How running can give your walking routine a boost | CNN

 How running can give your walking routine a boost |  CNN

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Backpacking is an easy, low-impact, full-body exercise that promotes cardiovascular and muscle health.

Editor’s note: Before starting any new exercise program, consult your doctor. Stop immediately if you feel pain.


If you enjoy walking for exercise, there’s a simple way to maximize your effort – change your gait to a tuck. Bend over is walking with weight on your back, and is an increasingly popular form of exercise.

“I see people pushing through my neighborhood all the time now,” said Stew Smith, a fitness instructor and instructor for the Special Operations Training Team at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

The term “dance” comes from walking, a basic skill used by militaries around the world. One test the U.S. Army offers to recruits looking to earn their Expert Infantryman badge is a 12-mile march, or foot march, which they must complete within three hours while carrying at least 35 pounds of gear. But you can start with a lighter load and then gradually add weight as you develop your strength.

One reason for the growing popularity of burping may be that it is an easy, low-impact exercise that involves the entire body and promotes cardiovascular and muscle health. One small study conducted in September 2019 showed that 10 weeks of weighted walking and resistance training improved physical performance in men while significantly reducing their rate of perceived exertion.

Another January 2019 study found that weighted step training improved lower extremity muscle strength and functional ability in older women, suggesting that the exercise could extend their independence by about 10 years.

What’s more, it burns calories. Smith said a person burns 30% to 45% more calories with weighted walking than with walking without a backpack. A 180-pound soldier carrying 35 pounds while walking 15 minutes per mile for 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) burns 680 calories, according to the U.S. Army. Since, in general, the more you weigh, the more calories are expended during any activity, a 180-pound soldier burns calories at the rate of a 215-pound person.

“It’s a simple mathematical equation,” said Mark Stevenson, senior director of the Center for Sports Performance and Research at Mass General Brigham in Foxborough, Massachusetts..

Another bonus: Since curling is usually done outdoors, it’s also good for your mental health. “There are a lot of studies that show that the mental health benefits of being in a natural environment are huge, so if burping gives you a goal to be outside, that’s some encouragement I would use,” Stevenson said.

While burping is simple—walking with a backpack—there are several things to consider before you grab your bag and head out. First, don’t be too ambitious. As with any new exercise, you’ll need to start slow.

“Start with an empty backpack and walk the distance you’ve already traveled,” Stevenson said. “When you start adding weight to your bag, try something low, like 10% of your body weight. Adding weight will put more stress on your ankles, knees, hips and back, so do it gradually.”

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Experts say: Start slow and don’t be too ambitious when you start to falter. Use an empty backpack and cover the distance you’ve already covered.

Another option is to start with a heavy jacket instead of a backpack. This distributes the weight between the front and back. Once you get used to the vest, you can switch to the backpack. But you shouldn’t use any old packaging.

The backpack should have wide, padded shoulder straps. “Don’t put your weight in a string bag,” Smith said. “Most straps aren’t made to hold 10 or 20 pounds or more, and skinny straps will really tear up your shoulders.”

It’s also important that your bag has a waist belt, which helps reduce movement and distribute weight evenly, which should be tight across your back and not straying away from your shoulders.

He added that although it may be tempting to put canned food or dumbbells in your bag to achieve the desired weight, this is not the best idea. Heavy items should be centered in the middle of your back near the shoulder blades, not at the bottom of the bag near your lower back. Sharp items can also be uncomfortable.

Smith prefers to use a bag of sand, which you can buy at a hardware store. Ideally, the load will fill your bag evenly. Custom made fitness sandbags are also available. “Sand can build up in your back, versus metal digging into your spine,” Smith said.

If you want to take the worry out of choosing the right backpack and weights, buy a backpack specifically designed for riding. These may come with weighted plates or sandbags, as well as pockets to hold them in the proper position. Some backpacks have handles on the outside if you want to stop while you’re sitting to do some exercises, such as squatting while holding the bag above your head.

“Don’t forget your feet,” Smith said. Choose a comfortable pair of shoes with socks made of wool or another wicking material, which will help prevent blisters.

While most people can swing if they are able to walk, it is not recommended for everyone. “If you have shoulder problems, tendinitis, or stiffness, wearing a heavy backpack will only exacerbate the problem,” Stevenson said. “If I walk two miles and my knee hurts, it will hurt more if I gain weight.”

Fitness experts recommend exercising only a few times a week, not daily. It can also help to pair your exercises with lower body exercises. For example, the students Smith coaches at the U.S. Naval Academy walk twice a week, and their workouts include hopping around the track and up and down the bleachers, interspersed with lunges and squats.

But you can also walk around your area. “It’s not that complicated,” Stevenson said. “Just be smart about it. You’re looking for an activity that’s challenging but doesn’t push you past the limits. If it’s painful, it’s not good.”

Melanie Radziecki McManus Freelance writer specializing in hiking, travel and fitness.

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