Walking is a wonderful form of exercise. It’s great for your heart and lungs, your circulatory system and even your brain. Regular walkers who clock up around 10,000 steps per day suffer from fewer chronic diseases, are likely to live longer and will enjoy health and vitality well into their golden years.
So does that mean that walking is the only form of exerciser you need to do? Sadly not.
While walking is undoubtedly good for your heart and lungs, it doesn’t do a lot for the strength of your muscles – especially in your upper body which is pretty much unchallenged when you walk.
The importance of strength
You might not want to be a bodybuilder or a weightlifter but I can assure you that strength is a very important fitness commodity that you’ll soon miss when it’s gone.
Think about this for a moment; what do you think will stop you getting out of bed or out of a chair when you get older – lack of fitness or lack of strength? What do you think will prevent you from being able to climb a single flight of stairs – lack of fitness or lack of strength? What do you think will contribute more to an increased risk of suffering a potentially serious fall – lack of fitness or lack of strength?
Lack of strength can literally rob you of your ability to live independently as you’ll need to rely on other people to help you perform everyday tasks like getting up in the morning or making it to the bathroom. Walking IS big medicine but developing a decent level of strength is every bit as important.
So does that mean you need to rush out, head to the gym and start pumping weights? Not necessarily…
Building strength without going to the gym
You see your body, as smart as it is, doesn’t know if you are lifting metal weights, pulling on barbells or pushing against cables or using a state-of-the-art workout machine – it only knows tension. So long as your muscles are exposed to sufficient tension, they will get stronger.
One of the reasons walking is so convenient is that you can do it almost anywhere and anytime and in strength training, the equivalent in terms of convenience and accessibility is bodyweight training.
Like walking, you can perform most bodyweight exercises anywhere and anytime as you require no additional equipment save a mat or towel to lie on for comfort. They require very little space, no specialist instruction, are safe for most exercisers and can easily be adapted to suit the needs of beginner, intermediate and advanced exercisers. Bodyweight exercises are a perfect partner to walking!
Bodyweight exercises are also natural, safe and despite being the epitome of low tech, are highly effective. And, like walking, there is no cost – just find some space and get to work.
How to make bodyweight exercises work for you
There are several ways you can work bodyweight exercises into your schedule…
During your walks, do a set of a few different bodyweight exercises as and when the opportunity arises. For example, every 1000 steps, pump out a set of push-ups, squats, lunges, crunches or whatever other exercise you like to perform. This option makes the most of the fact that you are out exercising already and are nicely warmed up. I look to use this option when I’m walking around my local park as park benches make ideal exercise stations.
Alternatively, pepper your working day with sets of bodyweight exercises. If, like me, you spend a lot of time sat in front of your computer, break up your work day with mini workouts. I often set an alarm on my computer that sounds every 60 minutes to remind me to get up and move. By the end of the day I end up completing a decent volume of exercise without really trying too hard.
Finally, two or three times a week, dedicate 20 to 30 minutes to performing a dedicated bodyweight exercise workout. Choose four to six exercises, perform two to four sets of each and make sure you work your upper body and lower body equally.
Whichever option you choose, bodyweight exercises can build and persevere essential strength that will make everyday tasks easier. Being just a little bit stronger means you chances of injury decrease significantly because you are less likely to be over-challenged when doing things like carrying out the garbage or moving heavy furniture.
Strength training can also help you lose weight faster – building even a little bit of additional muscle will increase your daily energy expenditure so you burn more calories even while you sleep!
Push-ups, pull-ups and squats – the golden three
There are literally hundreds of great bodyweight exercises to choose from but the “golden three” are push-ups, pull-ups and squats. Providing you include a variation of push-ups, pull-ups and squats in your workouts, you can be assured that you have worked virtually every major muscle in your body as well as a great many minor ones – talk about time efficient!
Fitness is often portrayed as complicated but, really, it doesn’t have to be. Your body is the only thing you need to get fit and be strong – you literally are your own gym! Start combining walking with bodyweight exercises to develop all-round fitness and strength that will serve you for the rest of your life.