Walking is a simple, accessible, and affordable form of exercise that not only promotes physical fitness and function but can also encourage more social interaction and provide the added benefits gained by spending time in nature. But sometimes, we need to switch things up and push ourselves beyond our daily routine. Nordic walking can boost upper body strength, and research has found that walking at a faster pace can increase the health benefits of a daily hike.
According to a recent Science News report, new research out of the University of Sydney found that although 10,000 steps a day may be ideal to help lower the risk of chronic illness and early death, how fast you walk is also important to consider. For those who may be less active, walking at a moderate pace can still offer protective health benefits, including cutting the risk of dementia by about a quarter. Daily walking can also lower the risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer – a faster pace improves the benefits.
You can improve your walking speed by taking shorter strides, pushing off your toes, maintaining good posture, and bending your arms. Squeezing your glutes can also help to engage your core to help strengthen your muscles. Listening to a playlist with a faster tempo or enlisting a friend who maintains a brisk speed can help motivate walkers to pick up the pace. Or try walking at a more intense pace for short intervals of a block or two to gradually increase overall speed.
Using Nordic walking poles has also been found to help improve heart function over other training programs. Because Nordic walking also engages upper body muscles, it can help improve strength and posture as well as gait, walking capacity, speed and balance. Walking regularly helps to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, improve blood sugar control, and help people maintain a healthy weight. Walking is also associated with improved mood and a lower incidence of depression.