Walking is a great fitness option as it has a low impact on your body, is cheap
to do (all you need is a pair of good walking shoes and boots and maybe a waterproof
jacket) and highly accessible (you can do it anywhere, anytime).
Walking is a great way to help get you fitter and healthier.
Walking might seem to be an easy fitness option as it is something most of us do
a fair bit of every day. But walking can be an incredibly intense activity, while
it is less stressful on the body than many other forms of exercise.
Walking is a particularly good exercise choice if you consider yourself to be very
unfit or have not exercised regularly of late – though it might be worth a visit
to your doctor before embarking on any sustained fitness regime.
Different types of walking offer different benefits – mainly because of the intensity
with which they are conducted. And the terrain you chose to walk on is also extremely
important as uphill walking is more demanding than it is on a flat surface while
heavy ground will be tougher going than hard surfaces like roads, paths and trails.
The main types of walking are Continuous, Interval, Hill and Fartlek.
Continuous walking is the most popular type of walking training since it demands
an even pace over a sustained period – though it can be done at different intensities,
which range from Leisure walking (the slowest type), through to Steady walking (slightly
faster than Leisure Walking), to Brisk walking (faster still) and on to Power Walking
(the quickest sustained pace you can manage just short of jogging).
Interval walking is similar to many running training plans in that it consists of
a short period of powerful activity followed by a less intense phase, followed by
another powerful burst and then more of a rest stage and so on (the process being
repeated perhaps ten times). In practice, this might involve an easy pace for 400metres
followed by a much brisk pace for 400m, then an easy pace again for 400m followed
by another 400m of brisk walking.
As the name suggests, Hill walking is one of the most intense forms of walking since
it involves going up and down hills, sometimes over a long distance. Consequently,
Hill walking is far more demanding than most other forms of walking (especially
if done in high country that can be both rugged and remote) and requires high levels
of stamina together with considerable pre-planning. It is not something beginners
The Fartlek is an intense form of activity that was invented by the Swedish training
expert Gösta Holmér in the 1930s. Fartlek sessions are composed of sections of differing
intensity. A typical session might start with an easy, warm-up walk of five minutes,
followed by a more steady walk of perhaps 15 minutes, followed by a shorter recovery
phase (such as a five minute walk at a slightly less intense pace), then a “speed
work” section composed of easy walking interspersed with quicker bursts, another
session of easy walking follows this time with three or four quick steps worked
in at regular intervals, ideally this is followed by an uphill walk at fast pace
(or a very quick walk), with the session being concluded by a short very fast walk.
It’s a great idea to focus your walking training on an event. That way you will
have a specific day to aim for, which can help to keep you motivated.
See the Challenge Yourself section for more details on walking events you could enter.