Making a few changes to your walking workout will send your body straight into fat-burning mode. "Varying what you do will force your muscles to work in different ways, helping you to slim down and get fit faster," says Jennifer Cassetty, a personal trainer and exercise physiologist. When planning your walks, work in these calorie blasters.
Hills: Walking up an incline elevates your heart rate and targets your quadriceps and glutes; the way down tones your calves and backs of thighs.
Stairs: Recent research found that climbing them is twice as difficult and burns twice as many calories as walking on level ground.
Intervals: A Mayo Clinic report found that women who alternated short periods of fast and slow walking lost more weight and gained more leg strength than those who walked at a continuous moderate pace.
Uneven Ground: Walking on a grass, dirt, or gravel path burns 24 percent more calories per hour than taking your jaunt on pavement, because the rough surfaces make it slightly more challenging to maintain your balance.
Sand: Live or vacation near water? A sandy beach forces your legs and butt to work harder at pushing your body forward as your feet sink into the shoreline. You'll get an even tougher workout by marching through ankle-deep surf.
Your Get-Fit-Fast Plan
Follow this routine from Cassetty for four weeks. Couple it with a healthy diet, and you could lose up to 10 pounds by the end of the month.
Ascend a hill fast for 3 minutes, then walk back down. Repeat for a total of 30 minutes.
Walk a hilly route at a moderate pace for 30 minutes.
Find a long set of stairs; a high school stadium is ideal. Go up one step at a time for the first flight. The next time up, take them two at a time. Continue to alternate (but always hit every step on the way down) for 30 minutes.
Spend at least half an hour doing a heart-pumping activity of your choice, such as biking, swimming, or playing tennis.
For 45 minutes to an hour, walk at a moderate pace on a nature trail, gravel path, or beach.
Walk 10 minutes at a moderate pace to warm up. Speed up for 2 minutes, then return to moderate for 2 minutes; repeat for a total of 20 minutes. Take 5 minutes at a slow pace to cool down.
Rest or go for an easy 20-minute stroll.
Originally published in the June 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.
All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.