Turn your daily stroll into fat-blasting workout.
You’ve probably heard all the good stuff about frequent walking: Notably, less stress, lower cholesterol levels, and reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
But walking for weight loss? That surely requires a copious jumping, furious panting, and an overly energetic trainer screaming in your face, right?
Hardly. As it turns out, simply putting one foot in front of the other is one of the most effective ways to blast fat.
This is especially true if you have a lot of weight to lose. In a Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry study of obese women, those who performed three hour-long moderate-intensity walks per week—for 12 weeks total—significantly reduced their levels of abdominal fat while improving their insulin health, as compared to those who didn’t increase their activity levels.
“Walking is a highly underrated exercise,” says Layne Nordquist, C.P.T., a master trainer with VASA Fitness in Denver. “It’s a great cardio workout and way to lose fat.”
While walking alone does burn calories, unless you have hours per day, strolling around aimlessly isn’t the way to go. Here, experts share four techniques that will help you kick up your fat loss.
Fat-Blasting Tip #1: Add Intervals
In the fight against fat, high-intensity interval training—exercise that alternates bouts of all-out effort with periods of recovery work—is extremely effective. Much more so than traditional, slow-and-steady cardio, Nordquist says.
However, a lot of people think that high-intensity exercise has to be high-impact. False. Walking is a super low-impact exercise that can easily take a high-intensity approach.
Here’s how to integrate high-intensity intervals into your walking workouts:
- Pick up your pace and move as fast as you can without breaking into a jog for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Once you feel like you are working at an 8 or 9 on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being lazing on the couch and 10 being “I’m about to face plant”), slow your speed until your heart rate drops. You should feel like you’re working at about a 4 or 5 intensity.
- Once you’re breathing normally, pick up your pace again.
Inclines are another great way to increase exercise intensity when walking. Adjust the incline on the treadmill, take on a hill, walk up a set of stairs, or strap on a weighted backpack for an extra surge of intensity.
Fat-Blasting Tip #2: Increase Your Mileage Each Week
“The body is amazingly designed and adapts quickly to handle a lot of walking,” says Nordquist, noting that body changes really only occur when you push your limits with each workout.
When starting a walking program, he recommends taking time to figure out your comfort zone. Then, train right up against it. For example, if you can comfortably walk a mile in 20 minutes, try walking 1.1 miles in that same amount of time, then 1.2 miles the following week, and so on.
As your endurance builds, your comfort zone will grow—and continuing to challenge yourself will ensure continued results. However, as a general rule, he recommends increasing your total distance walked by no more than 10 percent each week. So, if you walk a total of 10 miles this week, 11 is a good goal for next.
Fat-Blasting Tip #3: Maintain a Calorie Deficit
Compensatory eating—avoid it! “A walker who is trying to lose weight would not need to eat excess to fuel that workout,” says registered dietitian and certified eating disorder specialist Betsy Opyt, R.D.
An adult will typically burn 100 calories per mile when walking at a comfortable pace. So, if you carb-load with bagels or enjoy extra food splurges because, hey, you’re walking pretty fast nowadays, you could easily end up in a calorie surplus. That means you’ll gain weight, not lose it.
“I always suggest a 500-calorie energy deficit to create a 1-pound-per-week weight loss,” she says. That could mean keeping your current diet, but just adding in roughly five total miles of walking per day. Alternatively, you could walk roughly 2.5 miles per day and cut about 250 calories from your current eating habits.
Fat-Blasting Tip #4: Strengthen Up
The best walking workout doesn’t involve just walking. Total-body strength-training exercises can help keep things well-rounded while giving you the extra oomph you need to push yourself even further during your walks, Nordquist says. For example, strengthening your hips, legs, core, and even arms (yes, seriously!) can help you walk faster, farther, and up higher and higher hills.
What’s more, sprinkling bodyweight strength moves into your walks is a great way to increase the difficulty of your workouts and add in high-intensity intervals. After all, mid-walk, performing a set of pushups on a bench or incline rows with your hands on a bar or swing-set ropes is guaranteed to make you sweat.
For the best results, focus on performing large, compound movements such as squats, lunges, split-squats, pushups, and pullups. Although you can perform these movements at home, when you sign up for a flip50 membership, you gain access to over 10,000 gyms with top-notch equipment and certified trainers to help you get better results from your strength workouts.
Fat-Blasting Tip #5: Fine-Tune Your Technique
Getting the most from any walking routine requires using proper form. With walking, that means standing up tall, keeping your shoulders back and chest out, and pumping your arms in opposition with your legs.
Keep your elbows bent to roughly 90 degrees so that, with each stride and arm swing, your hands are brushing where your side pockets would be, Nordquist says.
To keep yourself moving decisively forward—and not wasting energy—make sure to not cross your arms in front of your body as they swing. Drive your elbows straight back behind you and the forward, your hands never crossing the front of your torso, he says.
Fat-Blasting Tip #6: Track Your Stats and Stroll Everywhere
In sneakers or ballet flats, jeans or a pencil skirt, the beauty of walking is that you can do it anywhere, anytime.
Although your twice-daily power-walk through the park might feel like the time when you zap the most calories, it’s those frequent mini-spurts (walking up the stairs of a parking garage, grocery shopping, stepping out of the office to grab lunch) that can really drive you to see physical changes a whole lot faster.
Most smartphones have built-in pedometers. Including (or excluding, if you’re a go-getter) your walking workout, aim for 10,000 to 15,000 steps per day.
Note: Please consult your physician before beginning a physical activity program to make sure it’s safe for you.