Holding back an eager pooch won't offer enough training for your upper body.
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Regularly walking for just 30 minutes or more per day can improve your health and your fitness level. Walking builds modest strength in your lower body, especially if you are new to exercise, but it will not build strength in your upper body. To encourage upper-body strength, you have to challenge your muscles against resistance -- pumping your arms during walking is not enough. A consistent resistance-training routine using free weights, your body weight or resistance tubing is the most effective way to train your upper body.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends doing moderate-intensity cardiovascular activity for at least 150 minutes per week. Brisk walking for 30 minutes per day, five days a week meets this minimum requirement. The CDC also recommends you train your entire body with resistance work at least two times per week. All the major muscle groups of the upper and lower body should be involved in this workout, including the back, arms, shoulders, chest, hips, legs and abdominals. Enhanced strength in the upper and lower body improves the function and health of your bones, muscles and connective tissues. It also helps build muscle, which contributes to a higher resting metabolism to help you better manage your weight. Having a strong body also increases your stamina and ability to do seemingly easy tasks such as gardening, carrying groceries or playing with your pets and kids.
Walking as Strength Training
While a speedy pace gets your heart pumping, which helps your stamina and cardiovascular health, walking doesn't provide enough resistance to markedly increase strength in your upper or lower body. To strengthen your upper body, you need to lift weights, do pushups and pullups with your body weight, dig and shovel regularly or participate in active, strength-based yoga classes. Your lower body is working during a walk, but since it is an activity your body is accustomed to, it won't even provide enough resistance to build lower-body strength unless you are very out of shape.
If you are short on time, you might be tempted to combine your walking workout with an upper-body strength routine. Carrying weights and doing biceps curls and shoulder presses offer less benefit than risk. Because your focus is split between the weights and the walk, you are more likely to trip and possibly slow down your walk so it no longer adequately challenges your heart rate. You won't be able to pay attention to your form while doing the upper-body moves, which could lead you to become sloppy and injure yourself. Walking poles are another common accessory. The poles have you move your arms more during the walk, which adds intensity, but they don't really weigh enough to build muscular strength. You may choose to use them to improve your balance and stability, enhance posture and take some of the weight off your joints, which can benefit people with joint problems.
A full-body strength-training workout can take as little as 20 to 30 minutes to complete. All you need to do to maintain health and offset the natural loss of muscle that occurs with age is one set of an exercise for every major muscle group. These sets should consist of eight to 12 repetitions using a weight -- or exercise -- that makes you feel like the last couple of reps are hard to do with good form. For the upper body, try pushups, bent-over dumbbell rows, biceps curls, triceps dips and shoulder presses. As you become stronger, you can increase the amount of weight you use or add another set or two for added benefit. To round out the workout, do squats, lunges and crunches for the lower body.