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Ways to Amp Up Your Walking to Lose Weight, Tone, De-Stress and More

A walking workout seems simple enough: Lace up your shoes, and put one foot in front of the other — easy.

While it can be that simple, achieving specific goals like losing weight, taming stress, training for a 10K or toning muscle require a more specialized approach to your walking workout. Here are some ways to tailor your training depending on which goals you’re hoping to achieve.

TO LOSE WEIGHT

Walking might even be better for weight loss than more vigorous activities like running, according to research published in the journal Risk Analysis. The study found that those who went for a brisk walk for at least 30 minutes five times a week had lower body mass indexes and smaller waists than those who participated in other fitness activities.

If your goal is to slim down, Malin Svensson, a Los Angeles-based walking expert and founder of Nordic Body, recommends walking a shorter distance at higher intensity. “Increasing the intensity burns more calories,” she says.

To torch additional calories, Svensson suggests incorporating intervals into your walk by walking as fast as possible for 60 seconds and returning to a normal pace for 30 seconds. Do this 10 times to make up the entire 30-minute walk.

TO TAME STRESS

When it comes to stress busters, nothing beats a long, leisurely stroll.

Start destressing with a warmup: Slow, gentle stretching not only helps avoid injuries, says Dr. James Rippe, a cardiologist and author of “The Complete Book of Fitness Walking.” “It’s a good time to get in tune with the fact that you’re about to do something good for your body and mind,” he says.

Aim for a pace of 3–4 miles per hour (15–20-minute miles) for at least 60 minutes. Instead of zoning out on the treadmill, get outside. In 2015 research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that a 90-minute walk in nature had lower levels of repetitive negative thoughts.

At the end of the walk, Rippe suggests closing your eyes and asking, “How do I feel?” as a means of appreciating the impact of movement on mood.

TO TRAIN FOR A 10K

It should come as no surprise that training for a 10K requires a workout that prioritizes distance over speed.

For beginners, training for a 10K will take at least eight weeks. Start slow. The goal is to finish the course, not break a speed record. “Walk at a pace you enjoy,” advises Rippe.

Plan to walk at least five days per week. The amount of time you walk — and the distance you cover — will increase each week. Aim for 15 minutes the first week, adding five minutes per week on four walks. During the fifth weekly walk, aim to double your walking time. For example: On week three, go for four 25-minute walks and one 50-minute walk. In the week leading up to the race, plan one 10K walk as a final training walk.

“You get multiple benefits simultaneously: aerobic benefits, bone building benefits and psychological benefits,” Rippe says about long walks.

TO TONE MUSCLE

No amount of walking will give you rock-hard abs or chiseled biceps, but heading for the hills (instead of walking on flat ground) forces your legs, glutes and core to work harder. “Walking can help you build muscular endurance,” says Svensson.

The steeper the grade, the more muscle activation required, according to research published in the journal Gait and Posture. The research also found that faster walking speeds on uphill grades require the most thigh muscle activation.

Set the incline on the treadmill or find a hilly route for a walking workout that tones your muscles. Svensson also recommends walking with poles. “It increases your muscular endurance by engaging your upper body,” she explains. Research agrees. A study published in PLOS One found significant increases in muscle involvement among Nordic walkers.

The next time you head out for a walk, think about your goals and tailor your standard stroll to improve your walking results.

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Couch Potato No More: 21 Quotes That Will Inspire You to Move

No matter how dedicated you are, we all need a little extra push from time to time. We asked followers on MyFitnessPal’s Facebook page for their favorite motivational quotes that keep them going. Here are 21 of our favorites that will inspire and power you through 2017.

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Ask the Dietitian: What’s More Important for Weight Loss — Calories or Macros?

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The short and sweet answer: Calories and macronutrients both matter, so let me explain.

It’s almost impossible these days to go a day without hearing about a new dieting fad or weight-loss trend. Most of that craze centers on slashing calories — an approach that works for many but leaves out a key aspect of nutrition: macronutrients. Lucky for you, MyFitnessPal allows you to track your calories and macronutrients.

Rather than solely focusing on a calorie count, the macronutrient approach optimizes your diet by determining the percentage of calories you should get from protein, carbohydrates and fat each day. Whether you are interested in cutting body fat or boosting muscle mass, macronutrient breakdowns can be catered to meet your goals.

WHAT MACRONUTRIENTS ARE AND WHY THEY MATTER

Carbohydrates, protein and fat make up our essential macronutrients. They provide the vast majority of our bodies energy in the form of calories, keeping us fueled throughout the day. One important aspect of the macronutrient approach is that it acknowledges not all calories are created equal: 100 calories of candy and 100 calories of broccoli technically provide the same “energy” to your body but are processed very differently. Think about eating 500 calories of ice cream and 500 calories of spinach; these two choices are reflected identically in the counting calories approach but contribute very differently within a macronutrient breakdown.

Metabolically speaking, foods high in protein and fiber keep us feeling full longer, leading to reduced calorie intake. Conversely, foods with high glycemic indexes, such as white bread and cookies, spike our blood sugar for a short time, providing quick energy but leaving us with a “sugar crash” soon after. The speed that carbohydrates hit our system affects subsequent overeating and weight gain. This means it’s much more valuable to choose whole grain carbohydrates that are slowly digested (and often contain fiber!) rather than processed grains.

THE CASE FOR FOCUSING ON MACRONUTRIENTS

So, calories don’t tell the entire weight-loss story. But, it’s important to remember that you can’t have macronutrients without calories. Each gram of fat provides nine calories, while protein and carbohydrates provide four calories per gram. Remember that you’re not eating macronutrients just for calories because every macronutrient has a purpose:

  • Fats work to slow digestion, provide essential fat-soluble vitamins and have protective anti-inflammatory properties (omega-3s!).
  • Protein provides the building blocks for muscle and cell tissue, while also satisfying hunger and improving satiety.
  • Carbohydrates provide a quickly accessible form of energy and fiber, which can leave you feeling full longer and slow the absorption of other nutrients (like sugar).

