From Michele Stanten, a fitness expert, walking coach, and author of three books on exercise
There are many ways to boost walking's benefits. If you want to maximize benefits like weight loss and cardio fitness—without walking longer, here's how to add some oomph to your workouts.
- Speed up To pick up your pace, bend your arms; take shorter, quicker steps; and focus on an object up ahead.
- Go vertical Climbing hills or stairs (or upping the incline on a treadmill) gives your glutes a more intense workout. It also elevates your calorie burn by about 60 percent.
- Change direction Adding some backward and sideways strides targets underused hip and outer thigh muscles and increases calorie burn by about 40 percent. Walk forward, then shuffle sideways with your right foot leading; then walk backward. Finally, shuffle sideways to the left. (For safety, it's best to do this on a track without a lot of people.)
- Grab some poles Walking poles tone your arms, shoulders, and back and increase your calorie burn. If you have achy knees, using poles takes the pressure off them, especially on uneven trails and downhill stretches. Poles also help with balance.
- Hop in a pool Water provides 12 to 14 times more resistance than air. Walking against that resistance tones muscle and burns about 30 percent more calories. It's also a great alternative to regular walking if you have joint problems.
- Skip the weights Walking with hand weights may seem wise—but the risks outweigh the benefits. The amount of weight you're likely able to carry will have little effect on toning muscles, but may increase your risk of shoulder, elbow, or wrist injuries.
From our sister publication Diabetes Focus (Summer 2015)