8 Ways to Shake Up Your Walking Routine
By Beth Ann Mayer
Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
Just like eating the same thing every day can get stale, so can doing one type of exercise. A few small tweaks can make a world of difference.
Regular walkers, or those avoiding the monotony of daily strolls altogether, can put a spring back in their step with some simple changes.
How to Rock Your Walk
Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.
"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."
Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.
Use Hand Weights
Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.
A 2019 study found that weight training is good for your heart, and research shows it reduces the risk of developing a metabolic disorder by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.
"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.
Make It a Circuit
As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.
Rue recommends avoiding ankle weights during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the Harvard Health Letter.
Find a Fitness Trail
Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by simply using your body.
Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.
Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to find one.
Recruit a Friend
People who workout together stay healthy together.
One study showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.
Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like Strava have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.
According to the 2017 National Health Interview Survey, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.
"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.
You can also play a podcast or download an app like Headspace that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.
Do Fartlek Walks
Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.
One study showed that 10-minute interval training improved cardiometabolic health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.
Research also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle oxidative capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.
Gradually Increase Pace
Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.
"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."
You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to decrease the risk of mortality and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.
If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?
Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to measure your heart rate using a monitor.
"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is typically calculated by 220 beats per minute minus your age.
You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.
"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."
By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.
Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.
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Bernice Dapaah calls bamboo "a miracle plant," because it grows so fast and absorbs carbon. But it can also work wonders for children's education and women's employment – as she's discovered.
These are the world's most bicycle-friendly cities. Statista<p>"The reason we use bamboo to manufacture bicycles is because it's found abundantly in Ghana and this is not a material we're going to import," says Dapaah, one of the World Economic Forum's Young Global Leaders.</p><p>"It's a new innovation. There were no existing bamboo bike builders in our country, so we were the first people trying to see how best we could utilize the abundant bamboo in Ghana."</p>
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Supporting Students<p>Besides encouraging Ghanaians to swap vehicles for affordable bikes, Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative is helping students save time on walking to school so they have more time to learn.</p><p>Each time they sell a bike, they donate a bike to a schoolchild in a rural community, who might otherwise have to walk for hours to get to school.</p><p>Dapaah knows how transformative a shorter journey to school can be to academic performance. She grew up living with her <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb3joGYmx9A&feature=emb_logo" target="_blank">grandpa, a forester in a rural part of the country</a>.</p><p>"We had to walk three and a half hours every day before I could go to school. He later bought me a bike, so I finished senior high and wanted to go to university."</p><p>The experience inspired her to launch Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative with two other students at college.</p><p>"When we started this initiative, I looked back and said, when I was young, I had to walk miles before I could get to school, and sometimes if I was late, I was punished.</p><p>"Why don't we donate bikes for students to encourage them to study and so they can have enough time to be on books."</p><p>To date, they have sold more than 3,000 road, mountain and children's bikes – and Dapaah says they plan to donate <a href="https://www.entrepreneur.com/video/350343" target="_blank">10,000 bikes to schoolchildren over five years</a>.</p>
Empowering Women<p>The enterprise is also providing local jobs. It teaches young people to build bikes, particularly women and those in rural communities, where jobs can be scarce. More than 50% of people they have trained are women.</p><p>Dapaah says they want to boost the number of people they employ to 250 over the next five years and they are looking to partner with NGOs to build a childcare facility so mothers can continue to work.</p>
Reducing Emissions<p>By promoting a cycling culture in Ghana, Dapaah says they're also committed to reducing emissions in the transport sector and contributing to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.</p><p>"I love the idea of reusing bamboo to promote sustainable cycling. People want to go green, low-carbon, lean-energy efficient," she says.</p>
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Unlocking Information About Antarctic Ice Shelf<p>Other researchers also are using hydrophones to learn more about crumbling glaciers. Bob Dziak, research oceanographer with the NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory <a href="https://www.pmel.noaa.gov/acoustics" target="_blank">acoustics research group</a>, captured a massive calving event of the Nansen Ice Shelf in Antarctica with a hydrophone. He published the results with colleagues in <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/feart.2019.00183/full" target="_blank">Frontiers in Earth Science</a></p><p>On April 7, 2016, satellite images showed a massive calving event had occurred on the ice shelf. The paper described it as the "first large scale calving event in >30 years."</p><p>However, once Dziak and colleagues delved into the data from three hydrophones deployed 60 kilometers east of the ice shelf, they uncovered a series of "icequakes" from January to early March 2016. He and other researchers believe that much of the ice actually broke free in mid-January to February, but it remained in the same location until an April storm – which their paper described as the "largest low-pressure storm recorded in the previous seven months" – broke the ice free.</p><p>"We suspected that the icebergs broke apart but remained in place – kind of pinned in place – until a major storm with high winds passed through the area and, finally, it was that last push that pushed the icebergs out to sea," Dziak says.</p><p>He and his co-authors wrote that "fortuitous timing and proximity of the hydrophone deployment presented a rare opportunity to study cryogenic signals and ocean ambient sounds of a large-scale ice shelf calving and iceberg formation event."</p>
Listening to Songs of Humpback Whales<p><a href="https://www.mbari.org/" target="_blank">Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute</a> studies the ocean, including its acoustics. One of the institute's projects involves examining the soundscape of California's Monterey Bay, including sounds from animals, humans, weather, and geologic processes like earthquakes. The researchers once even recorded an under-sea landslide. They also focus on recording and analyzing the <a href="http://www.mbari.org/humpback-song/" target="_blank">songs of humpback whales</a>. Male humpback whales' songs can be over 15 minutes in length, and they can be repeated for long periods of time – even hours. Listening to these songs and analyzing them can provide unique insights into the lives of these complex animals.</p><p>"Any time we want to study marine mammals, sound gives us a window into their lives because they use sound for all of their essential life activities, really," says institute biological oceanographer John Ryan. "Communication, foraging, reproduction, navigation – depending on the species, of course."</p><p>Previously, scientists had thought singing occurred only during courtship and mating, but now they think whales may also use song while migrating and hunting. They know song has a crucial role in the whales' lives.</p><p>"There's a whole other dimension to humpback whale song," Ryan says. "It is a mode of cultural transmission in this species. They learn songs from each other. They share songs as a population, and when populations mix and mingle, they learn new ideas, they explore with their song, improvise, and it's a real essential part of their culture."</p>
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Faulty Scientific Reasoning<p>In our <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13527" target="_blank">most recent publication</a> in the journal Conservation Biology, we examine an error of reasoning that props up the moral panic over cats.</p><p>Scientists do not simply collect data and analyze the results. They also establish a logical argument to explain what they observe. Thus, the reasoning behind a factual claim is equally important to the observations used to make that claim. And it is this reasoning about cats where claims about their threat to global biodiversity founder. In our analysis, we found it happens because many scientists take specific, local studies and overgeneralize those findings to the world at large.</p><p>Even when specific studies are good overall, projecting the combined "results" onto the world at large can cause unscientific overgeneralizations, particularly when <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2015.01.003" target="_blank">ecological context is ignored</a>. It is akin to pulling a quote out of context and then assuming you understand its meaning.</p>
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