Hikers In Woods
Walking is one of the best things you can do for your health, and the easiest activity to build into your lifestyle.

4 Ways to Amp Up Your Walking Workout

Walking is one of the easiest and most popular ways to embark on a fitness routine. After all, it’s comfortable and familiar. We all already know how to walk, right? Well, yes – and no. There are many things we can do while we walk to turn up the wattage on our workout.  Here are a few ideas:

1. Turn a Stroll into a Speed Walk

Increasing your walking speed by even a little bit will help you burn more calories, build more muscle, and increase your cardiovascular fitness. According to fitness experts, the average walking pace is about 2 to 3 miles per hour (mph), approximately a 20-minute mile. But the optimum speed for weight loss and cardiovascular benefit is 4 mph, or approximately a 15-minute mile. Increasing your speed by just one mile an hour and you’ll burn a one third more calories.

But walking faster does not necessarily mean lengthening your stride. In fact, just taking bigger steps may increase strain on your feet and legs. Instead, stay within your natural range but aim to increase the number of steps per minute.

2. Engage Your Upper Body

Swinging your arms engages your upper body and increases the pace and vigor of your walk. And there’s even evidence that pumping your arms increases your calorie burn. Crook your elbows at a 90-degree angle, like a runner, and keep your arms close to your body, swinging them from the shoulder.

3. Go Off Road

It takes considerably more effort to walk on an uneven surfaces like grass, gravel, or a pitted dirt road. That’s because you engage more muscle groups, from core to feet, in order to maneuver bumpy surfaces and maintain your balance.

The best workout of all is walking on sand; in one study, exercise physiologists demonstrated that walking on sand requires 2.1 to 2.7 times more energy than walking on a flat surface. So take advantage of the last days of fall to get out into the great outdoors and reap these benefits.

4. Turn Your Walk into a Hike

What’s the difference? Choose a destination that requires you to do some climbing, preferably on a dirt trail or fire road, and suddenly you’re hiking. The payoff? Hiking burns 400 calories per hour, as opposed to the 250 you’ll burn during a steady sidewalk stroll, according to fitness calculators. And a more challenging hike that incorporates significant hills can up your burn to 540 an hour.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.