The Surprising Ways Walking Delivers a High-Intensity Workout
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The Surprising Ways Walking Delivers a High-Intensity Workout

Speed up those steps to boost longevity and burn more calories

By JEN MURPHY
Mon, Mar 6, 2023 8:23amGrey Clock 4 min

Intensifying your fitness routine could come from the simplest change possible: how you put one foot in front of the other.

Walking with more intensity can burn as many calories as higher-impact activities such as running or even HIIT classes, experts say. That could mean incorporating weights, hills, intervals or a faster pace without breaking into a jog.

Reba Dodge always thought she needed to spend money on trendy workouts from spin to hot yoga to get fit. But the Maui, Hawaii-based floral designer and mother of two says she gets the best results from walking.

Over the past eight years, Ms. Dodge, 46, has experimented with ways to turn her daily fitness walk into a serious workout, including walking up a steep hill near her home, walking backwards and carrying 2-pound hand weights.

“The weights force me to engage my core more,” she says. “I’m even considering buying a weighted vest.”

Walking as a workout can provide stress relief and improve heart health. It is also one of the easiest ways to achieve the weekly physical activity—150 to 300 minutes of moderate activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity—recommended by the World Health Organization.

“Lack of time is the number-one excuse people give for not getting enough physical activity,” says Thomas Allison, director of the Sports Cardiology Clinic at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

He recommends people focus on the quality versus the quantity of their steps. The latest science suggests that we don’t need to take 10,000 steps a day (about 4 to 5 miles) for improved health or longevity.

Taking an 11-minute brisk walk daily will also lower your risk of stroke, heart disease and a number of cancers, according to a study from the University of Cambridge published in February.

Faster tempo

Speed up those steps and research suggests you can boost longevity. Plus, you can get the same—if not greater—calorie burn on a 20-minute walk where you incorporate intervals at a brisk pace as you would from a 40-minute walk at a leisurely pace, Dr. Allison says.

Katie Breden, 42, tries to always keep a pair of sneakers in her car. The mother of two grade-school-aged boys likes to have a backup plan for when she can’t fit in her Peloton workout. She will briskly walk laps around the field during their hourlong sports practices, or walk the perimeter of the park while they play.

“So many parents sit on the bench on their phones,” says Ms. Breden, a pre-K teacher based in Point Pleasant, N.J. “This is an easy way to squeeze in a workout, and I don’t get as sweaty as I would running or spinning, so I can go on with my day.”

Get moving

Scoring fitness gains from walking can be as easy as putting a little extra spring in your step. A study published in the British Medical Journal in December found that the lurching “silly walk” made famous in the British TV show “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” increased energy expenditure in adults by about 2.5 times compared with their usual walking style.

The researchers don’t expect people to start walking down the street high-kicking like John Cleese’s character, Mr. Teabag, says Glenn Gaesser, one of the study’s co-authors. He just hopes the study shows that you don’t need to spend a ton of money or time to burn more calories. Tiny changes in your routine can add up, especially when one is just getting back into shape.

“Upping the energy expenditure of your current movement or activity by taking higher steps a few times throughout the day can raise your metabolic rate,” says Dr. Gaesser, a professor at Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions.

But for those looking to lose weight: Along with making healthy diet choices, you need to increase the intensity of your exercise. If jogging or running is uncomfortable on your joints, Dr. Allison suggests power walking, where you swing your arms, and race walking, where one foot remains in contact with the ground at all times.

Head for the hills

Incorporating hills into your walking routine is a low-impact way to challenge the muscles and heart more, says Abrea Wooten, senior national education manager for gym company Life Time Inc. Ms. Wooten walks uphill wearing a weighted vest on a treadmill to help train for ultramarathons. “It’s so much gentler on my joints,” she says. “The incline puts less stress on the knees.”

Treadmill walking got a huge boost of cool when social-media personality Lauren Giraldo’s 12-3-30 workout went viral on TikTok in 2020. The influencer says the workout, which involves walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes at the speed of 3 miles an hour on a 12% incline, helped her lose 30 pounds.

Ms. Wooten estimates that you can burn three to five times more calories a minute walking at an incline because of the extra work your quads and hamstrings put in. She advises gradually ramping up on the treadmill rather than jumping straight to a 12% incline. Start at 0.5% or 1% and add 1% to 2% every week.

Maintaining proper form is also important to get the most benefit and avoid injury. “If you need to hold on to the front rail of the treadmill, you should have slightly bent arms and keep your posture tall,” she says. “If you’re holding on for dear life and leaning back with straight arms, you need to ramp down the incline and pace.”

Leaning back disengages the core muscles, she says. Ideally you will find a pace that allows you to pump your arms.

Ms. Wooten suggests mixing up the types of walking you do every few months to keep the body challenged. On vacation, walk on the beach where the uneven sand works your stabilising muscles. Find a new route in your neighbourhood with rolling hills.

“Low-impact exercise does not have to be low-intensity,” she says.



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A Killer Golf Swing Is a Hot Job Skill Now

Companies are eager to hire strong players who use hybrid work schedules to schmooze clients on the course

By CALLUM BORCHERS
Fri, Jun 14, 2024 5 min

Standout golfers who aren’t quite PGA Tour material now have somewhere else to play professionally: Corporate America.

