If you’re new to exercise or getting back into a routine after cancer treatment, walking in place is an easy, free option for gaining strength, balance and cardiovascular health.
The health benefits of walking in place
There are many health benefits of walking in place, says Aja Battle, ACSM EP-C, EIM2, a Piedmont exercise physiologist. These include:
Increased blood circulation. “When we sit for long periods of time, we’re not getting much blood flood to our muscles,” says Battle. “Marching in place can help improve your blood circulation and the exchange of nutrients from your heart to your muscles and lungs.”
A stronger core. When you have a strong core (including your abdominal muscles, back and glutes), you’ll have better balance and decrease your risk of injuries and falls. For an added challenge during your indoor walk, Battle suggests lifting one leg for five seconds, holding it in place and carefully lowering your leg to the floor. Switch sides and repeat.
More movement in your day. The key to overall health is moving more throughout the day. Because you can walk in place anywhere—such as your living room or office—it’s a good way to break up your daily routine. “Especially with the pandemic and working from home, it can be easy to sit in the same chair all day,” she says. When you get up and get moving, you’re doing something good for your body and boosting your endorphins, the feel-good hormones your body releases during exercise.
Better cardiovascular health. When you increase your heart rate through movement, you help your heart get stronger and pump more nutrient-rich blood throughout your body, says Battle. Good cardiovascular health allows your body work more efficiently.
Help with treatment recovery. If you can’t go to the gym or do intense workouts post-cancer treatment, walking in place can make a big difference, she says. You’ll get your blood flowing and help build muscles that have been inactive.
“Walking in place is just as beneficial as walking outside,” says Battle. “You don’t have to go to the gym to be fit and active.”
How to walk in place
If you’re ready to walk in place, try these tips from Battle:
Wear shoes or go barefoot. This depends on your health, preferences and what makes you feel comfortable. If you’re walking at home on carpet and don’t have any joint or foot issues, you may be able to comfortably walk barefoot. But if you have joint pain, foot problems or want more support, wear a supportive pair of walking shoes.
Add resistance as you get stronger. You can up the intensity of your walking workouts by adding light weights or a resistance band. Battle suggests pumping your arms as you walk or pressing your arms overhead while holding light hand weights.
Make it fun. Follow a walking workout video, watch your favorite show or listen to music or a podcast while you step.
Mix up your steps. To avoid an overuse injury, mix up your walking steps. You can march in place, lift your knees, step side to side, or walk forward and back.
How often to walk in place
“Even the slightest bit of walking in place can help,” says Battle. “If you can only do five minutes, start there and increase the duration each week.”
Ideally, you want to work your way up to 150 minutes of cardiovascular activity (like walking) each week. You can do any combination that works for you: 30 minutes five days per week, 50 minutes three days per week, etc.
As you get stronger, pay attention to how hard you’re working. If you can hold a full conversation, you can amp up your pace or add some resistance.
“Make exercise fun however you can,” says Battle. “This allows you to exercise without feeling like it’s a job. When you enjoy what you do, you’ll be more consistent.”
See more fun, feel-good ways to get moving.