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Women Exercises

Walk to Burn Fat Faster

One of the most common complaints we hear from veteran walkers is "I'm not seeing any results." Prevention's fitness director, Michele Stanten, isn't surprised. "It's easy to slack off because walking is such a comfortable, familiar activity. If your goal is to slim down, you need to keep up a faster pace."

For Karen Liptrap, it wasn't until she broke 4 MPH that her body started to respond and burn more calories. "My tush used to hang," she says, "Now it's firm, and my legs are strong and toned."

To understand why Liptrap shaped up, just do the math. The faster you walk, the more calories you burn. For example, a 60-minute walk at 3 MPH burns 240 calories (based on a 150-lb person). Speed up to 4 MPH, and you can blast those calories in just 42 minutes. Keep it up for an hour, and you'll burn nearly 50% more calories—364 total. At that pace, walking 5 days a week, you could lose an extra 10 pounds a year.

And those are just the visible benefits. "Ramping up your speed trains the heart, lungs, and skeletal muscles to use oxygen more efficiently," explains Brian Duscha, an exercise physiologist at Duke University Medical Center. Researchers at the University of Michigan also found that women who walked at 4.2 MPH for 15 weeks increased their bone density, while those who walked 3.4 MPH saw their bone density decrease.

Results like these are just a few quick steps away with this 8-week speed training program, developed by Boston-based walking expert and biomechanist Mark Fenton. The Short & Fast walk teaches your nerves and muscles to react quicker so your legs move faster; the Long & Steady walk progressively builds endurance and trains your body to sustain a faster speed for a period of 30 minutes or more. Do each of these speed walks once a week and a moderate-paced walk two to four times a week. Supplement your walks with the Muscle Up Your Speed routine three times a week, and soon you'll be blazing a trail to health—and leaving everybody else in the dust.

Quick Steps Made Easy

Do each of these speed training exercises once a week, allowing at least 2 days between speed training sessions for your muscles to recover. Stick to a moderate pace the rest of the week. Warm up by walking at an easy pace for 5 minutes; do the same to cool down afterward. If your walking speed is less than 3.5 MPH (or more than a 17-minute mile), aim for the lower range of steps per minute (SPM) in the chart below. If you walk faster, use the higher end of the SPM range. Check your pace with a pedometer to track the number of steps you take in 3 minutes, and then divide by 3. If you don't have a pedometer, simply count your steps for 60 seconds. As the weeks pass, you'll get a better feel for your speed.

Your Weekly Guide to Walking

Week     Short & Fast (20 mins)     Long & Steady

1     120-130 SPM     120-130 SPM for 35 minutes
2     125-134 SPM     120-130 SPM for 40 minutes
3     129-138 SPM     120-130 SPM for 45 minutes
4     133-142 SPM     120-130 SPM for 50 minutes
5     137-146 SPM     130-150 SPM for 35 minutes
6     140-150 SPM     130-150 SPM for 40 minutes
7     143-153 SPM     130-150 SPM for 45 minutes
8     145-155 SPM     130-150 SPM for 50 minutes

How fast are you going?

To estimate your walking speed, count the number of steps you take per minute (SPM).

120 SPM = 3.0 MPH
130 SPM = 3.5 MPH
140 SPM = 4.0 MPH
150 SPM = 4.5 MPH
155 SPM = 5.0 MPH

Muscle Up Your Speed

The stronger you are, the easier it is to go fast. "Strong muscles let you recruit more muscle power to propel you forward and also improve posture," says walking coach Lee Scott, founder of WoW Power Walk in Ontario.