Onwards and upwards with hill walking

File photo: Getty Images
File photo: Getty Images
Gary Dawkins outlines the amazing benefits of something many Dunedinites will be all too familiar with - hill walking. 

1. Strengthens and tones a wide range of leg muscles, in particular, the posterior chain - hamstrings, glutes and calves.

2. This exercise also engages your abdominals, helping to stabilise your body through a great core workout.

3. Expends significantly more calories compared to flat walking

4. Is a low-impact (good on joints) yet high-intensity exercise (good for aerobic fitness and cardiovascular health).

5. A fantastic cardio workout option for people with osteoarthritis or joint pain or who can not otherwise physically tolerate the high-impact stress from running.

How to do it?

Start slowly and small - opt for a gentler incline (gradient) until you’ve been walking uphill regularly.

Warm up before starting your hill walk by walking on the flat for 7-10 minutes.

Lean slightly into the hill - a slight lean that seeks to keep you balanced by engaging your core muscles.

Bring your arms into action to help your momentum and to expend more calories.

Stretch your calves, hamstrings, quads, and hips after your incline walks.

How much to do?

Incline walking is very scalable and approachable for all fitness levels.

If using a treadmill or outdoors, choose an incline (gradient) that enables you to sustain a consistent pace for 25-30 minutes and complete this 4-5 times per week.

Extended reading

If you feel comfortable progressing from the standard programme then you can also incorporate interval training into your hill walks. Below is a sample programme.

Here’s how to do an interval hill workout:

Walk at a comfortable pace for 5 minutes on a flat surface to warm up.

Walk uphill on a steep gradient for 2 minutes. Try your best to maintain a steady pace.

Walk down the hill comfortably and rest for 1 minute.

Repeat the pattern for 15 to 20 minutes.

If your hill-walking programme is becoming stale you can incorporate body-weight exercises into your programme.

Here’s how to incorporate body-weight exercises into your hill-walk programme:

Walk at a comfortable pace for 5 minutes on the flat to warm up.

Walk at a moderate pace up the hill for 5 minutes.

Perform a bodyweight exercise for 10 to 20 repetitions (or however many you can do with proper form).

Repeat the pattern until you have completed five body-weight exercises.