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How to Burn Way More Calories Walking

While walking at a relaxed pace has major health benefits — and for sedentary people, it can be a great start to an exercise program — walking isn’t necessarily a calorie-torching activity. But if you’re looking to burn extra calories on foot, consider amping up your activity with these five tricks:

1. TACKLE THE HILLS

Use your surrounding environment to break a sweat on a walk. Seek out the hills instead of avoiding them. If you don’t live in a hilly place, even doing hill repeats on the same hill gets your heart pumping.

2. HIT THE TRAILS

Trails require more coordination and all-body stability to navigate roots and rocks than a plain paved road or sidewalk. Also, according to recent studies, the bonus time spent in nature versus on city streets will make you happier and more energized in the long run.

3. ADD WEIGHT

Whether it’s carrying your groceries home from the market or wearing a weighted vest on a power walk, taking on an extra load burns extra calories. Just make sure you’re carrying things evenly — switch hands if you’re carrying a bag, or invest in a quality backpack.


READ MORE > DOES WALKING WITH WEIGHTS BOOST WEIGHT LOSS?


4. ADD INTERVALS

You don’t need to start running all the time — but a few fartlek intervals will boost your heart rate and metabolism. As you walk around the neighborhood, simply pick up the pace and do a jog or hard run for a half block or to the next stop sign. Even 10 seconds of fast-paced running done a few times can have major benefits, and eventually, you might find that you want to add even more running to your routine.


READ MORE > HOW HIGH-INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING CAN START WITH WALKING


5. SNEAK IN BODYWEIGHT EXERCISES

Take advantage of those parks with fitness loops that include stations for different activities like pullups and tricep dips. If you don’t have one of those nearby, you can DIY it by stopping every few minutes and holding a plank for a few seconds, doing a few air squats or walking lunges.

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Is Power Walking Still a Thing?

While there’s no exact point in time that marks when power walking started, or a precise definition, it’s often referred to as aerobic or fitness walking, and it’s a spinoff of race walking, which became an Olympic sport in 1904.

Lately, though, it seems power walking isn’t as popular as it once was — or is it that when people say walking, power walking is just implied. We did a little digging and spoke to experts to get the lowdown on the state of power walking.

THE BEGINNINGS OF POWER WALKING

Even before race walking, there was what we called pedestrianism. “Individuals would walk for distance or sometimes speed,” says Michele Stanten, American Council of Exercise board member, author of “Walk Off Weight.” “It was a popular spectator sport in Europe back in the 1800s and early 1900s.” Then came Volksmarches, explains Stanten, which were non-competitive distance walks, popular in the ‘60s, followed by the creation of charity walks in the ‘70s, where these events were used to help support a greater good. “The popularity of power walking rose in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s,” says Stanten. “It’s actually even when I started walking along with running and aerobics.”

There’s not an exact definition or reason to explain the rise of power walking, points out Stanten. “During this time period, we all learned that exercise did not have to be extreme — we didn’t all need to run 10Ks or marathons to have cardio fitness,” says Michele Olson, PhD, CSCS, an adjunct professor of sport science at Huntingdon College. “Walking, which is a very body-friendly form of cardio, was something anyone could do, and it was cost effective. The only type of equipment you truly need is a pair of quality exercise shoes.”


READ MORE > WALKING WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AFTER THIS WEEKEND: INTRODUCING EVERWALK


POWER WALKING FOR FITNESS

If done correctly, power walking counts for fitness — it can even be your sole form of exercise. Just try walking on a treadmill at 5 miles per hour for an extended amount of time without letting your form be affected. You need to have a fast gait and efficient movement, explains Olson, but that can be learned.

“Walking workouts often include interval and fartlek training, where you speed up, go off-road, up and down hills, incorporate walking lunges, walk sideways and backwards,” says Olson. “Recent studies even show that if you walk 15,000 steps a day you can stay fit, lose weight and fight off heart disease.” However, most of these studies talk just about walking — not power walking. So is it just implied that you should be power walking, or is just plain walking enough?

IS POWER WALKING STILL A THING?

From a public-health standpoint, the goal is to get all people moving, and even regular walking is a very good option for that. “That’s where the focus has shifted — pedometers and the research on steps throughout the day have shown us that all walking counts,” says Stanten. “But there are still reasons to promote power walking, especially to all the people who are already doing some walking.”

In short, if you love power walking, you should power walk loud and proud. Trends may come and go, but anything that keeps us moving — and walking at any speed — is worth doing.

