Get More From Your Walks

There’s no wrong way to walk. But there are ways to get more out of each step. We’ve found five tricks to reap bigger rewards from a simple stroll.

No buts about it, walking is one of the best workouts. But how do you ramp up those walks so you get bigger benefits without having to run? Easy—just give your walks a mini-makeover with these five strategies. “You’ll beat boredom and boost your calorie burn,” says Jessica Smith, a certified personal trainer in Miami and the creator of the Walk On DVD series. Ready to rev those walks so you either sweat longer or turn up the burn? Here’s how:

1. Step to a beat.
Put music’s feel-good effect to work when you walk. Studies have found that exercising to music can help you go harder and longer, but keep in mind that the right tempo makes all the difference. For calorie-torching power walks, stick with songs that have 135 to 140 beats per minute (BPM). Pink’s “Get This Party Started,” for example, has 135 BPM. First, create a playlist of your favorite songs and then download an app called Tempo Magic ($4.99, available on iTunes), which allows you to change the BPM to your preferred speed.

2. HIIT it harder.
No doubt you’ve heard about high-intensity interval training (HIIT), but don’t think it’s just another workout fad. “With HIIT, you work at a higher intensity so you can get more done in a shorter amount of time and burn even more calories,” Smith says. Try adding HIIT to one of your walks each week. Here’s how: After you’ve warmed up, walk as fast as you can for two minutes, then walk for three minutes at a comfortable pace. Repeat up to three times.

3. Strengthen while you stride.
Lean muscle mass is more metabolically active than fat, so it’s a wise idea to add strength training to your walking plan. Yet because it can be tough to find the time to do both, solve the problem by adding strength moves to your walks, Smith says. For instance, do one strength exercise after every five minutes of walking, choosing traditional moves like squats, lunges, and push-ups.

4. Buddy up.
Book a regular walking date with a friend who’s a little fitter than you. While workout buddies will hold you more accountable so you’ll be less tempted to skip your workouts, partnering with a fitter friend can challenge you. Just don’t choose someone who’s way beyond your current fitness level or you’ll get frustrated and may even push too hard, Smith says.

5. Add weight.
Adding weight—and no, not body weight—can make your body work harder, thus boosting that calorie burn. But don’t do this by holding dumbbells as you walk, as they can stress your joints. Instead add extra weight at your core (where your body is better equipped to handle it, Smith says) by using a weighted vest. (There are lots to choose from in stores and online, but a basic model that adjusts from about 4 to 8 pounds generally retails between $25 and $40.) You can adjust how much weight is in that vest, so start lightly and progress slowly. As you walk, focus on using good posture and engaging your core.

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