I tried doing 500 calf raises each day for a week, and walking uphill has never been easier

This simple bodyweight exercise helped improve my posture and made me enjoy walking up hills

Man doing calf raises
(Image credit: Future)

I do a lot of walking each day, which inevitably means spending extended periods on my feet. I alternate between long strolls, hours sat working at my desk, and finishing the day off with at-home strength training workouts.

But this cycle means that I'm not consistently using my legs throughout the day; they get a lot of movement early on, barely move during work hours, and then provide a base while training with adjustable dumbbells in the evening

So what I really needed was a way to keep my lower legs active without changing into gym clothes all the time. Last year, I wrote about one YouTuber's calf raise challenge, and I was impressed with how effective calf raises can be.

Calf raises are some of the best leg workouts you can do, and they're easy to fit into the day, as you only need to stand, raise your heel, and lift onto your toes. The YouTuber's daily goal of 1,000 repetitions sounded a bit much, but calf raises seemed to fit the bill.

Plus, you don't need any equipment, so you can add it to your training or even do a few repetitions while waiting in a queue at the store. While I enjoy dedicated workout time, I prefer to fit physical activity into my routine, so this was ideal.

So, I set my own challenge; 500 calf raises each day, split into sets of 100 reps at intervals throughout the day. This way, I could warm up in the morning, take a few standing breaks from my desk, and reduce tightness later in the evening. Here's what happened.

James Frew, Staff Writer at Fit&Well
James Frew

James is an experienced fitness writer and regular walker. He's always on the lookout for accessible ways to build exercise into his day, especially if it helps develop functional muscle to improve everyday activities like walking. 

1. Walking was easier

I've structured my whole day around going for a long walk each morning. I enjoy spending time outside, but hills are always a challenge, which isn't great as I live at the bottom of one.

Your calves offer a lot of support as you walk uphill, and the movement is quite similar to a calf raise, with most of the weight in your toes and heels slightly raised. As you might expect, taking on the week-long challenge helped.

Even after just a few days, I started to find that my lower leg felt stronger and offered more support while walking up the hill. Helpfully, walking does build muscle, too, so each form of exercise supports the other.

2. My posture improved

Man doing calf raises

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Although I spend time outdoors and training in the evening, most of my day is spent sitting at my desk. Even though I've got a good setup, sitting is bad for you as it encourages slouching and can harm your posture.

I used to think that posture was all about using the best workouts for abs to build core strength and straighten my spine, but your whole body is involved, including your calves.

Performing a few hundred raises a day strengthened my calves, which worked with other leg muscles to help me stand straighter. It also supported my knees, a particular problem area for me as I have very flexible joints.

3. I realized the importance of bodyweight exercises

There's a widely held belief that you can only build muscle by picking up a set of weights. Although I know this isn't the only way to get stronger, a part of my brain always chooses kettlebell squats over the standard bodyweight squat.

The success of the calf raise challenge made me realize that bodyweight exercises are a great way to work your muscles and easier to integrate into your day than a dedicated weight lifting session. And, importantly, they're entirely free.

You can still get an intense workout too. The first few days of the challenge were tough as I got used to standing on my toes several times a day. The burning sensation disappeared quickly, though, so it didn't put me off the next set. 

Doing 100 raises every few hours also meant I didn't spend too long sitting down, and I found that I could fit in a few calf raises while doing other things, like building lower body strength while brushing my teeth.

Enjoyed this? Check out: ‘I walked for 90 minutes every morning for a month, and here's what changed for me.’

James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is a London-based journalist and Fitness Editor at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.

In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.