One of the easiest and best ways to keep your heart and body healthy, is walking. Most experts recommend walking 30 to 60 minutes (or 10,000 steps!) daily, which burns roughly 120-300 calories. If you'd like to kick up your walking routine a few notches, try these easy ideas that help you burn more calories, strengthen muscles, and lose weight as you go.
"I am big on using your mind when you are exercising," says celebrity trainer Joel Harper, author of Mind Your Body: 4 Weeks to a Leaner, Healthier Life. "It gives you something to focus on and can increase your endurance by distracting you from thinking draining thoughts, such as, 'I need to go for 20 more minutes to burn x number of calories.'" Accomplishing a goal such as studying Spanish with headphones and a digital download, connecting with a friend on the phone, or even doing a scavenger hunt where you look for a list of things while walking, can help you walk much further. "When your mind is working you are more likely to forget about exercising and get lost in moving forward, which can also help you walk faster," says Harper.
Another thing Harper suggests trying: Use a voice recorder to make your to-do list at the beginning of your walk. "A lot of people get jittery and anxious if they have a long to do list in their head," he says. "Getting these thoughts out into a list can help you relax and allow you to live in the moment in order to get the most out of your exercise time."
By changing up your pace as you walk, you burn more calories. You'll also keep your metabolism revved for a longer period of time after you finish walking, says Alissa Rumsey, R.D., C.S.C.S., a registered dietician and certified strength and conditioning specialist. To incorporate interval training into your walk, Rumsey suggests the following:Step 1: Stretch and warm up with a moderate walking pace for a minute or two.
"Start by having 3-5 minutes between intervals and working up to less time between intervals as you get into better shape," says Rumsey. "End with 3-4 minutes of walking at a moderate pace." Doing intervals can increase calorie burn by as much as 20-40 percent.
Need a little distraction while you're doing your intervals? Harper suggests photographing interesting things you see while walking. "Every time you stop you can take a picture, do a stretch, and then pump up your walk a notch to the next level," he says. This creates interval training with different rates and speeds, but also allows you to have fun.
"When walking up hill you burn up to 50 percent more calories than walking on level ground," says Rumsey. "If you're on a treadmill, start at 3-4 percent incline and slowly work your way up towards 8-10 percent." If you don't hold the handrails, you'll get even more calorie burn, but make sure you are steady and comfortable doing that. If you're walking outside, pick a walk with hills or, if you live in a flat area, try stairs or parking garage ramps.
Walking with nordic ski poles can help engage your arms and body, and give you a calorie-burning boost, says Rumsey. To use the poles properly, make sure the poles are at a 45-degree angle behind you as you walk, and firmly push off of them to propel you forward.
Simply putting a little swing into your arms can help you speed up your pace, tone your arm muscles—and help you burn up to 15 percent more calories. To swing your arms effectively, they should not be straight, but rather make sure you're swinging with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle.
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