Just try walking as fast as you can to that next tree, then slow down. Then, speed back up when you hit the fire hydrant.
Ready to amp up the speed?
Apart from being a low-impact exercise that you can do literally anytime, anywhere, walking can be just as great (if not better!) at spurring weight loss compared to high-intensity boot camps and other balls-to-the-wall workouts, says personal trainer Chris Freytag, C.P.T., founder of Get Healthy U TV, and board member of the American Council of Exercise.
Walk your way to a healthier weight with these expert-approved tips:
“Since so many people don’t have time for two-hour walks every day, making the most of the time you have is key,” Freytag says. “By adding some speed and intensity to your walks, you can up your calorie burn, improve your lung capacity, and absolutely take off some pounds.” To make sure your intensity is where it needs to be, focus on your breathing. If you’re walking along at a fat-burning rate, you should only be able to get out a few words at a time without taking a breath, she says.
Still, you don’t need to race through your entire workout to walk off the weight. In fact, 2015 research out of Ohio State University shows that altering your walking speed burns up to 20 percent more calories than walking at a a steady pace. Think of it sort of like driving on the highway without cruise control. By regularly letting on and off of the gas and break pedals, you burn through way more gas—a.k.a. calories, according to researchers.
You don’t have to follow a structured speed plan, though. Just try walking as fast as you can to that next tree, then slow down. Then, speed back up when you hit the fire hydrant. You get the idea.
While exercising on empty is never a good weight-loss strategy, you don’t need to pump calories or carbs before walking workouts the way you do before intense boot camps or 10-mile runs, says Tori Holthaus, R.D.N., founder of YES! Nutrition. That's because walking probably won’t deplete your body’s stored carbs as quickly as higher-intensity exercises.
Simply eating balanced meals and snacks containing whole carbs, lean protein, and healthy fat throughout the day will provide you with all of the energy you need to power through the vast majority of your walks, she says.
If, however, you like to go on walks first thing in the morning, eat something before you head out the door, since you probably haven't eaten in the last eight hours. You can also mix some protein powder into your water bottle to help keep your blood sugar levels stabilized, says San Diego bariatric surgeon Julie Ellner, M.D.
Though it's not a huge deal if you don't eat after a quick 30-minute walk, it's very important to refuel after hitting the road for an hour or more. “In this case, your glycogen stores will be depleted, and you need to replenish those stores to feed your muscles,” Freytag says. Opt for a small, post-walk snack that contains a roughly three-to-one ratio of carbs to protein. Some solid choices include a banana with nut butter, piece of whole-grain avocado toast, or glass of chocolate milk.
Walking is a great way to lose weight, but to make sure that you aren’t losing metabolism-boosting muscle mass, you need to integrate strength training into your routine, Ellner says. Stop every 10 minutes during your walks to perform a few sets of pushups, lunges, squats, or other bodyweight exercises, says Freytag. Once you finish off your last rep, keep walking.