Walking is a simple and affordable way to stay fit during the pandemic — but it can be boring! While many gyms have reopened, infectious disease experts say they are still high-risk venues for transmission of the virus. According to the HuffPost, Dr. Kelly Cawcutt, the associate director of infection control at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said she was concerned about crowded classes or gyms where the air flow is poor.
“Exercise increases the frequency and depth of breathing, so there is potential impact of increased aerosols at this time,” she said to HuffPost. Aerosols are the small particles people exhale when they breathe or talk that could contain the virus. “Masks would be ideal, but we also know those can be difficult to wear during exercise and may not be mandated.”
Regular brisk walks can be the antidote to COVID-19 blues and can also help lower cholesterol, control blood sugar, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
To make your walking routine effective and interesting, it is important to mix up your moves so you stay motivated. Here are some tips:
- Add strength training to your walk. Certified fitness instructor Michele Stanten suggests using a resistant band and stretching it in front of you to work chest, arm, and shoulder muscles as you walk.
- Try interval training. Liven up your walk by including bursts of speed to boost cardiovascular fitness, Stanten tells Harvard Health. “You speed up, push your intensity, recover, and then pick up the pace again,” she says. You can time the intervals or use landmarks to count your moves. For example, walk very briskly for two houses, slow down to recover for four houses, and then repeat.
- Add stairs to your route. If you can, find a short flight of stairs along the way to challenge your gluteal muscles and abdominals, suggests Leslie Sansone, producer of the “Walk at Home” workouts. She tells Prevention that even short bursts of quick climbing for 15 seconds can boost calorie burning.
- Make sure you cool down. Proper stretching is vital to reduce muscle tension and speed recovery after your walk, according to Prevention. Reach your arms overhead and slowly forward bend. Then, stretch your calf muscles and hamstrings by holding on to the toe of each foot and gently pulling upward. An easy quad stretch is bringing the heel of one foot to your butt and holding the top of the foot gently with the same hand to feel a slight pull on the muscle. If balance is an issue, hold on to a wall or fence post as you stretch.