Walking is the simplest, cheapest and most convenient way to exercise. But if your goal is to lose weight, an easy stroll isn't going to cut it. The fact is, a 150-pound person burns less than 100 calories on a leisurely half-hour walk. (And weight-loss experts say that most Americans who need to lose weight should decrease the calories they consume and increase the calories they burn by a total of at least 500 calories a day.) So we interviewed walking experts to find out what it takes to turn up the intensity of a walk to burn more calories. These five simple habits will help. Once you've adopted the suggestions that sound best to you, try combining some of them to give your walk an even bigger boost.
1. Speed Up
Increased Calorie Burn: 15 to 30 percent more per walk
Yes, strolling at a moderate pace has important health benefits. (For starters, it keeps your heart healthy.) But brisk walking--at a pace that makes it tough to talk, which means at least two miles in 30 minutes--is a better way to lose weight. Walking fast allows you to cover more ground and work more muscles than walking slow, says Liz Neporent, a New York City-based exercise physiologist and author of Walking for Dummies (IDG Books Worldwide). At a very quick pace, you'll burn almost as many calories as you do while jogging, with less stress on your body. Form is important; the right posture helps you move faster. Here's what to do: Walk tall and stay relaxed. Bend your elbows at 90-degree angles and keep them close to your body. Swing your arms forcefully so that your hands are level with your breastbone on the upswing and almost brush your hips on the downswing. Instead of lengthening your steps, keep your stride short and quick. Land on your heels and roll through your foot to push off firmly with your toes. To maintain your pace, you might consider using a heart rate monitor. These gadgets show your heart rate and also act as an exercise partner, letting you know when you're working too hard or not hard enough. Your goal should be to work out at about 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. (To calculate your target heartbeats per minute, subtract your age from 220, and then multiply that number by 0.705.)
* If you walk at 3 mph for 30 minutes, you burn 119 calories.
* If you walk at 4.5 mph for 30 minutes, you burn 153 calories.
NOTE: ALL FIGURES ARE FOR A 150-POUND PERSON.