Walking doesn’t get enough credit, often overshadowed by its sexier workout counterparts: running, HIIT training and whatever boutique workout happens to be trending.
But it’s a damn shame that it so often gets overlooked because walking is, hands-down, the most accessible workout around. You literally need nothing more than your body and a pair of shoes to hit the road and start burning calories.
There’s also good news in research regarding the calories you burn while walking. A 2016 study out of Southern Methodist University found that the leading calorie burn equations for walking are outdated, based on too few study participants and tend to be significantly inaccurate. The best part? They tend to underestimate the number of calories you burn while walking, which means that the basic walk just started looking a whole lot better.
If you still want to amp up your calorie burn next time you pound the pavement, there are a few other tricks you can use to maximize the burn.
1. Head for the hills
Seek out stairs or rolling hills to tackle on your walk, and you just might boost calorie burn for hours post-workout. By hiking up an incline, you further engage your calves, glutes, hamstrings and quads, which ultimately leads to greater calorie burn during and following your workout. Just try to maintain the same pace you use while walking on flat surfaces as when climbing up hills.
2. Pick up speed
Speed walking isn’t easy, but it’s certainly a calorie torcher. Even the inaccurate equations used to predict calorie burn during walking show a clear boost in burn for every half mile you pick up your pace. This increase becomes even more amplified at very fast speeds because walking at 4 to 5 mph is incredibly inefficient. What your body would prefer to do is break out into a run.
When you force your body to perform inefficiently, it burns more calories to provide the increased energy demand for inefficient movement. So if you can, go ahead and increase your speed to a semi-uncomfortable level.
3. Vary your pace
Interval training is one of the absolute best ways to boost calorie burn during any form of exercise, and that includes walking. A study from The Ohio State University published in the journal Biology Letters in 2015 found that study participants who walked at varying speeds (say, alternating between a fast walk for 30 seconds, then a moderate walk for 30 seconds), increased calorie burn by up to 20 percent compared to those who walked at a steady pace.
This is great news if speed walking for long periods of time is outside your comfort zone. All you have to do is switch back and forth between faster and slower rates for the whole of your workout.
More: Check your walking form
4. Hit the poles
Walking with Nordic trekking poles (you can find them at almost any major athletic retailer) turns walking into a full-body workout, encouraging a greater arm swing and upper body engagement than traditional walking. Plus, studies indicate this style of walking burns more calories and increases upper body strength without significantly increasing perceived exertion. In other words, you get big results without feeling like you’re working harder. I’d say that’s pretty sweet.
5. Get heavy
Although it’s not advisable to carry hand weights or wear ankle weights while walking or jogging (they can mess up your form), carrying extra weight during your workout does require more muscle engagement, which can build strength and burn calories.Strap on a hiking backpack or a fitted weight vest. Both options enable you to increase the weight you carry as you walk without screwing with your form.