Walking is a great form of aerobic exercise, allowing you to get your heart rate up while strengthening your legs, reducing the risk of diseases, and decreasing stress and anxiety.
In this article, we will discuss the benefits of long distance walking and tips for walking a long distance to maximize the effectiveness of your workout without struggling to get through your long walk.
We will cover:
- What Is Long Distance Walking?
- Benefits of Long Distance Walking
- 11 Tips for Walking A Long Distance
Let’s dive in!
What Is Long Distance Walking?
Before we dive more specifically into the benefits of long distance walking and tips for walking long distances, it is probably helpful to establish what constitutes long distance walking.
There isn’t a formal definition or criteria that must be satisfied for a walk to be considered a “long distance walk“ versus a short distance walk.
In other words, there isn’t some pre-established number of miles or minutes of walking that differentiates long distance walking from any other walking workouts.
Rather, for the purposes of the advice given in this article, long distance walking can be considered on a relative basis.
For example, if you normally walk 2 to 3 miles per day, a 5-mile walk might be considered a long distance walk for you. On the other hand, if you habitually walk five or six miles every day, long distance walking will likely be closer to 8 to 10 miles or more per day.
In general, walking more than two hours at a time, or at least 6 miles or 10 kilometers can likely be considered long distance walking, and avid hikers may not consider that you are walking a long distance until your walks are at least 10 miles long.
Benefits of Long Distance Walking
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are numerous benefits of long distance walking, including the following:
- Improving cardiovascular fitness and health
- Increasing muscular endurance
- Preventing and helping to manage chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, obesity, and type 2 diabetes
- Helping burn calories to maintain a healthy weight and lose excess body fat
- Bolstering the immune system and overall health
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Improving mood, increasing energy levels, boosting self-esteem, and improving the quality of sleep
Studies have found that long distance running is excellent for your mental well-being.
11 Tips for Walking A Long Distance
Here are some tips for long distance walking workouts:
#1: Build Up Gradually
If you haven’t been walking long distances, build up slowly. Gradually increase the length of your longest walk per week by 10 minutes or one mile, depending on your fitness level.
#2: Don’t Neglect Fueling and Hydration
Consider carrying a hydration pack so that you have plenty of fluids and an easy place to store walking snacks.
Good snacks for long walks include trail mix, dried or fresh fruit, energy bars, fig newtons, turkey jerky, nuts, and nut butter sandwiches.
#3: Pre-Plan Your Routes
Knowing where you are going to walk will help ensure you have a safe route. You might want to pre-plan bathroom stops if you are walking in an urban environment.
Try to walk where there are sidewalks, trails, or walking paths away from vehicular traffic.
Keep your routes varied if you tend to get bored.
#4: Walk With a Buddy
Walking with a friend will help long distance walks go by more quickly.
Having someone to talk to will pass the time as you stride along together mile after mile. If you don’t have a friend or family member to walk with, you can walk with your dog, giving your canine loved one a good workout as you exercise yourself.
#5: Use a Pedometer or Walking App
A pedometer, walking app, or fitness watch can be a great way to keep track of the distance that you walk, which can boost motivation.
Additionally, a heart rate monitor will give you insight into the intensity of your long walking workouts, as well as the number of calories you burn.
#6: Listen to Podcasts or Music
If you are going to be doing a lot of long distance walking, you might want some form of entertainment to help pass the time and keep you company if you are walking alone.
Podcasts, audiobooks, or motivating music can be a welcome distraction. Plus, if you listen to something educational or call a friend or consult with business associates on the phone while you walk, you can multitask and learn or get work and socializing in as you get your workout done.
#7: Wear Proper Footwear
One of the most important tips for walking long distances is to wear proper footwear. You can wear walking shoes or running shoes, depending on your biomechanical needs and preferences.
Make sure that the shoes are comfortable yet supportive.
#8: Dress In Layers
When you are walking a long distance, you will be outdoors or on the treadmill for a long time. You are likely to overheat if you are dressed in warm clothing that you cannot remove.
Wearing light layers will allow you to strip off outer layers as your temperature changes so that you stay comfortable throughout the duration of your walk.
#9: Focus On Recovery
When you are walking long distances, you are taxing your musculoskeletal system because you are weight-bearing for several hours. Even though walking isn’t as intense as running, it is still important to focus on recovery.
After your long distance walks, do some gentle stretching and foam rolling to help your muscles cool down and maintain the full range of motion.
Another important aspect of recovery is taking days off. You should have at least one rest day per week to allow your body to fully recover.
#10: Cross Train
Other forms of cardio exercise can help improve your cardiovascular fitness and endurance for long distance walking, including running, elliptical machines, stair climbing, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, rowing, or cycling.
You can also do incline walking on a treadmill. This is an excellent way to prepare for hiking, in particular, because it will simultaneously build your muscles for climbing mountains and steep slopes.
#11: Strength Train
It’s probably no surprise that if you are looking into how to prepare for long distance walking, you will encounter a bevy of lower-body exercises to strengthen your legs.
Depending on where you are in your fitness journey and how long you have to train for hiking, you can begin with bodyweight leg exercises and then progress to adding weight as your strength increases.
As you get stronger, not only can you increase the weight that you use and the number of reps and sets that you perform per exercise, but you can also add elements of instability and/or wear a weighted vest during your hiking strength training workouts.
The core muscles are often neglected in training plans for walkers, wherein the emphasis tends to be primarily on the legs.
Although it is undeniable that you do need to strengthen all of the muscles in your lower body, it is equally important to focus on core strength and activation.
The best core exercises to do when training for long distance walking are anti-rotation exercises. The function of the core is to be a stable base of support for your moving limbs.
Therefore, you want to do functional core exercises that condition your core muscles to be stable despite your legs and arms pulling in opposing directions as you walk.
Examples of good anti-rotation exercises for distance walking include forearm planks, high planks, side planks, planks with forward reaches, up-down planks, Pallof presses, bird-dog on your hands and knees, and dying bugs on your back.
Many hikers choose to use hiking poles for added stability. Hiking or walking long distances with poles also can increase caloric expenditure because it requires you to engage your upper body more vigorously.
If you are going to walk with poles, it makes sense to incorporate upper body exercises into your walking strength training workouts.
You will likely encounter some pretty steep climbs when doing long distance walking, and especially if you are wearing a pack, the exercise will be even more demanding.
Exercises like burpees, jump squats, box jumps, med ball slams, alternating jumping lunges, and even resistance sprints like sled pulls and parachute runs can help you develop power, explosive strength, and anaerobic endurance so that you can walk at a brisk pace and uphill without fatiguing.
This type of training for walking long distances does not need to constitute a significant portion of your walking training plan, but it will help you improve your fitness and be all the more ready to take on long walks over challenging terrain.
For some bodyweight strength training exercises to get started, check out one of our routines you can do from the comfort of your own home: 12 Bodyweight Exercises, No Equipment Required.