You are here

Walking Workouts for a Greener Planet


Walk Your Way Green

Walking is the easiest, healthiest, and most effective workout ever. Even better: It's also good for the earth. Consider these statistics:

  • About 15 percent of all trips in the U.S. are less than one mile long, and more than 50 percent of those are made by car. Drive 10 fewer miles each week and you'll reduce the pollution that causes global warming by more than 500 pounds a year.
  • If Americans walked just 30 minutes a day instead of driving, we'd save about 8.4 billion gallons of gasoline a year and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 82 million tons.
  • If for one year, 10,000 people hoofed it five miles a week instead of driving, we'd eliminate the CO2 created by 219 cars.
  • Walk three miles a day and you'll burn about 240 calories — about the amount in a Snickers bar — while likely lowering your blood pressure and blood-sugar levels, which helps protect you against diabetes and heart disease.

Read on for three walking workouts, plus strategies to help you get more walking into your day and advice on staying safe on the roads.

Interval Walk

Calories burned: 105-140

This quickie walk alternates bursts of very fast and moderately paced intervals to blast fat and kick-start your metabolism. Follow your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) as a guide, using a scale of 1 to 10. "Match the intensity to something you can relate to," says trainer Teri Ann Krefting, star of Crunch's Belly, Butt, and Thighs Bootcamp DVD. For example: The warm-up and cool-down should feel like you're trying to get through a store before closing time, the quicker speed is like rushing to meet a friend when you're late, and the very quick intensity is like dashing to get to the plane before the gate closes.

Hill Walk

Calories burned: 190-200

Blast about 30 percent more calories — and tone your lower body — by walking hills. For this workout from Mark Fenton, author of The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight Loss, and Fitness (2nd edition), find a moderately steep incline that's at least one-eighth of a mile. (On the treadmill, put the grade at 10 percent). Can't find a hill long enough for two and a half minutes of trekking? Go as long as you can, then as fast as you can; don't ease up until you hit the target time.

Warm up: Walk at an easy pace on a flat surface (5 minutes; RPE: 5-6).

Intervals: Walk hard (RPE 7-8), then recover (RPE 4-5) for the given time.

  1. Walk hard, uphill, for 30 seconds; turn around.
  2. Walk hard, uphill, for 1 minute; turn around.
  3. Walk hard, uphill, for 90 seconds; turn around.
  4. Walk hard, uphill, for 2 minutes; turn around.
  5. Walk hard, uphill, for 2 1/2 minutes; turn around.
  6. Walk hard, uphill, for 2 minutes; turn around.
  7. Walk hard, uphill, for 90 seconds; turn around.
  8. Walk hard, uphill, for 1 minute; turn around.
  9. Walk hard, uphill, for 2 minutes; turn around.

Cool down: Walk at an easy pace on a flat surface (5 to 10 minutes; RPE 5-6).

Time: 38-43 minutes

Sculpting Circuit

Calories burned: 255

Add strength to your power walk with the stride-and-sculpt circuit on these pages from Petra Kolber, creator of the new 3, 2, 1 Dance DVD. Since you'll need a bench, stairs, and a wall or tree for some of the moves, this workout is best done in and around a park. Depending on where you walk, do the moves all together at the end of your routine or mixed in, as shown below.

Warm up: Walk at an easy pace (5 minutes; RPE: 5-6).

Speed drill: Increase speed until you almost have to jog to keep it up (3 minutes; RPE 7-8).

Supported squat (targets glutes and thighs): Stand with your back against a wide tree or a wall. Slowly walk your feet out and bend knees until thighs are parallel to the ground (keep knees aligned over ankles). Hold for 30 seconds; come back to standing. Repeat.

Speed drill: Walk as quickly as you can without breaking into a jog (3 minutes; RPE 7-8).

Bench dip (targets arms, chest, upper back and abs): Sit on a park bench, knees bent, feet on ground. Place hands on bench to the outside of your hips, fingers pointing forward. Slide butt off bench and use triceps to slowly lift and lower hips about 4 inches. Repeat for 1 minute.

Speed drill: Walk as quickly as you can without breaking into a jog (3 minutes; RPE 7-8).

One-arm wall push-up (targets chest, arms, back and abs): Stand arm's-distance from a wall or tree and place right palm on it at shoulder height, arm extended. Press chest into the wall or tree until nose is near surface, then push out. Repeat for 30 seconds; switch sides.

Speed drill: Walk as quickly as you can without breaking into a jog (3 minutes; RPE 7-8).

Cross-body kick (targets abs, obliques, and thighs): Stand on left leg, knee slightly bent, hands on hips and right leg lifted a few inches out to side with foot flexed. Kick right leg across body to the left and back to side; keep range of motion small and muscles contracted. Repeat for 30 seconds; switch sides.

Speed drill: Walk as quickly as you can without breaking into a jog (3 minutes; RPE 7-8).

Sidestep squat (targets butt and thighs): Stand sideways to a set of stairs, hands on hips. Place right foot two stairs up with both feet pointing forward. Squat, lowering hips until right knee is bent about 90 degrees. Hold for 1 count, pressing into right foot, then stand back up. Repeat for 30 seconds; switch sides.

Cool down: Walk quickly (5 minutes; RPE 6-7), then gradually slow your speed (5 minutes; RPE 3-4).

Time: 35 minutes

3 Ways to Stay Safe When You Walk

Be Car Smart

The biggest threat facing walkers is traffic. To protect yourself, always walk on sidewalks. If they're not available, walk facing traffic and cross at marked crosswalks.

Stay Visible

The wind-resistant NightLife Vest from Brooks is bright safety-yellow and features a reflective zipper and panels.

Buy the NightLife Vest from Brooks, $80,

Or try ultra-luminescent L.E.D. lights, which can be seen from almost all angles up to one mile away.

The all-purpose SpotLit L.E.D. clip-on from Nite Ize attaches to almost any zipper pull (or dog collar, if you're walking with your pooch).

Buy the SpotLit L.E.D. clip-on from Nite Ize, $7,

Take Precautions

When possible, walk with a friend and carry a cell phone. And always keep ID on you. "Stick a note in your pocket with your contact information when you leave home," says Therese Iknoian, editor of and author of Fitness Walking. Or plug an emergency contact number into your phone under "ICE" (In Case of Emergency).

Walk More and Drive Less

We're lucky that FITNESS's offices are located in New York City, one of the most stroll-friendly cities in the country. By lunchtime, most of our staff will have walked at least a mile. But you don't have to be in a city to get your feet moving. Try these tips from Mark Fenton to work more sneaker time into your day.

  1. If you live in the suburbs, think about all the places you visit in a typical week or month — the ATM, the post office, your friends' or your children's friends' houses, convenience stores. If they fall within a one-mile radius of your home, vow to walk to them instead of driving. Not sure how far away they are? Find a map of your community (try "You'd be surprised how many places are really walkable," says Fenton.
  2. If you live in the country, it's often more practical to link your errands together, driving to a downtown area to bank, grocery shop, and go to the hardware store. "Park in a central location and turn at least two of those trips into a walk," says Fenton.
  3. If you live in the city, strap on a pedometer and watch your step count grow. One recent study found that most subjects who wore a pedometer walked at least a mile more each day. The key, says Fenton, is to determine how much you walk on an average day, then increase that number by about 20 percent each week. If you typically walk 5,000 steps a day, add 1,000 steps a day for the first week, then walk 7,200 steps a day the second week and 8,600 steps a day during week three. By the end of the month, you'll be walking 10,000 steps (about five miles) a day.

The Pedometer We Like

People given a pedometer walked at least a mile more each day. We like the ultra-thin Sportline ThinQ.