Just 30 minutes of walking a day has been shown to help reduce stress, improve mood, increase bone density and more. But turning a walk into a workout — and amping up the calorie burn — requires paying attention to details including the route, speed and form. Correcting these four walking mistakes helps you burn more calories and turns your daily walks into serious workouts.
Mixing up your speed during a workout not only torches calories, it helps burn fat. One study found walkers who varied their pace burned 20% more calories than those who maintained a constant speed. Additional research showed alternating between a moderate-intensity pace and bursts of high intensity was more effective at reducing belly fat.
The fix: To add intervals to your walk, Leslie Sansone, creator of the Walk at Home Workouts and author of “Walk Away the Pounds” suggests starting slow, walking at a warmup pace for two minutes, a brisk pace for the next two minutes and then jogging for 30 seconds, repeating the pattern for 20 minutes. “Your body has to adjust to different speeds, which requires more energy and leads to a bigger calorie burn,” notes Sansone.
The fix: Incorporate strength-training intervals. Erin Nitschke, therapeutic exercise specialist and American Council on Exercise-certified health coach recommends walking for 3 minutes then performing 30 seconds of walking lunges, jump squats, jumping jacks or other resistance exercises.
“Climbing engages more muscles in the glutes and thighs [and] these are big muscle groups that use a lot of energy and burn more calories,” explains Sansone. One study found energy expenditure or calories burned was as much as 30% higher on uneven terrain.
The fix: Change your routine and add more hills or variation in terrain such as stairs, gravel or sand, which use different muscle groups and can help with balance and core strength. If you live in a flat area, you can also take your workout to the treadmill to play with the incline.
Walking might be all about putting one foot in front of the other, but that doesn’t mean your arms should hang by your sides when you power walk. “Using the upper body when walking is good body mechanics; it’s how the body is meant to move,” Nitschke says. “The more muscle groups you engage in a workout, the greater the caloric expenditure.”
The fix: Bend your arms 90 degrees and pump your fists toward the sky as you walk. For even more of a challenge, try holding 1–3-pound hand weights while you walk. According the American Council on Exercise, this can boost your heart rate up to 10 beats per minute and increase oxygen consumption between 5–15%, adding to the number of calories burned during a workout.