Has walking become your new workout? Since fitness facilities are closed, we need to get a little more creative with how to stay physically active during stay-at-home orders. For many, walking has become a new escape from life indoors, and even a main form of exercise.

Fresh-air aerobics is beneficial for the mind and body, as it’s linked with improved cardiac health, a boost in feel-good endorphins from vitamin D, reduced inflammation, better bone density, decreased blood sugar, and a clearer, calmer mental state. More than ever, these outdoor elements are essential to our well-being. But how can we make this already worthwhile workout even more effective?

The next time you lace up your sneakers for a stroll, try these three simple steps to crank up your cardio:

Fix your form. Just because walking has been a part of your life since you were a toddler, that doesn’t mean you’re performing the movement correctly for maximum benefits. There are a number of structural deviations that can occur while walking, such as an overly tilted torso, rounded shoulders, or a subpar stride.

Here are the top checkpoints to keep in mind for better, safer form:

  • When stepping, roll from heel to toe.
  • Pump your arms for momentum. The speed of your arms will influence how fast your feet move.
  • Focus your gaze toward the horizon to prevent hunching forward.
  • Stick with a shorter stride to decrease impact on joints.
  • Maintain alignment of your upper body with ears over collarbone and shoulders over hips.

Add intervals. Variations in speed and incline are an easy way to not only spice up your steps, but also increase your heart strength and lung endurance. Try alternating walking at an easy pace with one-minute bursts of jogging, or find a local trail in which you can amp up your elevation and fine-tune your balance skills. These minor tweaks in your time spent trekking can amp up your caloric expenditure, muscle definition, and balance, and ward off any boredom that may come from the same old walking routine.

Mix in a new move. Your neighborhood can be the ultimate workout space. You just need to know where to look. Transform a curb into a stepper, or a ledge into a place to perform an incline push-up. By breaking up your walk with strength-training moves, you’re stimulating and encouraging your body to grow in new ways.

Try these easy-to-implement ideas on your next walk:

Foot taps on the curb: Tap your right foot against the edge of a curb, then quickly switch feet; continue alternating your feet for 30 seconds.

Incline push-ups on a bench or railing: Start in a high plank position with your hands placed on a bench. Lower your body down toward the bench until your chest hovers a few inches above it. Hold for a count, then push through your hands to return to the starting position. Do as many push-ups as you can in 30 seconds.

Ashley demonstrates an incline push-up in this 2017 photo.
Ashley Greenblatt
Ashley demonstrates an incline push-up in this 2017 photo.

Jumping jacks: Every time you come to a stop sign, do 25 jumping jacks.

Step-ups on your front step: Place your right foot on the step and swing your left leg up so your knee is bent at 90 degrees. Protect your knees by pushing through your heel with each repetition. Hold this position until you feel balanced then continue for 10 reps in total. Repeat on the opposite leg.

Ashley demonstrates a step up in this 2017 photo.
Ashley Greenblatt
Ashley demonstrates a step up in this 2017 photo.

Creativity is key in keeping fitness fun.

Ashley Blake Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach in South Jersey. To learn more about her virtual training program, go to ashleyblakefitness.com.