Spice Up Your Walk

How to Spice up Your Walking Routine

By: CPR Physical Therapy + Performance Co-founder & Partner: Julie Ellis PT, dipACLM

Walking is the easiest and quickest access to exercise and can be enjoyed by all ages. This article will address the best tools to spice up your walking regimen, improve your brain function, increase agility, strength and balance while enjoying your daily walk. Neuroscience research proves that you can strengthen the connections in your brain that focus on memory, attention, cognition and learning after just 15 minutes of low intensity physical activity (LIPA).  The American College of Lifestyle Medicine recommends balance, agility and strength training to lessen our chances of developing chronic conditions that decreases our quality of life while ageing.

 Aerobic Fitness is an indicator of longer life expectancy. Donald Hensrud, MD former director of Mayo Clinic Health Living Program states “If we had a pill that accomplished everything that physical activity does for overall health, we would prescribe it for everyone.” Hensrud adds “Cardiovascular fitness is one of the best indicators of long-term health and overall mortality. The higher your aerobic level, the more oxygen your heart and muscles are able to utilize.”

Walking pace is a great measure of fitness. A 2019 study of nearly 475,000 people in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that those who walk more briskly have longer life expectancies.


MEN                                                                        WOMEN

Excellent                                                                  Excellent

50-60 yrs old less than 13:24                                     50-60 years old less than 14:42

60-70 yrs old less than 14:06                                     60-70 years old less than  15:06


Poor                                                                        Poor

50-60 yrs old more than 16:30                                  50-60 yrs old more than 18:06                                            

60-70 yrs old more than 17:18                                  60-70 yrs old more than 19:12


The world record for the one mile walk is held by Tom Bosworth who walked a 5.31.08 mile in the London Olympics.

Julie, Physical Therapist, jogging with her dogIncorporate at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise into your week. Walking, running, cycling, dancing and fitness classes are a few of the options. What counts is elevating your pulse to between 60 and 70 percent of your maximal heart rate (MHR) and keeping it there for the entire session. Roughly that means exercising hard enough that you can carry on a conversation, but with difficulty. Alternatively, get yourself a heart rate monitor. To find your MHR subtract your age from 220. For example if you are 60, your MHR would be 160 (220-60). That means you would need to keep your pulse between 96 and 112 beats per minute. This measurement will change if you are on a beta blocker or other medicine so seek the advice of a professional. Generally, the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) is a very reliable measure of how hard to work. RPE on the BORG scale and can be found under the Center of Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. The BORG scale is ranked from 6-20 with 6 meaning “no exertion at all” to 20 meaning “maximal exertion”. The BORG scale recommends exercising at a level of 12-14 during your session. For more information the BORG scale is well described on the CDC website.

If you have a musculoskeletal condition such as knee, hip or low back pain that interferes with your ability to walk briskly please take advantage of our free lower extremity screen at CPR to determine the best treatment. Call 208-734-5313 and schedule your free 15 minute consult today.

Neuroscientists also recommend dual tasking as a way to relax and stimulate brain function. Dual tasking is the process of doing a physical activity -such as walking, stationary bike or running and combining it with singing, brain games or another thinking task. Multi-tasking on the other hand is not good for our brain and causes stress. Multi-tasking occurs when we try to concentrate on 2 things in the same moment.

So how do we incorporate brain exercises into our walking? First walk for 10 to 15 minutes to get circulation from the heart to the vessels in the brain. When the brain has adequate circulation is the best time to stimulate the different lobes of the brain and this is where the brain game comes in. A brain game is something you can do without use of paper/pen. One of my favorite games is to use the alphabet and alternate people/place/thing. Each day choose a different game.


For example let’s alternate female names with cities in Europe.




D=Dublin -then continue until letter Z


Or let’s do American cities/fruit




D=Date- then continue until letter Z


Or let’s countdown from 100 and alternate a town in Idaho




D=Declo then continue to letter Z


The challenge is to do the brain game quickly and as fast as possible. This makes the neurons in the brain fire and strengthen connections. When you participate in a brain game and have to think quickly with focus you will notice many other benefits. When you are focusing on a mental task you cannot spend that time worrying or being anxious. Navy Seals and survivalists are taught that when you engage your brain you will be less likely to panic or become anxious because our brains are busy doing another task. If you are in a situation where you are needlessly worried or anxious about something try a brain game instead.

Other ways to spice up your walk is to train your brain and kinesthetic awareness by adding agility drills. Kinesthetic awareness is defined as “knowledge of one’s body parts and their relative positions.” This is a sensorimotor skill that can be trained and improved with practice.

Agility drills includes skipping, walking back wards or side shuffling to mix up muscle groups and add quick movements to your walking.Strength Training

Now let’s also discuss adding balance drills to your walking regimen. This consists of walking a straight line heel to toe or stopping to balance on one leg while moving your head right and left. The American College of Lifestyle Medicine recommends working on balance at least 20 minutes per week. Balance activity can be added in small increments throughout the day. When waiting for something to cook stand on one leg and try closing your eyes. In the January Blog Marc Lambert DPT did and excellent job of describing all balance systems so for an indepth review read his dialog.

Ideas for including strength training into your walk can be easy. Stop for 30 seconds and do 10 body weight squats or lunges. Or find a set of steps or a low wall and step up and down on the wall or step 20 times on each leg. Consider adding pushups on a park bench or a plank position for core strength.

If you have questions about any of the information in this article take advantage of your Physical Therapy Team at CPR Physical Therapy and Performance. We are here to help you reach your highest functional level and gain success with your health! 

Happy Trails!