Walking is not often regarded as a form of exercise. It’s generally considered an activity of leisure. Or a means to an end. However, studies show that brisk walking, speed walking and nordic walking have health benefits that rank alongside other forms of cardio exercises.
Brisk walking has gained popularity since the lockdown. With little else to do, people went out in their droves to get out of the house. But many have kept up with their walking routines having recognised the benefits brisk walking delivers.
Although walking has a low-entry barrier, brisk walking is a slightly different proposition. Yes, there is still a low-entry barrier in that it cost very little or nothing and you don’t need any special equipment or skills.
However, you will need to build strength and stamina – particularly if you’re not conditioned for cardiovascular exercise. We recommend easing yourself in and listening to your body.
You will also benefit from a brisk walking program if you perform strength training exercises. So we’ve listed 15 below to give you some ideas and to get you started.
Strength Exercises for Brisk Walking
The 15 exercises below are merely suggestions. We’ve also chosen functional exercises that gel seamlessly with the activity of walking. But there are loads of other strength-training exercises you can perform as well.
You can perform strength and stamina training exercises even on the days you are not out brisk walking. The best time to perform these exercises, however, is just before you start out on your work – and certainly before you start brisk walking. It is advisable to get your body warmed up and ready for action before you step up the intensity.
1. Hip Stretch
Brisk walkers rely heavily on the hips. The hip flexor muscles are responsible for explosive leg movements and come under a lot of stress when you’re walking.
If you don’t strengthen this area of your body or warm them up before breaking into a brisk walk, you increase the risk of injury. And hip flexor strain is painful. A serious tear can take up to 6 weeks to heal.
How to perform a hip stretch:
- Stand up straight and relax your shoulders. Take a stride forward with one leg and bend the knee. Keep the other foot planted firmly on the ground.
- Bend the knee on your front leg to 90 degrees and allow the foot of your other leg to rise of the ground so you come to the tips of your toes (otherwise you might pull your calf muscle).
- Push yourself slightly forward from your hips and rock gently. You should feel a mild stretch in the hip of your trailing leg. Do this five or 10 ten times.
- Step back and take two deep breaths.
- Repeat this action three more times on the same leg, then switch legs to stretch your other hip.
Recommended reps: 45 thrusts on each hip. Repeat the above exercise five times on each hip.
2. Heel-Toe Rock
The feet are made for walking but the tendons in the ankle and lower legs need to be maintained with strength exercises. The heel-toe rock aims to work the lower leg by stretching the Achilles tendon, tibia and shin. This area is responsible for flexing the foot upwards and extending the toes. This exercise also enables you to work with balance.
How to perform the heel-toe rock
- This exercise does what it says on the tin. Put one foot flat on the floor and step back slightly with the other foot.
- Pull your heel up until you feel a pull in your calf muscle. Then shift the weight onto your toes. You may feel some strain in your shin. Keep your trailing foot planted for better balance.
- Focus on making smooth, controlled movements.
- If you want to test your balance more, rock both feet at the same time.
Recommended reps: 12 to 15.
3. Double Toe Raise
An alternative to the heel-toe rock is the double-toe raise. This exercise works the same muscles but involves sitting down which eliminates the balance aspect.
How to perform the double toe raise
- Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor
- Lift the toes of one foot and place them back on the floor. Then lift the toes of the other foot.
Recommended reps: 8 to 12 times.
4. Knee Tuck
Knee tucks are a plyometric exercise that works your abs and hip flexors. Not only do they increase strength and endurance in your core, but they are also great for burning fat.
How to perform knee tucks
1. Sit on the floor or a mat and raise your knees to your chest. Place your hands slightly behind you for balance.
2. Stretch your legs out. This will push your back and elbows towards the ground.
3. Bring your legs back to your chest and out again. Do this 10-15 times then rest.
Recommended reps: Three sets.
5. Ab Twists
This may surprise you, but walking activates your core and upper body. To help keep your body stable and upright, your abdominal muscles work with the muscles in your spine.
Ab twists stimulate your obliques – the muscles on the sides of your core – and help to burn fat from the abdomen. The most popular and strenuous form of this exercise is Russian ab twists.
How to perform ab twists:
- Sit on the floor, lift your legs and bend your knees slightly. This first challenge is to maintain your balance.
- Interlock the fingers of your right hand between the fingers of your left hand and bend your elbows so you form a rectangular pattern with your arms
- Twist to the left so that your right elbow comes in line with your left knee (or beyond). Then twist the above way so that your left arm comes in line with your right knee.
