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Healthy Habits: How-Tos

Your Most Strenuous Summer Workout: Walking

Yes, walking can give you a real workout. Just follow these tips to boost its intensity.

People think of walking as an exercise for seniors or lazy people. But the truth is it's one of the best and easiest ways to stay active. "You can do it anywhere, it's low-impact and you don't have to invest any money in special equipment or a gym membership to do it," says Delia Roberts, fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and professor of biology at Selkirk College in British Columbia. Use these tips to turn your next walk into a serious workout.

Pick up the pace.
On your next walk, select a milestone you can see in the distance, such as a street lamp or a sign, and walk as quickly as you can until you get there. By adding a few of these speed intervals into your normal routine, you’ll increase your heart rate and improve your fitness.

Add some weight.
Grab your kid’s backpack, load it up with books and put it on before you hoof it. Wearing the extra weight will make your walk more difficult than normal, increasing your energy output. Plus, since the weight is on your back, you’ll help increase the bone density in your spine, making it stronger.

Walk uphill.
While walking on level ground is great for beginners, adding hills will increase the intensity of your routine. Similarly, walking on uneven terrain can also make for a tougher workout. (However, Roberts cautions against this if you have balance issues or ankle problems.) Find a hiking route near you at Trails.com.

Get pumped.
To increase the effort level of your workout even more, pump your arms while you walk: Close your fists and hold arms at approximately 90-degree angles, swinging them alternately across your body and back to your side as you walk.

Find a support system.
Recruit a group of friends to go on regular walking dates with you. Since the miles will fly by when you’re chatting and catching up, having a buddy or two will help you walk a longer distance, lengthening your workout. Can’t find anyone who’s willing to hit the road with you? Visit Walkers.Meetup.com to find walking groups in your area.

Put in headphones.
Similar to working out with friends, listening to music while you exercise can help you stay motivated and give you a pleasant distraction that will lead to your walking greater distances, burning more calories. Bonus: If your playlist has faster-paced songs, they can help you subconsciously pick up your pace.

Robin Hilmantel is an associate editor at Food Network Magazine. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, USA Today and Maxim, among other publications. She is a frequent contributor to Completely You.

Also read: “Spring-clean Your Fitness Routine” and “Brush Your Way to Better Sex”

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