For millions of us, taking daily outdoor exercise has been a lifeline. This not only improves your fitness, it’s vital for mental health and improves your mood too. That said, the same local walks at roughly the same time each day can start to get dull. This page gives you quick tips to improve your lockdown walk. By keeping them fresh, you’ll be fitter, healthier, and more positive – ready for when the social distancing rules are finally over.
The great thing about these tips is that you can pick and choose. In fact, varying which ones you pick each time will go a long way to keeping your motivation for that daily exercise high.
Daily exercise does not need to start with the first step down your garden path. Warm-ups can burn calories and get your muscles ready for a vigorous walk. Depending on your age and fitness level, this could be stretching (similar to what runners do to warm up), cardio (try some burpees or squats) or even a couple of climbs of your stairs.
When you return, some gentle stretching, or a quick body weight routine can improve your fitness that little bit more. Do it every day, and the benefits will add up.
Most of us choose the local park for a walk, though finding a hill can very your lockdown walk – even if this is not the most scenic route. Walking up a hill will burn more calories and give you a better cardio workout than a level walk. If your local area is flat, then some steps or stairs can perform a similar role.
If you are anything like me, your feet might ‘decide’ to walk the usual way before your head even gets a choice. Making a conscious effort to switch your route every couple of days, or even reverse it completely, can make a big difference. Changes as simple as walking on a different side of the street, can change the scenery.
Walking with poles has some extra benefits. They force you to use your arms, adding upper body exercise to your walk. It might look a little over the top using trekking poles to walk down your street – but once you feel the benefits, it won’t matter. Millions of people enjoy Nordic walking as a regular part of their routine, and for great reasons.
Nothing in the lockdown exercise guidelines says that your daily walk needs to be at a steady pace. Your walk could be faster all the way through, switched up with intervals, or you could even break into a jog. If your fitness level is on the lower side, short brisk bursts are a great way to start varying the pace.
If there is a convenient bench, or private corner of your local park, then consider stopping for some body weight exercise half way though. Some quick squats, push-ups (using that bench if needed) or even something as simple as touching your toes is quick and easy. Not only will this vary your walk, it will add to your overall fitness level.
Combining your walking pace with the intensity / speed of music works for some people. For many of us, the world of podcasts or audio books makes a walk more interesting. You might even be tempted to maximize the length of your lockdown walk (within the rules of course!), to finish a chapter or interesting debate.
Smart watches are mainstream enough that you can find ‘knock-off’ Chinese brands for less than £20 these days. Even the known brands won’t break the bank. They track your steps, calories burned and (in some cases) your heart rate. Go advanced and you can find watches that synch with apps, so you can share your walk with loved ones via the software or social media. A simple pedometer / step counter will let you track your improvement, every day.
Holding a weight while you walk helps tone those arms and will burn more calories than just walking. A word of warning here that weights can feel heavy quickly. You need to start with smaller weights and have an alternative way to carry them should your arms or wrists get tired. 1 or 2lb weights are best to start. Alternatively, you could go ‘army style’ and add some books to your backpack.
There is no need to restrict your exercise to a single daily walk. Home fitness equipment that can be used while you watch TV includes mini-bike exercisers. If you are working at home, then a walking desk treadmill will do wonders for your health. Something as simple as a fold-away exercise bike can give you an effective cardio workout without cluttering up your home.
The best time to start home fitness was years ago… the second-best time is right now.
I’ll leave on a positive note. The lockdown will be over soon enough. The work we put in now to stay physically and mentally healthy will pay dividends down the line. If we use it to kick-start a healthier lifestyle, the benefits of a simple daily walk can compound over the years.
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