Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Add more "bling" to your walking program

As mentioned in a previous blog, using walking poles can increase the amount of calories burned by using the upper body. Another way to accomplish this is by carrying hand weights, or wearing cuff weights, and exaggerating your arm swing. While this does not give you the advantage of reducing force on your joints, it does work the triceps, biceps, and shoulder muscles. Stronger muscles use more calories, and this calorie-b. urning effect tends to last even while you’re at rest. As a Certified Senior Strength Trainer, I have reviewed a lot of literature that has made me a believer in strength training. What a great idea to add this component to a walking program!

Another way to maximize energy expended and therefore burn more calories while walking is to examine your gait pattern. Try to lengthen your stride, and reach out with your heel, so it is the first part of your foot to hit the ground. Then roll forward onto the front of your foot and concentrate on lifting off with your toes. Make sure you bend your knees, and strive for a fluid leg motion instead of short, choppy strides with straightened legs. We practice this very fluid, slow walking in Tai Chi for balance class as a warm-up exercise, concentrating on using every muscle in the foot.

To really monitor your activity level, you may want to get a heart rate monitor. This way you will not exceed the fat burning zone, and especially if you are just starting an exercise program, you will not be stressing out your heart too much. It will also ensure that you are walking fast enough to get some aerobic workout. A very simplified formula is to take 220 minus your age, and multiply that by .6. If you are reading this blog, I assume you are a retiree, and perhaps 60 years old. This would mean your target heart rate would be about 96 beats per minute. If you are 70 years old, .6 of 150 is a targer heart rate of around 90.

As always, it is important to consult your Primary Care Physician before beginning a walking program.

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