Group of women runners walking in a forest, close upWalking is one of the best workouts for several reasons. It uses your whole body, you can do it just about anywhere, and you don’t need any special equipment other than a pair of shoes. And of course, since you learned to walk at around one year old, it’s not like you have to learn a special new skill!

Those are just some of the reasons that many people use walking as their primary means of burning calories and losing weight. But as with any exercise, there are ways to maximize your walk so that you’re working a little harder, burning more calories, and toning your muscles better.

Gradually increase your time or distance. Going for a daily walk is good for you, period. But if you’re trying to lose weight or get in better shape, you’ll need to gradually increase the difficulty of your workout. Set small goals each week, such as walking another half-mile or five more minutes, or whatever suits your schedule and ability.

Add bursts of speed. Some people can walk for miles at a very fast pace. But if you’re just getting started, maybe you’re not quite there yet. You can challenge yourself and increase your fitness level by adding one-minute bursts of speed. Walk for as fast as you can, then return to your usual pace. Do this as many times as you can during your workout.

Add some hills. Modify your route so that you add hills into your routine. Walking uphill engages thigh and glute muscles, and gives your heart a better workout, too.

Use poles. Pick up a set of hiking poles at a sporting good store, or grab a used set from Craigslist. Using poles engages your upper body in the workout, so you’ll increase your endurance and build more strength up top.

Train for a race. Sign up for a charity walk that is a few months away, and gradually increase your walking distance over eight weeks or so. Training for a specific event will keep you accountable to your goals, and motivate you to try harder each day.

As always, give us a call before starting a new exercise regimen. We can examine you thoroughly and make sure that your workout plans are safe for your health and fitness level.