It’s no secret walking is the perfect exercise. You can do it anywhere, anytime, and your risk of injury is almost nil. Not only does walking help control your weight, but it’s recognized by the American Heart Association as a way to lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol levels, and increase your energy. It’s also been shown to improve your mood.
But if you want to step up your heart rate—not to mention your calorie and fat burn—you’re going to have to get to the gym and take a spin class or a boot camp, right? WRONG. Here are four easy ways to turn your everyday stroll into an effective workout:
Step On the Gas
Bumping your speed to a brisk walk (from 2 mph to about 3 or 4 mph, or between 3000 to 4500 steps in 30 minutes, for the average person) will increase your heart rate, so you can burn more calories.
Another way to torch calories is to vary your speed. As with any form of interval training, when you perform short, more intense bursts (30 seconds to one minute sets of exercise) and rest in between (in this case, walk more slowly for a minute) you may be able to sustain a tougher workout over a longer period of time.
Change Your Angle
Adjusting the incline on your walks isn’t just for treadmills, although that’s an easy way to do it. You can go for a hike or you could even check out areas near you with hills where you can walk safely. Not only does walking on an incline burn more calories by forcing your muscles to work harder as they push and propel you uphill, but it also fights boredom.
Walking is a weight-bearing exercise on its own, since you’re carrying your own bodyweight, but for an extra challenge, wear a backpack filled with some bottles of water. If you prefer more evenly-dispersed weight, you can buy a weighted vest at any sporting-goods store.
Step to the Beat
If you find you’re struggling to keep a lively pace, pop in your headphones and play some of your favorite music. Studies show that working out to music can help you work harder and longer. According to Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., a leading authority on music and exercise, music can “reduce the perception of effort significantly, and increase endurance by as much as 15 percent.”
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.