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9 Power Walking Tips to Turn Your Stroll Into a Calorie-Blasting Workout

Try these speed walking tips to increase your calories burned walking.

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Walking almost seems too simple to be a good workout. But that’s far from the truth—even just a 5- or 10-minute walk comes with cardio and calorie-burning benefits.

“From an overall health and fitness perspective, there are so many benefits from walking,” says Chris Gagliardi, manager of the American Council on Exercise (ACE) resource center and a certified strength and conditioning specialist. “In addition to burning calories, [walking] improves strength, promotes good cholesterol and heart function, and helps oxygen flow through your body. It also reduces inflammation and the effects of sitting all day," Gagliardi says.

Every little bit counts, but to really reap the rewards on par with jogging, you have to kick the effort up a notch and start power walking. Follow these power walking tips to kick your calorie burn on overdrive—and reap all the weight loss benefits of walking.

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Stand up straight

One of the biggest mistakes people make when power walking for a workout is that they tend to slump forward, Gagliardi says. That can slow you down. “Maintaining a good, upright posture helps you be efficient,” he explains. Bonus: It also helps you take full, deep breaths, which will power your walking and help you go faster and farther without wearing out.

Pick up the pace

Think about your level of effort to stroll around the block and try to double that pace. A light-intensity walk is probably about two miles per hour or slower, but cranking your speed up to four miles per hour will be a nice, moderate-paced power walk for most people, says Gagliardi.

Take the talk test

You can get precise and dial into a certain pace on the treadmill, or wear a GPS-tracking watch or fitness wearable that records your stats and lets you know your power walking speed. But if you’re going for a more carefree outing, you can still gauge your intensity by taking note of how out of breath you are and how easy it is for you to talk while you walk. “During a moderate-intensity walk, you should be able to talk but not to sing,” says Gagliardi. To pump up the calorie burn even higher and start speed walking, push the pace until talking in full sentences starts to feel more difficult.

Pay attention to your form

In addition to standing with your back held up straight, it’s important to think about the positioning of the rest of your body, too. “Try to keep the movement of both sides of your body symmetrical,” Gagliardi advises. That might seem like second nature, but it’s not necessarily, especially if you have aches and pains now or recovered from an injury in the past. “Sometimes when we have an injury, we develop a certain gait as a result, and continue moving in that way even after we’re fully recovered,” he explains. “Being more aware of how you’re moving—and losing any limps or other imbalances in your gait—can help you move more efficiently and get more out of your walk.”

Pump your arms

Cue up those mental images of power walkers in the '80s and '90s pumping their arms. The aggressive swinging might look a little silly, but it’s quite effective for propelling your body forward, revving up your heart rate, and getting a little bit of toning action for your upper body. As long as it’s comfortable, Gagliardi recommends keeping your arms bent at 90 degrees and pumping them forward and back.

Activate your abs

One important reason for keeping your abdominal muscles engaged during higher-impact activities is that doing so helps keep your spine safe. Walking is a pretty low-risk workout, so it’s not important for that reason. But keeping your abs activated while you walk improves the workout because it strengthens your core and helps you maintain good posture, says Gagliardi.

Switch up your stride

You might take longer strides when you’re walking for exercise, thinking that they’re helping you cover more ground quickly. But doing the opposite is actually better: Shorter steps are more efficient. That being said, mixing up your steps can add variety and burn more calories by challenging your body in a new way, says Gagliardi. You can walk with shorter steps for five minutes, then change to a longer stride for another five, for instance.

Pick up some weights

Grabbing a pair of light dumbbells for your walk might seem on par with old-school step aerobics, but the strategy is still a good one, says Gagliardi. Walking with weights increases your calorie burn because you’re have to move a heavier load than you would with just your body. And the results can be pretty dramatic—a 2013 study found that wearing a vest that weighs at least 10 percent of your body mass can increase your calorie burn by 13 percent. If you’re going to the dumbbell route, Gagliardi recommends erring on the side of caution and don’t go heavier than three-pound weights. They can become unwieldy to swing with your stride and cause unwanted stress on your joints.

Another way to incorporate weights: If you’re carrying dumbbells on your walk, try breaking up the outing with rounds of compound exercises, Gagliardi suggests. You can stop walking every five minutes or after every lap on the track to do lunges with biceps curls or squats with overhead presses. That’ll make the workout more interesting and blast more calories to boot.

Add intervals

Walking at a steady state can get boring, and it also limits the calories you can torch. Adding in intervals can burn more calories during and after your workout by increasing your EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.

There’s no one way to do intervals. You can increase your pace for a certain number of minutes or certain distance. “For example, pick a focal point in the distance, like a stop sign, and walk at a faster pace where talking becomes difficult until you get to it,” Gagliardi suggests. Then, keep alternating that way between easy and harder efforts. Or, you could walk with exaggerated arm movements, like holding your hands overhead, until you get to the mark.

To really spice things up, you can do hill repeats. Walk at a comfortable pace to a nearby hill, then walk at an effort where it’s hard to talk up the hill, and recover at an easy pace downhill and repeat. Gagliardi says just keep in mind that you don’t have to go all out at once. “If you’re new to exercise or increasing the intensity of your walks, start off slow and gradually—and you’ll still get great benefits from it.”

Learn about the incredible benefits of walking just 30 minutes every day:

3 Power Walking Workout Plans

Ready to take a walk? Try these interval walking plans to get started. Exertion is rated from level 1 to 10, with 1 being in a rested state and 10 being on the verge of breathlessness.

Classic pyramid

This simple interval session gradually builds in intensity to a peak, then eases back down.

  • 5-minute warmup walk (level 5)
  • 5-minute typical walk (level 6)
  • 4-minute brisker than usual walk (level 7)
  • 2-minute fastest possible walk (level 8)
  • 4-minute brisker than usual walk (level 7)
  • 5-minute typical walk (level 6)
  • 5-minute cool-down walk (level 5)

    Peaks and valleys

    This workout combines big blasts of speed with slower recovery breaks.

    • 5-minute warmup walk (level 5)
    • 3-minute typical walk (level 6)
    • 2-minute fastest possible walk (level 8)
    • 3-minute typical walk (level 6)
    • 2-minute fastest possible walk (level 8)
    • 3-minute typical walk (level 6)
    • 3-minute fastest possible walk (level 8)
    • 4-minute typical walk (level 6)
    • 5-minute cool-down (level 5)

      Crazy 8

      This workout is a fun mishmash of moderate- to high-intensity intervals.

      • 5-minute warmup walk (level 5)
      • 8-minute brisker than usual walk (level 7)
      • 4-minute typical walk (level 6)
      • 4-minute brisker than usual walk (level 7)
      • 2-minute fastest possible walk (level 8)
      • 2-minute typical walk (level 6)
      • 5-minute cool-down walk (level 5)
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