Sure, you know walking is good exercise. But here's something you might not realize: You can give your waistline (and other body parts) a serious trimming by tweaking that walk around the block.
Walking up an incline can help you lose pounds faster than on flat terrain.
The three women below each walked off at least 35 pounds, much of it around the middle, using one of these secret weapons: plyometrics, hills, or intervals. The strategies also strengthened their legs more quickly than plain old walking sessions, so they could walk longer and faster to burn more calories.
After six weeks of walking four to six times a week, you will feel stronger and look slimmer where it counts. Health.com: Walk a little, live a lot (longer)
Secret weapon: Plyometrics
Adding bounding, jumping, and skipping moves (called plyometrics) to your walk is a fun way to spike the intensity. You'll burn up to twice as many calories --and significantly more belly fat -- per minute than you would just walking at a moderate pace.
"These moves vary the walking pattern your body has grown accustomed to, so you engage different muscle fibers," says Joy Prouty, veteran Florida-based trainer and American College of Sports Medicine-certified health-fitness director. "And that helps shape and define your body." Health.com: Walk this way
It worked for Claire Jefferson-Glipa, 31, of Riverside, California.
Adding one-minute bursts of plyometrics to the Stroller Strides classes she leads each week -- along with making healthy changes in her eating habits --helped Jefferson-Glipa drop 36 pounds in just nine months. "It's so exciting that my clothes are looser," she says.
Make it work for you
Try this workout from Prouty, gradually adding more plyometrics as your fitness level improves. It can be done either outside or on the treadmill (just be sure to step off the machine to do the plyometrics moves).
• 1. Walk 15 minutes, building to a moderate pace.
• 2. Do 30 High-Knee Steps forward (alternating legs); skip for 30 seconds, then walk at a moderate pace for one minute.
• 3. Do 15 Traveling Lateral Squats (turn and move sideways as you squat) in slow motion, followed by five Squat Jumps (squat slightly, then swing arms up as you jump). Knee problems? Rise up on your toes instead of jumping.
• 4. Walk at a moderate pace for 10 minutes.
• 5. Repeat step 2.
• 6. Walk for five minutes at a moderate pace, then five minutes at a slow pace to cool down.
Secret weapon: Hills
To triple the number of calories you burn, go to where it's hilly, Prouty says. Walking on hills can burn tons of calories and fat, so you'll work that stomach pooch off faster than you would on flat terrain. Uphill walks are great for strengthening and shaping your lower half -- plus, you'll feel stronger and go faster on level ground. Health.com: Tips if you don't have time to walk
It worked for Robyn Kammerer, 33, of Rowayton, Connecticut.
Kammerer dropped 50 postpregnancy pounds in four months by eating healthier and walking every day on the hills near her home. "If I'm out of breath at the top of one of these killer hills," she says, "I remind myself that I can now wear skirts that haven't fit in years."
Make it work for you
Start by changing your walking routine: Twice a week, replace 25 percent of your flat route with short or gradual hills. (New to walking? Start with 20-minute walks that include five minutes of hills.) After two weeks, seek out longer or steeper hills, and add 10 percent more climbing each week. Your goal is to do between one-half and two-thirds of your workout on hills.
Live in a flat area? Substitute this treadmill climb: After a 10-minute warm-up, gradually increase the incline from 0 to 2 percent for 5 to 10 minutes. Then, gradually decrease the incline in the same amount of time, finishing with 5 to 10 minutes of flat walking. Each week or two, increase the incline by 1 percent.
Secret weapon: Intervals
Alternating moderately paced walking with short, faster-paced intervals lets you amp up your walk without tiring yourself out. You'll also dump stomach weight more quickly and torch more calories than you would on a steady-paced walk. By peppering in a 30-minute walk with 10 one-minute speed bursts, for example, you can nearly double your calorie burn. Health.com: The ultimate walk-it-off plan
It worked for Virginia Cox, 42, of Belmont, Massachusetts.
Doing 15 miles' worth of interval walking a week (plus cutting down on starchy foods and sweet treats) helped Cox shed 45 pounds of baby weight in just six months. "I look and feel great because of walking," Cox says. "Plus, I now fit into the jeans that I wore when I was in my 20s." An unexpected bonus: She's sleeping much better, too.
Make it work for you
Warm up at an easy pace, then walk at a moderate pace for 10 minutes; increase speed for one minute, Prouty says. Do another 3 minutes at a moderate pace; repeat one or two times, then do 10 moderately-paced minutes.
As you get stronger, add more intervals, aiming to alternate 1-minute speed bursts with one minute of moderate walking.
Enter to win a monthly Room Makeover Giveaway from MyHomeIdeas.com
Copyright Health Magazine 2009
All About Weight Loss