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Thanks to the rise of fitness apps and virtual classes, a sweat-inducing workout is only a click away. But as nice as it is to feel the burn without having to leave your house, it’s just as nice to take a step outside. . . and keep going.
Walking is an underrated form of cardio that burns plenty of calories and elevates your heart rate, without taking a huge toll on the body. But you have to do more than a stroll to reap the benefits. With these expert-approved walking tips, you can turn your leisurely stroll into a daily energetic exercise that will raise your heart rate, burn some calories, and help you log some long miles.
And there’s no better time to get back to the basics then now, when you often need a break away from the computer while working from home, or when you simply need to get the kids out of the house and into some fresh air fast. Walking is enjoyable for all ages, and when you put your mind to it, you can really break a sweat while conquering your encouraged 10,000 steps a day.
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Do a tempo walk.
“Warm up, then pick up the pace (conversation should be hard) for about 20 minutes. Drop back to an easy pace to cool down,” Brian Zehetner, director of health and fitness at Planet Fitness, tells Woman’s Day.
Whether you prefer music, podcasts, or audiobooks, listening can help you walk longer. “Distractions help you forget about the stress your body is under, and research shows that music can improve exercise performance,” Zehetner says.
Switch up your scenery.
This seems obvious, but it can really up the enjoyment factor of your walk, Denise Austin, renowned fitness expert and avid walker, tells Woman’s Day. Stroll down streets you’ve never walked down, try different hiking paths, or head to your local high school or college track and see how fast you can walk a mile (it’s four times around!).
Transform the treadmill.
If your gym has safely reopened, hop on the treadmill and do intervals: Go at an easy pace for a few minutes, then jack up the speed and incline for a few more before dropping back to an easy pace. Repeat as long as you like.
Take in your surroundings.
Mindful walking is good for your mind and helps pass the time. Try this 10-minute walking meditation from the experts at mindful.org:
Begin your walk at a natural place, holding your arms in a comfortable position. Pay attention to the lift and fall of your foot with each step. Notice how your legs stride and how your body shifts from side to side. If your attention wanders, shift it back to your body sensations — this first step is all about you.
After a few minutes, turn your attention to the sounds around you. Do you hear birds chirping? A lawnmower whirring? Take in every sound, both pleasant and unpleasant.
Now shift your awareness to smell. Perhaps you get a whiff of car exhaust or the gentle scent of fresh cut grass. Breathe it all in.
Move on to vision. Take in the colors, objects, and scenery all around you. Maybe you notice your neighbor planted a new flowerbed out front, or you realize the trees are finally in bloom.
In the last few minutes, bring your awareness back from your surroundings to your body sensation.
Plan your route.
Work harder by walking up hills, or head to your local running track and see how fast you can make it around. If your route has fire hydrants, street signs, or trees, power walk from one to the next.
Add some weights.
There are three elements to fitness: cardio (that’s the walking piece!) to burn fat and condition your heart and lungs, strength training to tone and firm muscles, and core work for strong abs, says Austin. Don’t worry, you don’t need to do tons of bicep curls or hundreds of crunches to reap the benefits—a little goes a long way. Tag on a five minute arm workout with light weights to the end of your run and three minutes of ab exercises like planks or crunches, then end with a minute or two in downward facing dog, the ideal yoga move to give our entire body one good stretch.
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