Walking regularly builds muscle, increases cardiovascular fitness and improves overall health.
Walking is one of the easiest and most highly recommended forms of moderate exercise that can help you manage your weight, improve your cardiovascular health and maintain the strength of your legs, hips, core and lower back. If you're just beginning to exercise or newly back to exercise after time away, then you should expect a bit of muscle fatigue and soreness while you are building up your muscles and gaining strength. This can give your legs a feeling of heaviness, as if you're wearing weighted boots instead of just your trusty sneakers. As you continue to walk your body into shape, that heavy feeling should start to fade away.
Walking more than you're used to can lead to heaviness in your leg muscles. However, this often improves as you build endurance and strength.
Know Your Muscles
When you walk, you engage your hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, shins, ankles, hips and buttocks. Your calves, along with your hamstrings, lift your heels off the ground and get you going. The muscles around your shins and ankles control your toes and bring your feet down gently. Your quadriceps, along with your hips, which lift your thighs to move them forward, are engaged when you extend your legs. As you walk, your buttocks muscles are also engaged, and keeping your posture straight requires the abdominals. All of these large muscle groups require oxygenated blood for proper function and repair.
Expect Some Fatigue
Part of any new exercise routine involves building up your muscles' tolerance for the movement, and walking is no different. When you've been sedentary for a while, getting back to walking can leave your leg muscles feeling heavy from fatigue. Coach Benson from "Runner's World" suggests that heavy legs in runners might be caused by overtraining, and you might expect a similar reaction from using your walking muscles more than they are used to.
Warm up First
If you are planning a brisk walk, the Mayo Clinic recommends walking slowly for the first five or ten minutes in order to prepare your body for the activity. If you are looking for a little bit of variation in your routine, try warming up with walking lunges, jumping jacks or jumping rope. The warm-up increases blood flow to bring oxygen and nutrients to your muscle tissues, and raises your body temperature, which increases muscular flexibility before exercise and may help to prevent that heavy, tired feeling.
Eat Well and Hydrate
Properly hydrating and fueling your muscles for walking can keep them strong and encourage tissue repair. Dehydration can lead to muscle cramps and contribute to heavy legs, and your body can lose more than a quart of water per hour of intense exercise. Therefore, it is important to hydrate before, during and after your walk. Karen Ansel, a registered dietician who provides tips for "Fitness" magazine, says that vitamin E, iron, potassium, zinc and magnesium help fight fatigue. Eat smart by including plenty of oils, nuts, seeds, lean meat, fruits, veggies and beans in your diet. Well-fueled muscles resist fatigue longer and repair faster, which may help reduce the heavy feeling in your legs.