Turning a walk into a workout

Fitness Q & A

July 01, 2005|By Gailor Large | Gailor Large,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I walk my son to and from school in the morning - about three-quarters of a mile each way. How can I get more exercise out of these walks? It doesn't seem to do anything for me in terms of fitness.

While it may not feel like it, you are definitely benefiting from dropping your son off on foot. But, yes, you could be getting more cardiovascular and muscle-shaping benefits out of these walks. To kick things up a notch, try the following on your return trips:

Take the scenic route. Try a new way home, one that's either longer or hillier.

Tone your arms and raise your heart rate. Carry light weights and pump your arms (held at 90 degrees) while you walk.

Change the pace. Walk fast or even jog until you reach a certain mailbox or tree, then return to a comfortable walking speed.

Any advice for exercising on a business trip? I have all the time in the world before and after meetings, but zero desire to work out.

If motivation is your problem when traveling, morning workouts may be part of the solution. The earlier you exercise, the fewer obstacles there are to derail your workouts.

Start by finding the hotel gym and pool. If there is no workout facility, use the halls for lunges, and your hotel room for push-ups, wall squats, crunches and stretching. Running the stairs is another great in-hotel calorie-blaster.

Buying a pair of water dumbbells may also help motivate you. They are feather-light in your suitcase; you inflate them with water when you get to your destination. Finally, explore the city or town you're visiting. Whether jogging or walking, it's a great way to kill two birds with one stone.

I've stopped using the leg extension machine because I'm worried it's bad for my knees (I can feel a strain in my knee when I do it). Would adjusting the seat fix it? Where should the seat be?

The leg extension, a seated exercise that targets the quadriceps, should not be hurting your knees. Incorrect form may be the culprit here. If you are still experiencing pain after making the following adjustments, stop using the machine and have your doctor examine your knees.

To start, your knees should be aligned with the hinge, or pivot point, of the machine. To move the seat, find the adjusting knob or lever and slide until you feel it click into place where you want it.

Be sure your lower back is flat against the seat behind you, and keep your abdominal muscles tight as you lift. When you reach the top of the movement, pause before lowering, but do not lock your knees.

You can submit questions via e-mail to fitness@baltsun.com, or online at baltimoresun.com/healthscience, or in writing to The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278.

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