Here's a little secret from fitness pros: We trainers love to walk.
It's true. When I'm not working with clients or doing my own strength training regimen at the gym, you'll usually find me at park in Los Angeles, where I'm walking and listening to podcasts. I'm not alone.
"When I seek movement, when I want to work my body, I'm looking at things that feel natural to me," Charlee Atkins, a trainer and founder of Le Sweat, recently revealed to the Well+Good podcast. "I'm going on a hike, going on a walk, riding my bike around my neighborhood. These little things that you don't think [of as] movements, but actually are—and are also providing you that physical outlet—are the things that I seek."
Walking more is crucial to more than just your physical and mental health. It's an integral part of getting lean. Getting in walks helps you stay active and increase your NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis), which is basically all of your non-exercise movement: Your walks, the movements associated with your chores, the sitting and standing you're doing while playing with your kids, etc. All of that aids with fat loss. Also, if you're engaged in other forms of exercise, walking is also a great way to aide in your recovery.
But if walking is your preferred form of exercise, it can be more than just a great NEAT-booster. A proper walking workout can be a real sweaty affair, and an excellent fat burner, to boot.
As my colleagues at ETNT Mind+Body have reported in the past, walking is an excellent way to get lean and lose weight, especially if you're new to exercise. "Walking is one of the most underrated exercises for weight loss," trainer and health coach Ryan Hodgson recently explained to Express. "Too often in the mainstream media we are seeing overweight people being pushed toward HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts, circuits, couch to 5k and much more…. Many of these forms of exercise are much more likely to promote injury. If we could do more to promote walking for weight loss, it would be a huge step in the right direction."
I confess that I totally agree. If you'd like to walk your way to a lean figure, what follow are four great walking workouts that you can do starting ASAP. So read on, and know that If You Can Walk This Far, You May Live Longer, Says Science.
The City Walking Workout
Find a loop in your neighborhood or park, and block off 30-60 minutes—whatever you're comfortable doing. If you're a beginner, simply warm up with a 5-minute regular-paced walk, and then start walking at a brisk pace—in which you could talk to someone next to you, but you're too winded to sing to them—and complete as many loops as you can in that time period. It's important that you walk to time, and not distance. So keep going until your stopwatch says you're done.
For a more intermediate walk, perform intervals during the same period. Begin with the same 5-minute warm-up. Then walk for 3 minutes at a really fast pace, before walking at a brisk pace for 2 minutes. Continue this pattern throughout the workout.
For a really advanced walk, walk the entirety of your 30-60-minute walk at a brisk pace, but every 5-7 minutes, stop and do 10 squats, 15 pushups, and a 30-second plank. And if you love nothing more than to walk, make sure you're aware of The Secret Cult Walking Shoe That Walkers Everywhere Are Totally Obsessed With.
The Stair-Climbing Workout
Find a local spot in your area—a high-school football stadium, a public park—where there are tons of stairs. Set a timer for 30-45 minutes. There's nothing fancy or complicated to remember here: Just perform as many laps as you can on the longest trail of stairs you can find. Just remember: Don't go too fast. All of his climbing will really test your conditioning, so walk at a pace you find manageable. Just keep climbing! (And remember to drink plenty of water.)
The Treadmill Workout
Set your treadmill at the highest incline (usually 15 degrees) and set the speed at 2.5-3.0 mph. Walk at this pace and incline for 15-20 minutes and watch your heart rate go up!
The Hiking Workout
Depending on where you may live, there are many hiking trails available to you. Find one and enjoy yourself out in nature. If you're new to hiking, pick a shorter trail. If you're more conditioned, pick a trail that is for intermediates and above. For the exercise, if you're really fit, you can repeat a variation of the workouts I explained in #1 (the City Workout).
However, given that you will be going across different terrains and elevation will be involved, you may wish to bring down the difficulty somewhat—or simply just walk at a brisk pace. That being said, if you'd like to up the intensity, I'd advise you to do 1 minute of really intense walking for every 5 minutes of brisk walking. If you're winded, take a break. And remember: No matter what your fitness level may be, be sure to bring water and electrolyte packets, as they will come in handy—especially in the warmer weather. And for some great walking tips, see these Secret Tricks for Walking for Exercise, According to Walking Experts.