5 ways to boost the health benefits of walking

18 October 2018


Perfect walking partners

Discover the latest tech, walking shoes and maps to make your walks more enjoyable no matter where you wander. 

Achieve good health

The health benefits of walking are often underrated, but it’s one of the best ways to increase your activity levels, lose weight, boost your metabolism and help build your resilience.

And did you know there are simple things you can do to strengthen and tone your legs, bottom, and abdominal muscles as you go, giving even more added value to your walk?

“Whether you’re new to exercise and want to become more active, or you simply want to supplement an existing exercise routine, there are many benefits of regular walking that you may not have realised. Not only good for flexibility, joint mobility, coordination and for lifting your mood and improving your energy, it has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and certain cancers”, says David Williams, fitness expert here at AXA PPP healthcare.

What’s more, one of the best things about walking is that you don’t need any special fitness equipment - just a pair of sturdy, comfortable shoes and you’re good to go.

Walking contributes towards your 30 minutes of recommended daily physical activity. So to get the most health benefits from walking, you should do it every day, aiming to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular activity each week (walking quickly to help increase your heart rate). The duration of each bout of activity doesn’t matter, as long as you accumulate at least 150 minutes across the course of the week.

Here are our top 5 tips to increase the health benefits of your walk

1. Speed up

Walk at ‘race pace’ to get your heart rate going.

To do this, start walking and increase your pace every 30 seconds until you are just about to break into a jog – this is your maximum walking pace.

2. Bottom Lift and Leg Toner

Simply walk by taking a longer stride, just as if you are stepping over a big puddle. Aim to do this for 20 steps. The benefit of this is the increased range of movement through your hips will lift and sculpt your bottom and your thighs.

Increase the intensity of your walks

Add some extra weights to your walks and make it even more challenging by adding some Ankle Weights, available on our health store, ActivePlus. 

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3. Ankle Definer

Every time you reach a point on your walk where you see a beautiful view, stop and stand with your feet hip width distance apart so that your body is straight. Now slowly lift both heels off the floor so you rise up onto your tiptoes, hold for a second then slowly lower. Aim to do 20 of these. This will help sculpt through your ankles and lower legs and improve your balance.

4. The Tummy Toner

This simple exercise is great for toning deep into your abdominals and drawing in your waist. While walking or standing, pull your belly button in tight towards your spine and hold for 10 seconds. Use a prompt to remind yourself to keep doing this – say every time you see a certain tree, or animal, or even simply every 5th minute.

5. Formation Walking

If you are doing a group walk, then add a fun fitness challenge by walking in a line, one behind the other. The person at the back has to overtake everyone by walking faster to reach the front and keep walking faster to keep in front while the next person at the back tries to reach the front. Keep this going and it not only makes a walk fun but, most of all, encourages everyone to walk that little bit faster so you get a great work-out.

Where to go walking

Incorporating brisk walking into your life every day is important – whether it’s walking to work, the shops or taking the dog out – but, if you’re after a longer, more-scenic hike, we’ve got some suggestions for you.

10 Great British walks

Devon: The Tarka Trail
A 30 mile (48km) walking and cycling route between Braunton and Meeth in North Devon, passing through largely unspoilt countryside as it was described by Henry Williamson in his classic novel ‘Tarka the Otter’.

Cornwall: Port Isaac to Porteath
A 7km walk around rocky headlands taking in secluded coves, a folly, an abandoned village and an old mine.

South Wales: Rhossili Bay
This is a 5 mile walk along one of the finest sandy beaches in the UK – watch out for seabirds and seals.

Isle of Wight: Tennyson Trail
A 14 mile walk across the island taking in ancient burial sites, the Tennyson Memorial and the Needles. This is just one of many trails on the Isle of Wight.

Sussex: Seven Sisters from Birling Gap
This route will take you along 4 miles (6.4km) of the South Downs Way, taking in breathtaking cliff-top scenery in the Seven Sister’s Country Park.

Norfolk: Blakeney Point Coastal walk
Look out for the lifeboat house, grey seals and sea lavender on this beautiful coastal walk.

Warwickshire: The Lapworth Circuit

This 4.5 mile route takes in Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden and some beautiful stretches of the Stratford on Avon and Grand Union Canal.

Lake District
There are so many walks in this lovely area but try hiking between Great Langdale to Wasdale (9 miles, 14.4km) and go up the famous Scafell Pike.

North Yorkshire: Ingleton Waterfalls Trail

This is a 4.5 mile walk through ancient oakland and magnificent Yorkshire Dales scenery. 

Scotland: Great Glen Way
A six-stage route over 117 kms from coast to coast across the highlands. There’s a host of other good walks on Visit Scotland’s site.

For details on other walking routes in the UK, visit www.ramblers.org.uk