If you’ve ever been on a walking path at a local park, you may have noticed various fitness stations along the route. These fitness circuits have been around for a few decades for a reason: They work! Adding strength-based moves to a walk ups the ante and could help improve your overall fitness in a shorter time.
With the current pandemic concerns, however, many of these fitness stations are closed or you might simply feel leery of sharing a pullup bar with your fellow park-goers. Luckily, you don’t need a park with a full fitness station to reap the benefits of this kind of mixed workout.
Add these easy, bodyweight exercises to your current walk. They don’t require any equipment, won’t get your hands dirty and (generally) won’t garner too much unwanted attention from passersby. You can do these exercises once throughout your workout, or repeat them for 2–3 sets over the course of a walk.
If you’re sensitive about feeling silly, the walking lunge is a subtle strength-training exercise you can do as you’re walking (without turning heads). Rather than taking a normal step forward, take a big step forward and, with your hands on your hips (or out to your sides for balance), lower yourself into a lunge by bending both knees. Your back knee should lightly graze the ground or hover just above it. Push through your feet to press back up, then take a big step forward with your other foot, and repeat the lunge process. Perform about 10 reps on each side.
Level up: A weighted vest or a pack can be helpful here (and with many of the other movements), so if you’re hoping to make exercises harder without adding a speed/cardio element, consider looking into different vest options. There are plenty of subtle weighted vests that can be worn under a coat or T-shirt if you don’t want to call attention to it.
This might seem like a boring stand-in-place posture, but the mountain pose is a great precursor to pushups and planks. Start by standing with your feet about hip-distance apart and arms straight down by your sides. Pull your shoulders back and down, and focus on maintaining a tall, upright posture from your feet to the crown of your head (imagine your grandmother poking you in the back and telling you to stand up straight). For most people, this alone feels challenging, especially for those of us who are on computers all day. From here, keep your gaze fixed straight ahead, activate your core (pretend you’re about to have a dog jump up on you and you’re bracing for it) and engage your quads and glutes. This should feel like you’re doing a lot of work just to stay still! Hold for 30 seconds, then release.
Level up: Turn it into a full sun salutation by sweeping your arms up, then swan-diving them forward while folding at the hips, coming into a forward fold. From there, you can come back up to a stand, or walk your hands out to a plank position (if you’re OK touching the ground). From there, hold that plank for a few breaths, then walk your hands back to meet your feet in a forward fold, and slowly come up to a stand.
If you’ve always wanted to get better at pushups but struggle to properly execute the standard version, try elevating your hands. This version is perfect for a walk since you can use a tree or a fence to brace yourself. Focus on activating your core and really using your upper body to lower yourself down and push back up. (If it helps, pretend you’re pushing and pulling through quicksand. This should feel hard, even if you’re standing almost completely upright.) Aim for a set of 10 reps to get started.
Level up: As you get stronger, start to use lower objects to brace against, like a park bench rather than a tree. The closer you get to the ground, the more challenging this move becomes until you’re doing a full-fledged pushup.
Arguably the most subtle of exercises to include on a walk, calf raises are a simple way to work your ankle mobility while building your calf muscles. Find a stable, level surface and slowly rise up onto your toes, then slowly lower back down. Think about that mountain pose and activate your core while you’re doing these for maximum impact. Aim for roughly 15 reps, staying slow and controlled, rather than bouncing on your toes.
Level up: Find a stair or curb to do calf raises on, putting the ball of your foot on the stair and allowing your heel to drop below the stair’s level as you come down from the calf raise. This allows you to get into a deeper ankle stretch while also working your calves a bit more intensely.
CLICK TO TWEET THIS ARTICLE > Turn your walk into a full-body workout without a single piece of equipment. via @myfitnesspal #myfitnesspal
Get your heart rate up by adding some jumps to your workout. The nice thing about jump rope — or in this case, pretending to jump rope — is it’s a very small movement, so most people won’t even notice you’re doing it. Pretend you’re jumping rope and bounce on your toes, jumping only an inch or so off of the ground for every repetition. You can add the small wrist movement (like the twirl of the rope) as well, which helps anyone who works on a computer all day and deals with wrist tightness. Aim for 50 reps.
Level up: Actually bring a jump rope with you on your next walk and pause to use it. (You can also get rope-less jump ropes so you get the wrist movement and can practice jumping rope without getting tangled up.)
To improve balance and hip stability, tree pose is a simple yoga pose you can do anywhere. Most people picture this pose and think they can’t do it, but it’s not limited to tucking your foot up near your groin. You can also do a proper tree pose with your foot resting on your ankle or calf, not all the way up your leg. The goal is to balance on one foot, then bring the other up to rest on that ankle or calf while opening your knee to the side. It’s harder to keep your knee open as you go higher, so stay low and make sure your knee is tracking out to the side, not in front of you. Hold for around 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Level up: Mix up your arm movements — get silly with it and do the YMCA if you’re feeling bold, but any kind of arm movement will add more challenge to your balance.
A flight of stairs can help boost your glutes and quads while adding yet another cardio element to your walk. Most walkers will try to avoid hills and stairs, but learn to embrace them, since they challenge muscles that are rarely used when you get out for a walk. Try to add some spring to your step and speed up the steps as fast as possible. If you’re up for it, walk back down and do another set or two. Build up to where you’re spending 60–90 seconds going up the stairs.
As you can see, going on a walk doesn’t just have to mean walking. Get creative with what you have, even if it’s only your body. If the myriad benefits of adding strength training to your exercise routine doesn’t appeal to you, think of it as a way to avoid boredom and hitting a plateau.
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.