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It’s the quick-stepping secret to dropping weight and staying fit for life When you want to shed weight, walking might not even come to mind...




It’s the quick-stepping secret to dropping weight and staying fit for life

When you want to shed weight, walking might not even come to mind. But it should. “Fast-paced walking, when combined with healthy eating, is hugely effective for weight loss,” says Art Weltman, chair of the kinesiology department at the University of Virginia. And those simple steps can have a big impact on your overall health, cutting your risk of everything from heart disease to depression. If your daily strolls haven’t made you skinny so far, your speed may be the problem. Many of us stride more like a window-shopper than a power walker. The goal, thankfully, isn’t crazy race-walker style; you just need to move at a challenging pace.

In studies, Weltman has found that women who do three short (about 30-minute) highintensity walks plus two moderately paced recovery walks a week lose up to six times as much abdominal fat as participants who simply stroll five days a week. (This despite the fact that both groups burn the same number of calories.)

The power walkers also drop about four times as much total body fat. “There is a strong relationship between intensity of exercise and fat-burning hormones,” says Weltman. “So if you’re exercising at a pace considered to be hard, you’re likely to release more of these hormones.” The best part: When women walk, deep abdominal fat is the first to go.

Another happy truth: Power walking is easier on the joints than running. “During walking, one of your feet is always in contact with the ground,” says Weltman, “but during running, there’s a float stage where your whole body is lifted in the air. Then you come back down and subject your body to the impact.”


To make sure your pace is on point, use these guidelines from exercise physiologist Tom Holland, author of Beat the Gym. For maximum fat burn, aim for 30 minutes at power-walk intensity three days a week. You can complete it all at once or break it into spurts with recovery strides (stroll or brisk walk) in between.

STROLL: Think windowshopping pace, or an intensity of 4 on a scale of 1 to 10. It burns about 238 calories an hour.

BRISK WALK: This means an effort of 5 or 6 on a scale of 1 to 10. It burns up to 340 calories an hour. While you can chat, you need to catch your breath every few sentences.

POWER WALK: You’re torching off about 564 calories an hour. Moving at this clip, using your arms to propel yourself forward, your effort should be 7 or 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. Talking is possible only in spurts of a few words, but . . . you’d . . . rather . . . focus . . . on . . . breathing.


ADD HILLS. When you hit the hills on a treadmill or in your neighborhood, you increase your calorie burn by nearly 20 percent, and that’s just on a 1-degree to 5-degree incline.

GO OFF-ROAD. Head out for a light but brisk hike, and you’ll torch approximately 430 calories in just an hour. Credit the uneven terrain, which forces you to work harder.

SWING YOUR ARMS. With your elbows bent at 90 degrees and hands in loose fists, move your arms in an arc, keeping elbows tight to your body. This helps drive you forward, builds upperbody strength, and can increase your burn.

FOCUS ON LONGER STRIDES. Instead of taking more steps, “work on increasing your stride length,” Weltman advises. “You’ll cover more ground,” and that means more fat fried.