Walking your way to great legs... with Jane Saville

I love walking and am a great advocate for it as a form of exercise.

Walking is one of the only sports that caters for everyone, it doesn’t matter how fit you are.

You don’t need expensive equipment and wherever you may be in the world walking is always possible.

Besides being a heap of fun, walking works wonders on the legs! Like any girl, shapely legs are important to me – I’m just lucky that achieving and maintaining this is a by-product of my career!


There are three types of walking:
1.    Basic walking, such as walking to the shops or work
2.    Power walking, a faster version bending knees and using your arms
3.    Race walking, the professional sporting version where the knee must be straight when the foot contacts the ground. At least one foot must be on the ground at all times. This version of walking is the fastest.

  • Walking allows you to utilise all your muscles, not just your legs, enhancing general cardiovascular fitness, increasing muscle tone and strengthening bones.
  • Power and race walking works your quads, gluteal muscles and calves, far more than basic walking. The swifter walks are even more effective at shaping and strengthening legs.
  • Power and race walking give your arms a great work out too. Big arm swings increase your speed and benefit your aerobic fitness.
  • In race walking, as you drive your hips forward, you must activate abdominal muscles which tightens the torso.
  • Walking is low impact so if you have back, knee or ankle problems, this is the sport for you. Injuries are rare.
  • Walking has other benefits – burning fat; boosting your immunity and energy levels; relieving stress and lifting your mood.
  • Walking is free – you can do it anywhere, anytime!

Jane’s handy hints to get the most out of walking!

  • It is very important to have stable, supportive and comfortable shoes.
  • For women, one of the most essential items is a supportive sports bra. Jane says “I don’t know how many women I see walking with little or no support – I’d be interested to see how their breasts are faring in twenty years time!”
  • It is really important to get into a routine. There are many days when it is a struggle to get out of bed but if you have a routine of three specific, preferably alternate, mornings a week it makes it a little easier. Also, you feel so much better and energized after doing a little exercise in the morning, even though you may not think so when you first wake up!
  • Start with three x 30 minutes of walking a week and build on this as your fitness improves. Try to reach five sessions of 45 minutes per week, walking briskly to elevate your heart rate so you burn fat faster – but not so brisk that you can’t hold a conversation. Take the Talk Test!
  • Some people introduce leg and arm weights into their walking routine but it is important to establish a good fitness base before introducing these additional loads.
  • Start with general walking and as you become stronger and fitter progress to power and then race walking.
  • To increase your workout, incorporate hills and steps into your walking route and attack them with mighty strides.
  • Walk with a friend – instead of catching up at a café, do your hips a favour and walk!
  • The joy of walking is that you can do it anywhere – so make the most of this by varying the route to keep motivation high.
  • Congratulate yourself on your walking achievements. With regular walking you will quickly notice your legs toning.

Jane Saville is race walker who won a bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics and won gold three times the Commonwealth Games. She will compete in the Beijing Olympics this year.