time.

Lie on your right side with your right arm under your head for support. Place your left hand on the ground in front of your chest to help your torso stay upright during the exercise.
With your legs extended and stacked, bend your knees to a 45-degree angle, bringing your feet behind you.
Keeping your ankles together, lift your top (left) knee and squeeze the muscles on the side of your top hip.
Slowly lower your knee. Repeat.
Once you’ve finished all the reps, switch to the other side.
Exercise 2: Glute Bridges
As the name implies, this exercise targets your glutes, a large muscle group in the hips that helps power walking movements.

Lie on your back and place your arms down by your sides.
Bend your knees to bring both feet about six inches from the glutes, feet flat on the floor.
Lift your hips toward the ceiling and squeeze your glutes at the top.
Pause briefly, and then lower your hips to the floor with control. Repeat.
Exercise 3: Banded Side Steps
“Performing side-to-side movements [like this one] activates muscles that kick in when you slip on ice or have to work around more technical terrain,” says Boyle.

Place a mini resistance band (a small closed-loop rubber band used to add resistance to exercises) around your ankles or above your knees.
Stand with feet hip-width apart or slightly narrower.
Bend your knees slightly and step your right foot to the right so your feet are wider than shoulder-width apart.
Follow with the left foot so your feet are hip-width apart again.
Take another step to the right with your right foot. Continue until you’ve completed all the reps in one direction. Then switch directions.

Source:  everydayhealth

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