MINNEAPOLIS — Your gym is closed and you may not have a treadmill, rowing machine or a CrossFit instructor in your basement.
Still, you probably have a pair of decent shoes and a sidewalk, street or trail nearby. That’s all you need to take part in one of the best exercises around: walking.
“It’s absolutely an exercise, and one that the more you put into it, the more you get out of it,” said John Long, owner of Fleet Feet Minneapolis.
Since the stay-at-home order was put in place, walking has exploded in popularity.
“Walking is up 8,000 percent from what it was a month ago,” Long said. “Everybody is getting outside.”
That’s the beauty of it, said Michele Stanton, a professional walking coach and author of “Eat Up, Slim Down.”
“Everyone can do it,” she said. “You don’t need special equipment, you can do it anywhere and it’s considered a moderate-intensity activity.”
The benefits of walking are myriad and proven, Stanton said.
“There’s tons of research showing the benefits of walking: It reduces heart disease, stress and the risk of some cancers,” she said.
It also results in fewer injuries than higher-intensity exercises, such as running.
But, as Stanton likes to say, “There’s more than one way to walk.”
“You can go for a leisurely walk, even a slow, meditative one, or you can make it a real workout,” she said.
Long and Stanton agree that anyone will benefit from any walking they do, be it a five-minute midday break or a 45-minute power walk. But there are a few simple ways to make walking more beneficial.
If you haven’t been getting much exercise, start slow.
“A 20-minute walk is a good thing,” Long said. “If you’re fairly fit, 30 to 40 minutes is probably about right.”
More important than the length of your walk is the consistency.
“Keep it consistent,” Long said.
Set a schedule and try to maintain it, whether that means a brief walk every day or a longer walk three times a week. You always can work your way to longer and more frequent walks.
If you’re already fairly fit, work on your pace.
“Be mindful of your pace and vary it,” Long said. “Maybe choose a route that has hills or go off-trail.”
Walking faster isn’t about a longer stride. Instead, Stanton recommends you try these things to improve your form:
• Bend your arms rather than keeping them straight.
• Instead of lengthening your stride, make it shorter, lift your knee (as you would if you were marching) and put your lead foot only about 4 to 5 inches in front of your back foot.
• Aim for a smooth stride by landing on your heel, rolling through and pushing off with the ball of your foot and your toes.
• Stand tall, roll your shoulders back, lift your chest and, if you’re on consistent terrain, look out 10 to 20 feet in front of you rather than down.
You may want to try intervals of faster-paced walking or running, alternating with a slower walk.