Upgrade Your Walk for a Better Cardio Workout and to Burn More Calories

cardio walking workouts Nov 04, 2019

Here's a simple tip that’ll help you upgrade your next walk, run, or treadmill session! 

You can “upgrade” your next walk by literally walking up a grade!

This counts whether you are actually walking or running outside or taking it indoors on a treadmill. 

First, let me talk a little bit about treadmills. Have you ever noticed how walking -- or even running –– on a flat treadmill is much easier than walking or running outside?   

That’s because on a treadmill, you don’t have to deal with the wind and the small changes in the earth’s surface. Plus, treadmills tend to be a lot springier and have more give than surfaces outside, making it easier to run or walk on them. 

If you want to ramp up your treadmill workout so it’s more like walking or jogging on a flat surface outdoors, you can crank the incline up just a little bit, by 1% to 1.5%. 

It’s a small change, but it will make a big difference! When I was presenting treadmills for ProForm Fitness on HSN/America's store, I commonly referred to the incline as "a girl's best friend" because it does wonder for you backside!! 

Now, let’s talk about walking or jogging up steeper inclines.

Mixing up your workout by adding some hill work in is pretty great for a couple different reasons. 

First, it’s more challenging, which means your body gets a better cardiovascular workout AND you burn more calories (if that matters to you). 

Also, depending how high the incline is, it can count as a high-intensity workout, which means you can workout for less time than you would on a flat surface.

 But besides that, you also work your muscles a LOT more by going uphill. This will help you get stronger and build better muscular endurance. 

One study that was published in a journal called Gait & Posture looked at the difference between walking on a flat surface versus walking uphill. 

Scientists had people walk on a flat surface, and then at a 9% incline, and the results were pretty amazing! 

When the study participants walked up the incline (versus on a flat surface), their calf muscle activation was boosted by 175%, their hamstrings – which is the muscle in the back of the leg – worked 635% harder, and the gluteus maximus, which is the biggest muscle in your butt, worked 345% harder! 

That’s a pretty massive difference! 

There are a couple things to know if you are walking up an incline on a treadmill. You should never set either the steepness or the speed so high that you have to hold on. 

Instead, you should be able to walk up the treadmill naturally, which requires you to lean forward a little from your ankles. 

If you have to hold on, either drop the incline or go slower. Holding on can cause all kinds of potential issues that can affect your feet and posture, plus it cuts back on the effectiveness of your workout. 

Now, if you have to hold on because you’re worried about safety due to balance issues, try to only very lightly touch the handles, so that you are not using them to “cheat” the workout. 

Here’s another point … it’s not a good idea to ALWAYS walk up an incline. 

Instead, mix it up! Ramping up your incline too much too soon, or only walking up hills, can cause issues with your hip flexors, which are the muscles in the front of your hips, connecting to the muscles in the front of your legs. 

Here’s something to keep in mind if you’re walking or running outside… 

If you haven’t been training hills in a while, and you decide to go a little wild and attack several hills in one day … be aware that walking DOWN hill is actually what can cause some of the major muscle soreness the next day! 

So proceed with caution if that’s something you plan on doing! I suggest taking your time and getting used to walking up and down hills over at least a few weeks, so you don’t end up shuffling the next day because you’re so sore. 

I hope this helps you take your walking and running workouts to the next level! 

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