Walk Off the Weight
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Fitness

Walk Off the Weight

Turn up the fat-melting, flab-fighting benefits of your usual walk with this fun, simple plan from walking pro Tina Vindum. Learn the optimal pace for calorie-burning and start toning your arms, abs, and butt with every stride. Lace up now to lose the jiggle fast!

Tone As You Walk

Alternate these two get-trim walks throughout the week -- the sculpting is ingeniously built in!

Walk 1: 30-Minute Upper-Body Blitz

Forget hand weights or park-bench push-ups. You can walk your way to sleek shoulders, a sculpted back, and toned arms without them by doing these upper-body exercises while you walk.

 
Walk 2: Get a Firmer Butt in 30 Minutes

Surprise: Your average walk is not a workout for your derriere. Use these rear-sculpting moves on your walk to get a better butt fast.

 
Hit the Right Pace

Aim for a walking speed that's about 75 percent of your maximum effort, meaning you can speak in choppy sentences. Depending on your level, that may be a very brisk 4.5 miles per hour (which burns 403 calories* an hour) but -- and here's the golden rule -- try not to let it dip below 3 miles per hour (211 calories an hour). That's the point at which women drop below the moderate-intensity exercise zone, the minimum you need to do to get cardio benefits from your workout.

*Calorie burns are based on a 140-pound woman.

Perfect Your Walking Form

To maximize the benefits of a walking workout, perfect your form -- perk up your pace and your posture -- by taking these pointers from Vindum, author of Tina Vindum's Outdoor Fitness. Follow Vindum's SCuLPT checklist (below) as you stride, using a repeated visual cue (mailbox, oak tree) as a reminder to maintain this posture throughout, and you'll give your abs 30 minutes of whittling per session!

  • SHOULDERS Draw your shoulders down and back to open your chest. Imagine squeezing a pencil between your shoulder blades.
  • CHIN Position your chin so it's parallel to the ground, not jutting forward. (Don't tuck -- picture the roof of your mouth moving straight back.)
  • LIFTED Lift your ribs away from your hips. Don't puff out your chest: Imagine that puppet strings are pulling your head and chest up.
  • PELVIS To find a healthy, neutral position for your spine (many of us walk around with a slight arch), tip your pelvis forward and back as far as it can go, then settle it in the middle.
  • TRANSVERSE Put your hands on your hips, feel the transverse abdominal muscles near your fingertips, and draw them in and up. Remove hands; keep this ab area firm as you breathe.

Fight Stress While You Walk

Get a bigger dose of bliss from your let-off-steam cardio routine with these proven mind-body exercises.

Stretch Your Breath

Take longer, slower exhales than inhales as you stride, suggests David Coppel, PhD, a sports psychologist in Kirkland, Washington. Breathing techniques soothe by shifting your focus away from anxiety-producing "what if" thoughts about the future and into the present.

See Green

A walk in nature lowers stress levels significantly more than pounding the pavement around town, reports a recent study in the journal Environment and Behavior. Head to the park whenever you need added relief.

Count Your Steps

Repeat "one, two, one, two" as you stride, picturing the number each time, says James Rippe, MD, a cardiologist in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Walkers using this tactic instantly reduced their stress levels, his research found.

Go Om

Tune in to the pattern of your arms swinging in rhythm with your feet, says psychologist Nina Smiley, PhD, coauthor of The Three Minute Meditator. "It can be as restful as a good nap," she says.

Get the Right Gear

Get the must-have gear for your walking routine with our all-weather guides to the best walking equipment.

 

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, April 2009.

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