Wellness - Jul 19, 2022

Maximize Your Walking Workouts with Cardio & Bodyweight Exercises

Vicki McGrath

Outdoor walking makes for an enjoyable workout—it’s a great stress-reliever, it can be social, and you can do it just about anywhere. It’s also a typical starting point when people are kicking off their fitness efforts. 

Unfortunately, walking alone isn’t enough to help you reach other important fitness goals, such as increased muscle strength, flexibility, and bone density. Plus, if you’re aiming to walk longer, walk with more energy, or climb hills with greater ease, you’ll need to balance those walking workouts with additional activities that amplify your ability to reach those goals.  

Below, we’ve shared fitness activities you can do here at the PJCC to superpower the strength of your stepping—as well as your overall fitness. Add them into your routine, and you’ll surely notice the benefits.   

The Starting Line: A Personal Self-Assessment 

In order to keep track of your improvement and build on your efforts, it’s important to know your starting point. To begin, assess your current perceived rate of exertion on a typical walk. Ask yourself: On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 feeling like you’re sitting on the couch, and 10 being completely exhausted), how do you feel after your standard outdoor walk? Most people will be at about a 5: neither totally relaxed nor winded and worn down.   

If that’s the case for you, it’s time for a challenge! Start by increasing the length of your walks. For example, if you currently walk for 30 minutes at a time, try stretching things out to forty minutes. As you progress, add time until you reach an hour.  

During these longer walks, use the following measures to help you determine what you need to work on in order to amp up your progress: 

  1. Try out a “talk test.” If you’re still able to talk without losing your breath, push yourself to walk at a brisker pace.  
  2. Take note of what makes you feel like you need to stop or slow down. On that scale of 1 to 10, what’s your perceived rate of exertion? Are you feeling out of breath? Did your muscles tire out? 
  3. If you wear a fitness tracker or a heart rate monitor, observe your heart rate at various points in the walk.  

To make the most of this data, you’ll need to know your maximum heart rate and target heart rate.  

To calculate your maximum heart rate, start at 220 beats per minute (BPM) and subtract your age. Your target heart rate during moderate-intensity exercise (such as a fitness-focused walk) should be 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate; for vigorous exercise, it’s at 70-85 percent of your max heart rate. 

Let’s put some numbers to that. For example, if you’re 50 years old:  

  • Maximum heart rate: 170 bpm (220-50) 
  • Target heart rate, moderate exercise: 85 to 119 bpm (170 x .5 and 170 x .7) 
  • Target heart rate, vigorous exercise: 119 to 144-145 bpm (170 x .7 and 170 x .85) 

 By paying attention to these important factors, you can make your walking regimen an even more vital part of your overall fitness endeavors.  

Eleven Exercises to Power Up Your Walking Workouts 

To increase the “bang for your buck” you get out of your walking workouts, focus on activities that emphasize endurance, elevation, and distance. (PS: these activities are great to include in any workout regimen!) 

Cardio Machines 

1. Interval training on the free-motion treadmill provides you with a great walk in the hills… without leaving the gym. After a brief warmup, increase the elevation. Start at a slower pace than your standard walk or jog. Pay attention to your heart rate, as well as your breathing. Complete a pattern of 8 minutes at 8 on your perceived rate of exertion scale (1- 10), and then reduce it down for 2 minutes at a 5 on the PRE scale. Repeat this 3 to 4 times.   

The elliptical machine is also a great all-in-one machine for working on endurance and elevation. Complete a series of intervals using the Workout Library under Weight Loss, choose the 4-3 Interval, Aerobic, or Fat burner for interesting and challenging workouts. To maximize your efforts, use the ellipticals with moving arms, or swing your arms if you’re using the ellipticals with handlebars.   

Nothing “gears you up” for increased endurance quite like cycling! Crank up your high-energy playlist and put the pedal to the metal on our eSpinners, an Expresso Bike, or one of our two new Peloton cycles. Or join us for one of our outdoor cycling classes—enjoy the fresh air, camaraderie, and upbeat leadership of our fantastic instructors. 

The Versaclimber, Stairclimber, and Rotating Stairs are perfect for working on elevation gain. A workout on these machines really gets your leg muscles (and your heart rate) going. Be sure to keep your core engaged as you climb.  

Mat Exercises 

Walking engages your core as well as your legs. So, grab a mat for some floor exercises that work all these important muscles!  

When it comes to core exercises, crunches are probably the first activity that comes to mind. To take those crunches to the next level, complete them while using a physio ball (stability ball). This causes you to engage your core as well as your legs—and, you have the added challenge of maintaining your balance as you work to keep your body stable on the ball while completing the exercise. 

Planks protect your spine, strengthen your back, and help improve your posture—all important for your physical fitness. Hold each plank for a minute. Need some tips? Watch our video on proper plank technique. To add even more power to your plank, add a toe tap as you alternate legs.  

Lunges improve your balance and stability—and when you add movement, you also work on your coordination. Complete two sets of ten lunges. Here’s our how-to video for effective lunge technique. 

Stepping exercises such as box steps and side-to-side steps increase your agility and coordination.

Box Steps: pretend you are side stepping in and out of a box that is 12 inches high.

Side-to-Side Steps: Think Steph Curry defending the basket with these side-to-side steps. Keep your arms open and then step side to side. Try a variation with a resistance band: repeat the above with the band placed around your thighs. 

As you focus on endurance, elevation, and distance, you’ll make those outdoor walks even more enjoyable… and beneficial! 

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