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30-Minute Power Walks That Blast Fat

Thousands of doctors recommend it. Hundreds of studies extol its benefits. It's simple. It's enjoyable. You can do it virtually anywhere. And, when it's done right, walking can blast away fat as fast as jogging—maybe faster. Even better, power walking is easier on your joints, since you hit the ground with less than half the force you do when you jog. As a result, you're less likely to have your fitness goals sidelined by soreness or injury.
The secret is shifting from the typical window-shopping stroll to a more athletic gait and pace. It takes a little practice, but the payoff is a lower-body makeover that'll definitely put some strut in your step.

Getting Started

This is a moderate-impact aerobic activity, so you know the first thing you have to do is get yourself some good shoes. Prevent sore, achy feet by wearing walking shoes that are light, roomy, and flexible. When you bend the shoe, it should yield easily at the ball of the foot. When it's on your foot, there should be a thumb's width of space from the end of your longest toe to the front of the shoe. If your shoes are too stiff or too tight, you'll be battling tingling toes and achy joints 20 minutes into the walk.

Next, you want to work on your pace. For optimum calorie burning, I recommend aiming to walk at about a 4.5-mile per hour (mph) pace. Fitness scientists at Washington University in St. Louis have discovered that if you walk at this pace, you can burn almost as many calories (201 per 30 minutes, based on a 140-pound woman) as someone jogging at about the same speed (223 calories per 30 minutes) because you're using the same amount of energy to stay in motion. Of course 4.5 mph is a fast walk; if you haven't been walking regularly, you shouldn't expect to hit that speed right out of the gate. Start at a slower pace and use the same fat-burning power walking form to work up to this speed.

To find your current pace, go to your local high school running  track (it should measure one-quarter of a mile) or take a drive and measure a mile around the neighborhood with your car's odometer. Then go out and walk the mile. If it takes you 20 minutes, that's 3 mph; 15 minutes is 4 mph; 13 minutes is 4 1/2 mph, and 12 minutes is a highly athletic 5 mph. The brisker your pace, the more calories  you will burn. But if all you can manage is a 20-minute mile, don't worry. Walk regularly, and within 3 weeks, your pace and endurance will increase.

Aim for 4 to 6 power walks a week. Beginners should strive to stride for 20 to 30 minutes. More experienced walkers can step it up to 45- or even 60-minute sessions (when time allows). As a rule of thumb, increase your workout time by 10 percent a week. So if you're currently walking 30 minutes a day, 4 days a week, then you should add only 12 minutes to your total weekly walking time the first week you increase. Remember that your workout time includes a few minutes to warm up and a few minutes to cool down and stretch.

Tips and Techniques

It's super easy to walk off extra weight if you start walking the right way. Here's how to transform your everyday stroll into a fat-blasting, muscle-toning stride.

Roll heel, ball, toe

Tell most women to pick up the pace, and they will immediately lengthen their strides. But long strides are actually less efficient and more tiring than quick heel-ball-toe steps. To perform the proper quick-step stride, concentrate on landing on your heels, rolling through your instep, then propelling yourself with a push off your toes. You'll be surprised at how fast these little steps can be.
Hold your head high. While it's important to watch where you're going, you don't want your head to hang down toward your feet. Raise your chin up and look about 10 feet ahead of you. This will give you plenty of peripheral vision to see the sidewalk below yet still keep your neck and head in picture-perfect posture.

Swing your fists

Instead of letting your arms hang down loosely by your sides, bend your elbows 90 degrees, close your hands in relaxed fists, and swing them in an arc from your waist to your chest, keeping them close to your body. By swinging your arms, you'll walk faster, burn more calories, build upper-body strength, and keep your fingers from swelling the way they often do after you've walked for a while.

Zip up

For a stronger stride, suck your abdominal muscles  in and up like you're zipping a snug pair of jeans. Contracting your abs not only helps tone your tummy, but also supports your spine so that you maintain proper posture while you walk.

Tighten your butt

Your glute muscles are the engine that puts power in your stride. Make these muscles work even better by keeping them active as you exercise. Hold your butt muscles taut and contracted as you walk by pretending to squeeze a dollar bill between them (it's silly, but it works) as you walk. As a bonus, your glutes will get firmer faster.

Pretend you're late

If you're still not sure how fast you should be walking, here's a quick, measurement-free way to remember. Pick up your pace to the point where you're just about ready to break into a jog. That's about where you want to hover for most of your walk. Your pace should feel as it would if you were running late for an important appointment.

If you can't quite sustain the speedy pace you'd like, add intervals to your workouts; it's the fastest way to get quicker and fitter. Although the term sounds intimidating, "interval training" means nothing more than adding quick bursts of speed to your workout. Do this on just 2 nonconsecutive days a week (walk at your usual pace on the other days) and you'll burn mega-calories as well as increase your walking speed. Here are a few 30-minute interval sessions to try. For all interval sessions, judge your exertion on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being standing still and 10 being on the verge of exhaustion.

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