Although most of us focus on the calorie-burning advantages of exercise, it’s good to remember just how much good walking can really do for you. In addition to reducing cravings, supporting immunity, and bolstering brain health, it can also help improve your mood, lower anxiety and decrease depression — all of which are crucial during the holiday season.
This plan is designed for all levels and offers a suggested two-week schedule to maintain your walking habit and, therefore, your fitness. There are recommended parameters for each walk, but feel free to make adjustments to best suit your schedule and preferences. Something is always better than nothing, even if it’s 10 minutes of walking when you usually do 30 minutes.
These intensity notes, based on your individual perceived exertion and fitness level, help you gauge your RPE level. A 9–10 should feel like an RPE level that is so intense you cannot sustain it for more than a few seconds, while a 1–2 should feel like almost no RPE at all.
Very brisk, hard RPE is relative, as once you become more fit, what used to be hard feels easier, so you can continue challenging yourself by pushing harder (either for a longer duration, by increasing your intensity, or both). It’s easy to dial up your intensity by increasing your speed or amping up into a run or jog. Conversely, if you need to ease up, lengthen the steady pace or recovery window.
Build stamina and maintain your aerobic strength with this steady-state walk. After a brief 3–5 minute easy pace warmup walk, aim to maintain a brisk pace (at this effort, you should be breathing harder but still able to maintain a conversation, RPE 5–6).
Power up your walk with some time-saving intervals. Start with a 3–5 minute warmup walk, then boost your burn by alternating 2–3 minute intervals of a steady, power pace (RPE 5–6) with 30–60 seconds of a very fast pace walk (RPE 7–8). You can adjust the interval windows based on your current fitness level and any time constraints. As you build fitness, try increasing the length or intensity of the more challenging intervals (building to one minute, or adding some brief jogging, for instance) and, if you like, decrease your moderate pace/recovery time (shortening from 3 minutes to 2, for example). Be sure to give your body time to recover by spending the last 3–5 minutes at a more comfortable pace, bringing your breathing and heart rate back to a more normal state.
While all walks can offer stress-relieving benefits, it helps to have a dedicated day where you aren’t worried about time, pace or other factors. Go for a walk in a more serene environment (if you always walk along a busy street, for instance, try this walk in a park, or elsewhere in nature), listen to more relaxing music, attempt a walking meditation, or simply pay extra attention to your body, your breath and your thoughts.
EXTRA CREDIT: CROSS-TRAINING
Cross-training with workouts other than walking helps you work different muscles, maintain your fitness and become a more well-rounded athlete. It can also help prevent potential overuse injuries. Here are some recommended workouts to try:
Make progress every day while you work on fitness and nutrition goals, like walking more steps. Go to “Plans” in the MyFitnessPal app for daily coaching and easy-to-follow tasks to keep you motivated.