Walking is a great form of exercise. It’s accessible, easy on the joints, suitable for all fitness levels and requires no special equipment or training. However, while a gentle stroll certainly won’t do you any harm, if you want fat loss, your daily walks might be lacking a certain something.
Use the following tips and tricks to ensure your walking workouts burn as many calories and as much fat as possible!
1. Pick up the pace
The faster you walk, the more calories and fat you will burn. There is a big difference between walking for pleasure or transport and walking for fitness and fat burning. When walking for fitness, make sure you stride out with purpose, use your arms and walk briskly. It should be obvious to anyone watching that you are exercising and not just strolling.
When walking for exercise, you should be slightly out of breath and you should feel that, on a notional scale of one to ten, you are working at around level five or six.
Fast walking is uneconomical and when it comes to exercise, uneconomical is good! The more uneconomical you are, the more energy you will use and that means faster fat loss.
2. Load up
Another great way to make your walking workouts more demanding and therefore better for burning fat is to increase the load on your muscles. This is best done by wearing a backpack or a weighted vest although you could also hold weights in your hands too. Load yourself up with around five percent of your bodyweight and then head out on your normal walk. Increase the load over the coming weeks and months.
Walking with a load will also place a beneficial stress on your bones which will make them stronger and less prone to age-related bone loss which could lead to osteoporosis.
While this is a good strategy for making your walking workouts more demanding and burning more fat, it does place more stress on your joints so make sure you increase the load gradually to avoid making your feet, knees, hips or back sore.
3. Head uphill, then do it again!
Walking uphill is significantly harder than walking on the flat. Make the most of this by doing some hill repeats. Find a long, moderately steep hill and walk up it at a brisk pace. Once you reach the top, turn around and walk back down again. Repeat several times to burn lots of calories and also boost your fitness. Walking uphill is also an excellent butt and thigh workout.
4. Go off road
Walking on yielding surfaces like loosely-packed dirt, sand or wooded trails is much more demanding than walking on tarmac, concrete or a treadmill. Some of your forward momentum will be lost as the ground shifts beneath your feet and that means you’ll have to expend more energy than normal as you stride out on your walk.
Because of the inherent instability of off-road surfaces, make sure you wear supportive footwear, preferably boots, to protect your feet and ankles.
5. Use walking poles
Walking poles allow you to work your upper body along with your lower body to increase fat and calories burning while you walk. Research suggests that you’ll use as much as 30-percent more energy walking with poles while taking stress off your knees.
Alpine walking, as it’s known, takes a little getting used to but it’s a short learning curve and you should be able to master using walking poles in a couple of outings.
Buy adjustable/collapsible walking poles as they are the most versatile and convenient to carry.
6. Try some fartlek
Fartlek is Swedish for speed play and is a form of training popular with endurance athletes. It’s also a great way to increase fat burning during your walking workouts. Simple speed up and slow down randomly over the course of your workout. Speeding up will drive your heart and breathing rate skyward and then taking it a little easier will allow you to get your breath back. Ultimately, your average heart rate should be higher over the course of a fartlek walking workout than for a regular walking workout.
7. Breathe through your nose
When you exercise moderately, you will automatically switch from nose breathing to mouth breathing. This usually happens at around 60-percent of maximum heart rate and ensures your body gets all of the air it needs to keep your muscles supplied with oxygen.
However, if you purposely avoid mouth breathing and only breathe through your nose, you will make your walking workout more demanding and burn more calories as a result. This has a similar effect to exercising at altitude in that it limits the amount of oxygen that will be available for your muscles. Start out with short stretches of nose-only breathing and gradually increase until you are able to walk the entire way breathing only through your nose.
Needless to say, any of these intensifiers should be introduced gradually to avoid making your walking workouts too tough too soon. However, once you have become used to them, there is nothing to stop you combining two or more methods to make your walking workouts as effective for fat burning as possible.