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Turn Your Walk into a Workout

How to start (and stick to) a walking program, whether you're new to exercise or already fit.
(continued)

5 Ways to Stay Motivated continued...

Keep a walking journal. A journal serves as a motivator by allowing you to see your progress, Valentour says.

Get a walking partner. Valentour says, "A walking buddy provides accountability. Neither wants to let the other person down."

Sign up for a race or charity walk. An upcoming event gives you a goal to shoot for, which may motivate you to stick with a program.

Find support online. Programs such as the American Heart Association's StartWalkingNow.org program have helped thousands of people get started walking. Designed by the American Council on Exercise, the free online program includes a monthly newsletter with health tips and recipes, an online activity and nutrition tracker, access to an online journal, and the ability to connect with others for support and motivation. A search option also allows you to look for walking paths in your area.

"You simply go online, register, and take a quiz," Valentour says. "You'll receive a 12-16 week downloadable program." Beginners start with five to 10 minutes; advanced exercisers start with more challenging options.

Make It More Challenging

If you're already fit, simply kick up the intensity for a more challenging workout. Here's how:

Speed up. "The easiest way to up the ante is to simply walk faster," says Therese Iknoian, MS, author of Fitness Walking. You may even want to try race walking, which uses more muscles and, therefore, burns more calories. Brisk walking at four miles an hour burns 334 calories, and strolling at three miles per hour burns 221 calories, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. "Remember to pump your arms but keep the movement compact," Iknoian says. "The larger the arm swing, the harder it is to move them faster."

Head for the hills. Walking up hills also increases intensity. So does lifting the incline on a treadmill. But don't hang on to the treadmill as you walk or you'll negate the benefits, Iknoian says. "You don't want to look as if you're waterskiing." Hanging on makes your body perpendicular to the treadmill, so ergonomically you're walking on flat ground.

Change the surface. Consider changing your walking surface for a greater challenge. "Walking on trails and maneuvering around rocks increases muscular demand," Iknoian says. Snow, sand -- even grass -- makes walking more of a challenge.

Use Nordic poles to get upper body muscles involved. "You increase the cardio workout when using poles, plus they take the stress off of knees when walking downhill," Iknoian says.

Add resistance with a weighted backpack or weight vest. "If you use a backpack, fill it with water, sand, or kitty litter so the weight distributes evenly," Schurman says. "Avoid ankle and hand weights, which can change your gait and can set you up for injury."

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