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500-calorie walking workouts

Linda Melone, CSCS, is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and certified personal trainer based in Orange County, CA. Visit her website at www.LindaMelone.com.

Walk your way fit

We were built to walk, but just because a stroll across the room seems easy doesn't mean walking isn't exercise. In fact, walking is one of the easiest ways to torch 500 calories per workout. Here's how.
Nordic walking

Do you think about calories when you're eating?

Let's face it: It's easier to skip that extra slice of pizza than it is to work hard enough to burn it off. That said, we don't often make food choices from the logical part of our brains. We struggle with the angel on one shoulder, who reminds you of all the hard work you've done this week to fit into that bathing suit, and the devil, who offers to join you in that extra slice — and promises to make the cute guy at the gym notice you.

Tempting, eh? And by the time you've finished wiping the pizza sauce from the side of your mouth, the idea of working out suddenly seems as likely as completing a swim around the world.

But wait, there's hope.

Walking burns calories. What could be simpler, right? In fact, simply walking for an hour at 3 mph (not much more than a stroll), burns off 500 calories for a 150-pound woman, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Add some hills and pick up the pace, and you'll get there a bit sooner.

Here are a few other ways you can boost the calorie burn from you daily walk (all clock in at approximately 500 calories per hour) -- and ease the guilt of overindulging in that cheese-laden fast-food dinner.

Pick up the pace

The easiest way to up the ante is to simply walk faster. You may even want to try race walking, which uses more muscles and therefore burns more calories. Remember to pump your arms, but keep the movement compact. The larger the arm swing, the harder it is to move them faster.

Head for the hills

Walking up hills also increases intensity, as does lifting the incline on a treadmill. But don't hang on to the treadmill as you walk or you'll negate the benefits. 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.

Re-surface your walk

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

Go Nordic

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.

Pack it in

Lastly, consider adding 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. (You can also dump part of it on the side of the road -- in a discreet spot -- if it becomes too heavy.) Avoid ankle and hand weights, which can change your gait and can set you up for injury.

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