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Pick it up

Clients come to me for advice on the best methods to reach their fitness goals, which often includes weight loss.

When asked if they are exercising, they often explain that their aerobic activity consists of walking. We then discuss the benefits of adding resistance and flexibility training and, they are usually still on board – until we start to talk about aerobic intensity

Then, up comes the wall.



What confuses me is that if walking were such a great aerobic activity for folks wanting to lose weight, and those same folks walk all the time, why aren’t they lean and fit? The answer is intensity.

Numerous studies prove that adding intensity to your aerobic activities can:




• Burn more calories and fat by increasing metabolism.

• Improve cognitive function.

• Reduce stress hormones.

• Improve insulin sensitivity.

• Increase the amount of blood your heart can pump with each beat.

• Increase your aerobic (lung) capacity.

Walking is great, it just isn’t as great for weight loss as other activities after a few weeks. You will get more of these benefits by performing your aerobic activities with some high intensity bursts than you will at low- to moderate-intensity.

Since you have to do the exercise anyway, why not pick up the pace and get more bang for your buck?

Here are more ideas for making your work-out more intense:

Use Nordic poles or a weighted vest (better than hand weights) to give you a more intense workout throughout the walk. Nordic poles also relieve joint stress and can act as some protection from an overly aggressive animal.

Walk faster than you normally do – even if you have to shorten the total number of minutes you walk that day.

The following suggested movements are “interval” in nature – meaning that you will only perform them for short bursts of time during your regular walk.

• Elevation: Find a route with a short, steep hill or a set of stairs and power up it a few times during your routine. If you are on a treadmill, just use some elevation to simulate this.

• Sprint: Several times during your walk, significantly increase your speed (even if you need to jog or run to do this) for short periods of time (30 seconds to 3 minutes each spurt is fine).

Picture a car, power pole or tree ahead of you and you pick up your pace until you reach it, rather breathless. Then slow back down to your normal walking pace until you catch your breath, then pick another object in the distance and do it again.

n Stop and jump: Along the way, stop and perform some jumping activities like jumping jacks or pogo hops. Repeat this several times throughout the walk. These will also improve overall bone health.

• Add different movements: High-intensity movements such as skipping, side shuffling, high knees with big arm swings or walking lunges.

Research proves that increasing aerobic intensity by adding “interval” activity may be one of the most effective way – often the missing element – for weight loss

But some folks are a little intimidated to do this kind of exercise on their own, so they hire a certified personal trainer to coach them through it. The use of a simple heart rate monitor can also be helpful.

Remember, adding intensity is always relative to your current condition and will be different for everybody. And as always, if you are not currently exercising, please speak to your health care professional about your intentions before you start.

Now get out there and pick it up!

Scott Jackson, CSCS, MES, is the owner of Scott Jackson’s Real Life Fitness Personal Training Studio in Nevada City. Contact him at scott@reallifefitness.net or (530) 265-4041; or visit RealLifeFitness.net.


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