"Often when we go on a walk, we can fall into what I like to call 'the casual stroll,'" says Andrea Speir, founder of Speir Pilates. "By adding an upper body element, you're setting the intention of the walk as a full-body workout. Intuitively your pace picks up, your core and postural muscles engage, and your health results are improved and heightened."
Plus, it allows you to increase your upper body strength at the same time you're strengthening your lower half. "The shoulders, lats, and traps draw back, helping you to move from a place of proper postural alignment, and you get that extra tone out of the arms," says Speir. You can also up the challenge by adding in some equipment. "These exercises can be done with no weight at all, but you can also hold a light set of weights or strap on some wrist weights to increase the intensity of the movements."
If you don't have any dumbbells or light wrist weights, your resistance band can also come in handy. "It's a great supplement to sculpt and elongate the arms through resistance-based movements and exercises," says Maeve McEwen, a senior trainer for P.volve. Ready to get started? Try these trainer-approved arm exercises during your next walk for an even more effective sweat sesh.
The best arm exercises while walking
1. Bicep curls
"This movement imitates a bicep curl you might traditionally do in a fitness class or at the gym, so it’s something super intuitive to do while you're moving your lower body and getting the heart rate up," says Speir. "It reminds you to keep the shoulders pulled back and down, and the core engaged, which is so helpful when walking. Even if you're doing this without any added weight, the action will strengthen and tone the biceps, shoulders, lats and traps."
How to do it:
- Begin with your arms straight in front of the thighs, palms facing away from the body.
- Bend the elbows, bringing your hands up toward the chest.
- Extend your arms, and lower them back down.
Upgrade your bicep curls with this "bicep curl + press out" variation:
2. Straight arm shoulder circles
"This exercises will help increase mobility in the shoulder joint, helping open up your posture for better alignment in your stride," says McEwen.
How to do it:
- With straight arms, gently and slowly circle your arms in both directions, only to where you can keep your core engaged, chest open, and shoulders down.
- Inhale as you reach up and exhale as you lower your arms, working to initiate the movement from your back.
3. 90-degree arm swings
"This exercise works the entire arm, helping build strength and tone," says Speir. "It's also fantastic to elevate the heart rate and make your walk that much more effective for your entire body. The swinging action of the arm actually helps motivate your entire body to keep a brisk pace, helping to improve cardiovascular health."
- Begin with your arms bent into 90-degree angles, palms facing toward each other.
- Lower one arm down toward the rib cage.
- Begin alternating your arms (one high, one low) at a brisk pace.
- Aim to keep this action as large as you can go without the shoulders rising up toward the ears, and at a pace that is challenging, but that you can maintain.
4. Upper cut to goal post squeezes
"This move strengthens and stretches your shoulders, chest, and back, which will improve your posture," says McEwen.
How to do it:
- Start with your arms at a 90-degree angle framing your face while squeezing your biceps and fists.
- As you walk, squeeze between your shoulder blades to open your arms to a goal post position, then return to the starting position, squeezing from your chest.
5. Swimming row
"This action imitates a breast stroke-style swimming motion, allowing you to get a gentle hit of circulation into the upper body while toning and elongating the upper body muscles," says Speir. "It constantly changes the angle of the arm movement, which challenges and tones not just the arms, but the postural muscles and shoulders as well."
How to do it:
- Begin with your hands together at heart center.
- Reach your arms forward to straight arms.
- Reach your arms wide to the side.
- Bend your elbows and bring your hands together back at heart center.
This workout is designed for runners, but you can the format for a walking workout, too:
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