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Despite simplicity, walking packs punch as workout

August 10, 2010

Despite simplicity, walking packs punch as workout

Sunday, August 8, 2010


There really is a workout for everyone. Scanning the list of fitness classes at the gym where my sister works, I saw offerings for all ages, abilities and interests. Although these carefully crafted routines are great for motivating different personalities to get up and sweat, sometimes something simpler is a good change of pace.

In this week’s cover story, we meet a walking group called the Missouri Ramblers. Although the group covers a good distance on their walks, they’re not speed walkers. It’s just simple walking.

But if that doesn’t sound like anything to be excited about, know that there are numerous benefits from simple walking.

Ryan Laird, a personal trainer at Wilson’s in The District, said the obvious benefit of walking is improving cardiovascular health.

When you walk, your heart rate goes up, which increases blood volume.

In addition to building your cardiovascular fitness, regular walking can increase your metabolism. After you finish a workout, Laird said, your body continues to burn more calories than it did before you got started because it still hasn’t reverted back to its resting state.

“I always tell my clients I want them to burn calories while they’re asleep, while they’re watching TV,” he said.

Of course, walking helps the outside of your body as much as it helps the inside.

In addition to working your legs — primarily your calves, hamstrings and glutes — Laird said you can also build core strength, which helps tighten the tummy and ease back pain, by maintaining correct posture as you walk. To do this, Laird said to keep your shoulders back and in line with your hips, not rounded or hunched over.

Regular walking also strengthens the tendons and ligaments that stabilize the joints in the knees and ankles, which can help prevent injury later, Laird said.

To increase the benefits you get from walking, Laird said there are a number of modifications you can make to your routine.

“First and foremost, I would say hills. Hills will do a couple of things. Of course, they’re more demanding, so when you talk about caloric expenditure and work level, that’s going to increase,” Laird said. “On top of that, the toning — most of that takes place on the posterior thigh and calf.”

Adding speed also can increase your caloric expenditure.

“I would turn that normal walk into your warm-up and cool-down, then add a brisk walk into the middle” of your workout, Laird said.

You also can burn more calories by adding hand weights to your workout. The more muscles you use, Laird explained, the more calories you will burn.Ultimately, Laird said, all of these benefits aid in diease and injury prevention.

All of this from something as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.

Reach Caroline Dohack at 573-815-1727 or e-mail

This article was published on page E1 of the Sunday, August 8, 2010 edition of The Columbia Daily Tribune. Click here to Subscribe.

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