People who can smash 300-yard drives and sink birdie putts are sought-after hires in finance, consulting, sales and other industries, recruiters say. In the hybrid work era, the business golf outing is back in a big way.

Executive recruiter Shawn Cole says he gets so many requests to find ace golfers that he records candidates’ handicaps, an index based on average number of strokes over par, in the information packets he submits to clients. Golf alone can’t get you a plum job, he says—but not playing could cost you one.

“I know a guy that literally flies around the world in a private jet loaded with French wine, and he golfs and lands hundred-million-dollar deals,” Cole says.

Tee times and networking sessions have long gone hand-in-golf-glove. Despite criticism that doing business on the course undermines diversity, equity and inclusion efforts—and the fact that golf clubs haven’t always been open to women and minorities —people who mix golf and work say the outings are one of the last reprieves from 30-minute calendar blocks

Stars like Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie West helped expand participation in the sport. Still, just 22% of golfers are nonwhite and 26% are women, according to the National Golf Foundation.

To lure more people, clubs have relaxed rules against mobile-phone use on the course, embracing white-collar professionals who want to entertain clients on the links without disconnecting from the office. It’s no longer taboo to check email from your cart or take a quick call at the halfway turn.

With so much other business conducted virtually, shaking hands on the green and schmoozing over clubhouse beers is now seen as making an extra effort, not slacking off.

Americans played a record 531 million rounds last year. Weekday play has nearly doubled since 2019, with much of the action during business hours , according to research by Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom .

“It would’ve been scandalous in 2019 to be having multiple meetings a week on the golf course,” Bloom says. “In 2024, if you’re producing results, no one’s going to see anything wrong with it.”

A financial adviser at a major Wall Street bank who competes on the amateur circuit told me he completes 90% of his tasks by 10 a.m. because he manages long-term investment plans that change infrequently. The rest of his workday often involves golfing with clients and prospects. He’s a member of a private club with a multiyear waiting list, and people jump at the chance to join him on a course they normally can’t access.

There is an art to bringing in business this way. He never initiates shoptalk, telling his playing partners the round is about having fun and getting to know each other. They can’t resist asking about investment strategies by the back nine, he says.

Work hard, play hard

Matt Parziale golfed professionally on minor-league tours for several years, but when his dream of making the big time ended, he had to get a regular job. He became a firefighter, like his dad.

A few years later he won one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the country, earning spots in the 2018 Masters and U.S. Open, where he tied for first among non-pros.

The brush with celebrity brought introductions to business types that Parziale, 35 years old, says he wouldn’t have met otherwise. One connection led to a job with a large insurance broker. In 2022 he jumped to Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates in Wellesley, Mass., which recognised his golf game as a tool to help win large accounts.

He rescheduled our interview because he was hosting clients at a private club on Cape Cod, and squeezed me in the next morning, before teeing off with a business group in Newport, R.I.

A short time ago, Parziale couldn’t imagine making a living this way. Now he’s the norm in elite amateur golf circles.

“I look around at the guys at the events I play, and they all have these jobs ,” he says.

His boss, Chief Executive Chip Gibson, says Parziale is good at bringing in business because he puts as much effort into building relationships as honing his game. A golf outing is merely an opportunity to build trust that can eventually lead to a deal, and it’s a misconception that people who golf during work hours don’t work hard, he says.

Barry Allison’s single-digit handicap is an asset in his role as a management consultant at Accenture , where he specialises in travel and hospitality. He splits time between Washington, D.C., and The Villages, Fla., a golf mecca that boasts more than 50 courses.

It can be hard to get to know people in distributed work environments, he says. Go golfing and you’ll learn a lot about someone’s temperament—especially after a bad shot.

“If you see a guy snap a club over his knee, you don’t know what he’s going to snap next,” Allison says.

Special access

On a recent afternoon I was a lunch guest at Brae Burn Country Club, a private enclave outside Boston that was the site of U.S. Golf Association championships won by legends like Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. I parked in the second lot because the first one was full—on a Wednesday.

My host was Cullen Onstott, managing director of the Onstott Group executive search firm and a former collegiate golfer at Fairfield University. He explained one reason companies prize excellent golfers is they can put well-practiced swings on autopilot and devote most of their attention to chitchat.

It’s hard to talk with potential customers about their needs and interests when you’re hunting for errant shots in the woods. It’s also challenging if you show off.

The first hole at Brae Burn is a 318-yard par 4 that slopes down, enabling big hitters like Onstott to reach the putting green in a single stroke. But to stay close to his playing partners and keep the conversation flowing, he sometimes hits a shorter shot.

Having an “in” at an exclusive club can make you a catch. Bo Burch, an executive recruiter in North Carolina, says clubs in his region tend to attract members according to their business sectors. One might be chock-full of real-estate investors while another has potential buyers of industrial manufacturing equipment.

Burch looks for candidates who are members of clubs that align with his clients’ industries, though he stresses that business acumen comes first when filling positions.

Tami McQueen, a former Division I tennis player and current chief marketing officer at Atlanta investment firm BIP Capital, signed up for private golf lessons this year. She had noticed colleagues were wearing polos with course logos and bringing their clubs to work. She wanted in.

McQueen joined business associates on the golf course for the first time in March at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She has lowered her handicap to a respectable 26 and says her new skill lends a professional edge.

“To be able to say, ‘I can play with you and we can have those business meetings on the course’ definitely opens a lot more doors,” she says.

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