Brisk walking may be your answer to a low-impact workout that combines leg strengthening with cardio -- it won't bulk up your muscles, especially the calves. Brisk walking, or walking for fitness, provides the same benefits as many other forms of cardiovascular exercise, including elevated heart rate, stress relief and burning body fat. You can easily avoid bulky calves by walking with proper technique and following a few tricks of the trade.
Plan a walking course that is on flat land; avoid hills, inclines or stairs. Moving in a vertical direction can place muscle-building emphasis on your body’s posterior, which includes the glutes, hamstrings and calves. Keep your exercise sessions to level land, which will still strengthen the entire lower body without causing bulk in one particular muscle group.
Walk with proper posture, which can help to maintain a balance between muscles. Engage your stomach muscles, elongate your spine, lift your chest and push your shoulder blades down your back. Keep your torso straight over your hips rather than leaning forward or backward. Look straight ahead and not up or down, which can cause stress to your neck.
Skip the ankle or hand weights. Adding resistance to your walk forces the body to work harder, which may result in larger muscles, especially in the calves and thighs. Resistance may also slow your pace and interfere with your cardiovascular goals.
Carry only essentials with you, or on your body, during the walk. Heavy backpacks, for example, can add unintended resistance. Keep personal items to a minimum, such as a cell phone, keys, water and any nutritional products that may be necessary, such as juice if you are a diabetic.
Land on your heel, rather than the ball of your foot. Placing your bodyweight primarily on the front portion of the foot can strengthen and enlarge the calf muscle, similar to how a calf-raise works. Instead, allow the entirety of the foot to balance your body. Once the heel is planted on the ground, roll through the middle and then the front of the foot before pushing off with your toes.
- Wear proper walking shoes that have an adequate amount of arch support and cushioning. Shoes that fit well can help your foot to hit the ground correctly, while also maintaining balance between muscle groups.
- Consult an expert at a sporting goods store to help you find the right walking shoes for your feet and body type.
- Consult a physician before starting a new exercise program.
Beth Rifkin has been writing health- and fitness-related articles since 2005. Her bylines include "Tennis Life," "Ms. Fitness," "Triathlon Magazine," "Inside Tennis" and others. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Temple University.