Hey Angels and Alphas,
We all know how many benefits walking has, and one of the best things about it is that you can do it anytime, anywhere, making it an accessible workout for weight loss no matter where you go. That being said, any experienced walker knows that not all walking surfaces are created equally when it comes to your joints.
When you’re choosing where to walk, you want to consider both the terrain and texture of your walking surface. The degree of incline would be an example of terrain, while bumps would be an example of texture. Each combination will have you using different muscles and challenge you in different ways.
Naturally, every walking surface has its own pros and cons, though some are certainly easier on the body and some challenge you more.
Today, we’re here to explore the most common walking surfaces you’ll stumble upon (well, we hope not) on your walking journeys and talk about the pros and cons of each of them.
Let’s get started.
There are countless advantages to treadmill walking. If you’re just beginning, or if you’re experiencing joint pain that makes you a little shaky on your feet, the best place to walk is a treadmill. You will have control over speed, intensity, incline, and you can set a pace you’re comfortable with.
Treadmills also have rails you can grab onto if you’re feeling like you need support (although this should not become a habit.) Most treadmills also use shock-absorbing technology, meaning your workout will be lower in impact and they’ll allow you to get your walk in regardless of the weather outside.
In terms of the downsides of treadmills, we can’t forget to mention that because of the propulsion of treadmill belts, the machine will be doing some of the work instead of you. This means you might not use all your muscles to their full capacity. They can sometimes feel monotonous as well, leaving you less motivated to push yourself.
#2 THE TRACK
Tracks are usually softer surfaces and will minimize the impact on your joints. It’s easy to just get out there and bust out a few miles on the track. Especially since the standard track distance makes it easy to measure how far you’ve walked.
There are a few cons, however. Depending on where your local track is, it may not always be available on your school days. Plus, tracks are very flat, so you won’t have the opportunity to vary your incline.
#3 GRASS OR TURF
The pros of grass and/or turf are that they’re surfaces that offer a certain degree of variability. They’re relatively soft surfaces but you will have to work slightly harder than you otherwise would. Plus, they’re easier on your joints.
In terms of the potential downsides, most grass and turf fields are mostly flat. This means you may miss out on the benefits of walking up (or down) hills. Grass may also be a bad choice for people who have balance issues or weak ankles due to it being largely uneven. And grass can also be subject to bad weather, leaving it wet and slippery even hours after rain has poured on top.
Trails are another natural surface that offers variability, resulting in more muscles used during your walks. When your surface is varied, your body will work harder to adjust to it. One study found that walking on a surface that varied by only 1 inch from a flat and smooth surface resulted in up to 30 percent more calories burned.
Not only that but nature comes with its own nutrients. Walking outside and/or in nature will decrease your stress levels, give you more energy, and this may lead to a more intense workout. You can also find trails for every fitness level, and they’re a great way to explore new areas and stay motivated.
Of course, walking surfaces have their drawbacks. Trails are no exception. Some people may need to go for long distances to get on a trail and weather is always a possible restriction for your options. You should also be extra careful on trails since they’re a mixture of dirt, rocks, and other materials which can be potentially dangerous.
Asphalt is usually a better option than cement when it comes to walking since it’s a bit more easygoing on your joints. It also has the benefit of being even and smooth, provided it’s actually in good condition.
That being said, it’s still on the firmer side, resulting in harm on the joints over long periods of time… especially if you tend to walk long distances.
Cement sidewalks are basically everywhere and they’re generally flat.
The problem is that they have no elasticity. If you have joint issues, cement walking can put a lot of stress on your knees, ankles, and hips, especially if you’re walking on that surface regularly. If it can’t be avoided, just make sure your shoes have the proper cushioning to protect your joints.