Depending on your age, weight and activity level, your body requires a certain amount of calories to maintain its weight. A diet that is 30% protein might work great for someone on a 1,200 calorie diet (90 g protein) — but not so great for an athlete on a 4,000 calorie diet (which would be 300 g protein if calculating at 30% macros… aka too much). The solution? First calculate the grams of protein you need based on your weight and fitness goals. (Rule of thumb: don’t go over one gram of protein per pound of body weight.) Then, translate that into a macronutrient breakdown.

Focusing on macros promotes a more balanced diet by forcing us to take a hard look at the foods we are eating. The bottom line is to view your diet from a broader perspective that considers the nutritional benefits of different options and not only their calorie count!

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Exercises That’ll Help You Get More Done in Less Time

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Doing compound exercises can take your workout from good to great. What exactly does that mean? Well, compound movements are ones that put multiple muscle groups and two or more joints to work, explains Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S., founder of TS Fitness. They can help you gain lean muscle mass and burn more calories, all while saving you time at the gym.

“The more muscles working, the more energy output required,” Tamir says. Calories are a unit of energy, so this means you’ll burn more of them.

While there’s no way to speed results at the gym—nothing will replace consistently working hard—there are ways to make sure you’re training smarter, and doing compound exercises is one of them.

Wait, what exactly is a compound exercise?

Compound exercises recruit multiple muscle groups while isolation exercises (like a bicep curl) concentrate on a single muscle group. There are benefits to both, but when it comes to doing more in less time, compound exercises have the upper hand, which is why they’re used in most strength training workouts.

There are two main types of compound exercises you should know:

Single moves that incorporate multiple muscle groups and joints, like lunges, deadlifts, and squats.

Two moves strung together to create one exercise, like a bicep curl to a shoulder press.

Whichever type you’re doing though, when performed correctly, compound exercises are effective as hell.

Compound exercises are excellent for increasing overall muscle mass and burning calories.

“Since compound exercises involve more muscle groups and joints, they can be used to move heavier loads,” explains Tamir. (For example, you can probably deadlift way more weight than you could with a tricep extension, which is an isolation movement.) And when you’re performing moves that are strung together, like with that bicep curl to shoulder press, you’ll want to use the heaviest weight you can to complete both movements with good form to avoid injury. “Since the shoulders are larger muscles than the biceps, most people will be able to press more then they curl,” says Tamir.

“Putting more stress on the body [with compound exercises] has been shown to create higher hormonal responses, which leads to more muscle growth,” says Tamir.

Here’s how that works: When you strength train, you do mechanical damage (damage to the muscle fibers) and metabolic damage (when you fatigue the muscles by depleting their energy stores), explains exercise physiologist Pete McCall, host of the All About Fitness podcast. This damage (it’s a good thing!) signals a hormonal response that kicks in during the recovery period after your workout. The body releases growth hormone, testosterone, and insulin-like growth factors, which help replenish energy stores and repair structural damage to the fibers, says McCall. (Eating protein and carbohydrates also helps repair this damage and build up stored energy, which is why a post-workout snack is so important.) Because more muscle groups are recruited and broken down during compound exercises, your body releases more of these hormones, so you end up building more overall muscle than you would have spending the same amount of time on isolation moves.

Keep in mind that isolation moves aren’t a bad thing—if you’re trying to focus on developing one specific muscle, they can be great, says Tamir. (Think bodybuilders doing ultra-heavy bicep curls for arm gains.) However, if your goal is to gain more muscle mass all over, compound exercises are much more efficient.

Building lean muscle also helps increase the number of calories you burn at rest (your basal metabolic rate, or BMR), because muscle requires more energy for your body to maintain. So because compound exercises help build up that extra muscle mass, they can give your BMR an even bigger boost.

And compound exercises are also really great at working your core.

In addition to the muscle-building, calorie-burning powers of compound exercises, they also require your core-stabilizing muscles to get involved to power through the movement. And a lot of the time, this means your abs are going to put in some serious work. “Without stabilizer muscles, you wouldn’t be able to do any movements,” explains Tamir. “For example, the muscles in the core stabilize your trunk so you can squat and deadlift.” So while the squat is working your butt, hips, and thighs, your core is also getting in on the action.

And many compound movements will just make you better at tackling day-to-day life activities because they’re considered functional movements, explains Tamir. “Doing real-life movements is useful because it teaches us how to properly move outside in the world—for example, not rounding our backs when we bend over to pick something up, or using our back muscles to help pull something versus just using our arms.”

Here’s how to lunge and lift your way to results with compound exercises.

Tamir suggests focusing 70 to 80 percent of your strength workouts on compound exercises, while isolation exercises can make up the other 20 to 30 percent.

Yep, you don’t need to ditch isolation moves entirely–they’re still great for building strength in the body part you’re working, explains Tamir. And if we’re being transparent, a true isolation exercise doesn’t really exist because the muscles in your hands and shoulders often come into play during movements like a bicep curl. But since the concentration is heavily on that single muscle group they’re often looped into this overarching concept.

When you’re at the gym, Tamir suggests starting with your compound moves because they’re more challenging and require more energy and focus. (Doing them when you’re low on those two things can lead to injury.)

Here are seven of Tamir’s favorite compound exercises to incorporate into your strength routine:

1. Dumbbell Thrusters
2. Push-Ups
3. Renegade Rows
4. Dumbbell Deadlifts
5. Bent-Over Dumbbell Row
6. Step-Up With Knee Up And Reverse Lunge
7. Kick-Unders

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