It used to be that you just walked from your desk to the water cooler or to and from the subway (or your car) before and after work. But thanks to activity trackers, more and more people are motivated to not only count their daily steps, but to make their steps count.
You may find yourself using your lunch break for a quick stroll around the block or walking to and from your favorite coffee shop. All those steps add up! But if you want to maximize both your daily steps and your walking workouts, all while burning more calories in the process, keep reading.
Benefits of Walking
Simply put: Walking is easy and accessible. Walking requires no special skills or equipment, and that make it one of the simplest forms of physical activity that won't cause added stress on your joints or bones.
Also, walking briskly allows you to enjoy many of the benefits offered by other more strenuous physical activities, including improved mood, boosted energy and weight management. And who doesn't want that?
How to Burn More Calories
Even at a relatively low intensity, brisk walking can burn 120 to 200 calories in just 30 minutes. But how can you increase the calories you burn while walking? Here are a few options that increase muscular strength as well as taking your cardio workout up a notch.
1. Head for the Hills
If you're walking on a treadmill, increase the incline. Or if you're outdoors, intentionally seek out hills. Walking uphill increases your effort, which burns more calories and tones your calves and glutes. Additionally, walking uphill mimics the cardiovascular effects of running without the stress on your joints.
2. Speed Things Up
Just like any other cardio workout, increasing your walking pace will also result in an increase of calories burned. In fact, you'll go from burning 150 calories in 30 minutes of walking 3.5 mph to 190 calories for 30 minutes of walking at 4.5 mph. It may not seem like much, but those extra calories will build up over the course of the week, month and year.
Can't sustain a higher speed for a long amount of time? Build up to it by doing intervals (i.e., short bursts of high-intensity walking with recovery periods of slower walking). This will get your heart pumping faster and condition your body to handle higher-intensity cardio bouts in the future.
3. Add Strength-Building Exercises
If you're already out for a long walk, why not amp up your calorie burn and beat boredom by adding some strength exercises into the mix? Simply doing lunges, high knees or butt kick exercises as you walk can add an extra level of difficulty to your workout — all while targeting more of your core muscles.
Maximize Your Steps
Fitness trackers are great for two main things: They give you both a high-level and in-depth look at your activity. That means you can see your both day-to-day step counts as well as see trends emerge over a long period of time, making them the easiest way to see your habits in action.
But if your tracker has been sitting in the box since you got it, try some of these options to get the most out of your tracker.
1. Embrace Friendly Competition
Why not challenge your friends or co-workers to see who can take the most steps each week? You'll not only have built-in accountability, but will receive some extra motivation as well. In the end, you all win! Walking is a mood boost and will make for even friendlier conversation around the water cooler.
To set up the competition, the participant with the least amount of steps at the end of the week buys the first round of (healthy!) cocktails at Friday's happy hour. Or, whoever has the least steps is in charge of the Friday-morning coffee run (to get in extra steps, of course).
2. Break Up Your Day Hourly
Many trackers send alerts after long periods of sedentary activity. For one, Fitbit users have access to a feature called Hourly Activity. Once activated, you set your step-count goal for every hour, versus focusing solely on a 10,000-step daily goal.
Breaking up every hour will get you moving more often, which not only impacts your calorie count, but also counteracts the negative effects of sitting all day.
3. Download an App
There are some great apps out there that'll help you get more out of your steps. For example, when you download Charity Miles, you can earn money for the charity of your choice just by walking!
If you want a trainer-guided walk, the Aaptiv offers various treadmill workouts. You can choose from speed walking, power walking and more, with a curated playlist and trainer right in your earbuds cheering you on the entire way.
Sample Walking Workouts
Ready to burn some extra calories? Kyle Golden, a certified fitness trainer and founder of Work It Personal Training in Austin, Tex., has developed two walking workouts — both indoor and outdoor — that you can incorporate in your weekly routine.
Both workouts take only 30 minutes, making them perfect for your lunch hour or as a way to wind down after a long day at work. Just make sure to stretch afterward!
Interval Treadmill Workout
Time: 35 minutes
- 5-minute warm-up, walking at a steady pace with no incline
- 2 minutes either walking at 3.5 mph or faster or increasing the incline at least 3 levels
- 30-second recovery at a slower pace
- Challenge yourself again with either a faster speed, increased incline or both
- Repeat for 25 minutes
- 5-minute cool down
Kicked-Up Outdoor Walk
Time: 30 minute
- 5-minute brisk walking warm-up
- 10 walking lunges
- 2-minute brisk walk
- 1-minute relaxed walk
- Continue this cycle for 20 minutes
- 5-minute cool down