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How High-Intensity Interval Training Can Start with Walking

You’ve probably heard about the amazing benefits of high-intensity interval training — notably: faster fat burning and increased calorie burn both during your workout and for hours after. But the simple fact is that some of the exercises typically used in HIIT (think: burpees, squat thrusts, etc.) can be tough to perform correctly at high speeds, especially if you’re new to exercise, returning after a long hiatus or need to stay low impact for your joints.

The good news is that a recent study found that the best way to get started with HIIT is by walking. A focused power walk is one of the simplest and most practical ways to incorporate this type of interval work into your regular exercise program.

To help you get started, here’s an outline for a program you can try on your next walk. This works well both outdoors or on the treadmill.

THE 30-MINUTE HIIT WALK

As you build your fitness level, try shortening the length of your steady pace intervals and working at a higher intensity for longer periods of time. (Feel free to adjust the length of your intervals as needed.) If, for example, you aren’t able to fully catch your breath during your recovery period, you may need to take more time in between your work intervals as you boost your stamina.

Warmup (3 minutes): Walk at an easy, comfortable pace

Interval set (5 reps):

  • Steady state (3 minutes): Walk briskly, enough that your breathing is elevated, but you can still talk easily.
  • High-intensity (1 minute): Walk as quickly as you possibly can. At this pace your breathing should be very labored; talking is difficult.
  • Recovery (1 minute): Walk at a comfortable pace, and focus on catching your breath.

Cooldown (2 minutes): Continue to walk at an easy, comfortable pace. (Maybe add a few stretches.)


READ MORE > HIIT FOR BEGINNERS WEEK 1: WALKING INTERVALS


Looking for additional options for low-impact HIIT? Don’t miss our “30-Minute Low Impact HIIT” session included in our “Walk On: 21 Day Weight Loss Plan” program! It’s the perfect place to get started with HIIT, and the walking-based workout includes options to help you advance your intensity level once you get fitter.


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Does Walking with Weights Boost Weight Loss?

Walking with weights is a phenomenon that has been around since the days of the Jane Fonda workout videos. Whether it was hand weights or ankle weights, the added pounds were believed to help individuals lose weight while already moving. Studies support that belief, proving the added weight can up the metabolic burn.

So should you be wearing ankle weights on your commute to work? Would a hike with hand weights be more beneficial than one without? Is walking with weights still a thing?

THE IMPACT OF ADDED WEIGHT

If walking with weights can increase your metabolic burn, why aren’t more people doing it? That’s because many trainers wouldn’t recommend it. “If you decide to go for a five-mile hike in the mountains with hand weights, fatigue does eventually set in and your form starts to suffer when you get tired,” explains Michelle Lovitt, exercise physiologist and trainer in Los Angeles. “You start compensating for certain movements, whether that’s even distribution across the body, using one leg or arm more than the other or balance across the body.”

For example, if you watch someone walking on a treadmill with hand weights, after 10 minutes you may notice his or her shoulders start to slump, legs aren’t fully extending or one arm may be higher than the other, explains Lovitt. Luckily, if you’re on a treadmill, you can set the weights down, but on a hike, it’s unlikely you can leave the weights behind. “Poor form can frequently be distributed to the low back and cause injury,” says Lovitt.

The only way Lovitt would suggest adding weight to a walk is with a weighted vest. “A vest creates even distribution of weight across the body,” says Lovitt. “Adding a weighted vest can help you burn more calories by raising your heart rate, but only if you’re strong enough to handle the weight. It’s not for beginners.”


READ MORE > WAYS TO AMP UP YOUR WALKING TO LOSE WEIGHT, TONE, DE-STRESS AND MORE


FIGURE OUT YOUR GOALS

If you’re an athlete training to get faster, weighted vests, bands, resistance, wind and parachute training may be used to increase your performance and speed. But if you’re not an athlete and you don’t need to be faster for a competition, then you don’t need to be walking with weights. Instead, separate the two forms of training.

“Do one thing at a time as intensely as possible, and then move on to the other,” suggests Lovitt. “Circuit train in a gym and give all-out effort, then go for an hour walk after.”

If you’re heading out for a short, five-minute walk around the block or with your pet, feel free to bring along hand or ankle weights. But if you’re walking for a lengthier amount of time, Lovitt suggests leaving the added pounds behind. “I may have those clients who are strong enough wear a weighted vest for plyometric exercises, but I would never in a million years put weights in my clients’ hands or on the ankles on a hike,” says Lovitt. “I rarely even have them carry their phones because even that can make one side of their body more tense than the other.”

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