- Repeat this action to the count of 20 – 10 on each side.
Recommended reps: 3 x count of 20
6. Prisoner Squats
Prisoner squats are a great conditioning tool for brisk walking because it targets the principal muscle regions you use during your exercise; quads, hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors and core.
How to perform prisoner squats
1. Clasp both hands and place them behind your head. The hands should remain clasped throughout the full range of motion so that the arms cannot generate any momentum. Trios means the torso stays in an upright position and takes some of the strain.
2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees so that your rear end sticks out. Sink into your stance by lowering your buttocks towards the ground. Ideally, you should look to sink until your knee is bent to around 75-90 degrees but only go as far as you can. You should feel a huge strain in your quads.
3. The slower you perform this exercise, the better it is for you. Imagine you are lifting a heavy weight on your shoulders.
Recommended reps: Three rounds of 12-15 squats
7. Offset Leg Squat
This exercise is similar to the prisoner squat but throws in the element of balance. It is best performed outdoors by the side of the road where you can place your foot on the raised level of the curb.
How to perform offset leg squats
- Place one foot on the curb and leave the other on the road.
- The toes of your back foot should be parallel with the instep of your raised foot.
- Taking the weight on your road foot, squat down until your knee is bent to 75-90 degrees. Hold the position for the count of three then stand straight again.
- Repeat the exercise ten times on one leg then switch to the other side
Recommended reps: 10 to 15 reps per side.
8. Lift Kick
Lift kicks stimulate your legs and glutes whilst increasing lower body and core strength. It also improves flexibility in your hamstrings. This exercise also helps with balance so you may need to perform it slowly to stay upright. However, if you can pick up speed, this exercise can burn more calories and make your heart pump faster.
How to perform offset lift kick
1. Lift your leg and bend your knee to a 90-degree angle.
2. Push your leg down and slightly behind you, pushing into your heel so that your calf tightens.
3. On the downward motion, squeeze your glutes
4. Bring your leg back up to the 90-degree angle and repeat
Recommended reps: 20 reps per side.
9. Sumo Squat
The sumo squat is an alternative squat to the traditional squat but is ideal for strengthening muscles in the glutes and quads.
How to perform sumo squats
- Stand with your feet open, wider than hip-width apart. The wider the better.
- Point your toes outwards so your feet are at a 45-degree angle from the centre of your body.
- Squat down using your knees and hips to take the weight of your upper body.
- Keep your back neutral and long, drawing the tailbone straight down to the floor each time.
- When you get as low as you can, squeeze your glutes.
Recommended reps: Three sets of 10 reps.
10. Tempo Single-Leg Deadlift
The tempo single-leg deadlift is another great exercise for the hamstrings and glutes but more challenging than the leg kick. It puts more stress on the thighs and engages your core but also requires more concentration to retain your balance. It helps to stare at a single point in front of you to help hold your focus.
How to perform sumo squats
- Stand on one leg and bend your knee slightly. Engage your core.
- Without rounding your back, bend forward slowly and move your raised leg behind you until it is outstretched.
- Slowly return you leg to the raised, bent position in front of you
- Repeat the move several times then switch legs
Recommended reps: Three sets of 5 on each leg.
11. Bench Dips
This is an exercise you can perform whilst you are out brisk walking. It can help to break up the walking and give you the opportunity to pause and take in some deep breaths. It also works the arms and shoulders so gives your legs a rest.
How to perform bench dips
- Place your hands on a park bench or log behind you. At home, you can do it on a box or low-lying chair.
- Position your feet side by side, heels on the ground and legs straight out in front of you.
- Slowly lift yourself using your hands and biceps to push upwards
- Slowly return to your starting position and repeat
Recommended reps: Three sets of 10.
Download the Sweatcoin App
Sweatcoin wants to encourage people to use technology to their benefit. Rather than using your phone to pass the time, download the sweatcoin app and use it as a motivating tool that gets you walking and exercising.
The sweatcoin app has a built-in pedometer which counts the number of steps you take each day. We also have a digital token (SWC) which you are rewarded with in return for steps. One SWC is awarded for every 1000 steps you take.
SWC can be traded for goods with over 300 online retailers – giving you exclusive access to a wide range of goods and services – all because you decided to go for a walk. Starting a brisk walking program will mean that you earn more money, faster.