If you're bored with basic walking, try one of these two techniques that are growing in popularity across the country.
The road to a stronger, healthier heart really can be a walk in the park. Researchers at Indiana University studied people with pre-hypertension (they had a blood pressure of 120-139 over 80-89) and found that those who took four 10-minute walks a day lowered their blood pressure more than those who took one 40-minute walk. The effect also lasted longer: around 11 hours after the fourth walk, compared with seven hours for the single walk. Whether you're strolling with your dog, hoofing it to work, or heading outside for your lunch break, take 10 for your ticker.
An import from Finland, Nordic Walking poles were introduced to the United States in January 2004. Unlike hiking poles, which are used primarily to add stability, Nordic walking poles are also designed to increase the intensity of your workout. You'll burn 20-46 percent more calories Nordic walking than during regular walking and get an upper-body (including abs) workout while taking stress off your ankles and knees.
Pole use is also quite different from that of hikers, who plant the poles almost parallel to the body. Nordic walkers plant the poles angles backward at about a 45-degree angle to the ground, then push the pole and the hand holding it back behind the hip.
Nordic walking is also a versatile workout. You can do it on any surface—sidewalks, beaches, gravel or dirt trails. So grab some poles and head outside!
Race walking is an effective way to rev up your heart rate and add a new challenge. The brisk arm pumping gives your upper body a rigorous workout and tones your arms. Spending just 30 minutes race walking at speeds of at least 5 mph, a 145-pound woman can burn about 220 calories—more than she would walking or even jogging at the same pace shows a Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness study. What's more, without the pavement pounding inherent in running, race walking puts less pressure on your knees and hip joints.
Tips for Walking & Running Success
1. Ramp it up Walking or running on an incline, or climbing steps, torches a lot more calories than going at the same intensity on a flat surface. It also will achieve superior sculpting for the quadriceps, hamstrings, buttocks and calves.
2. Bound As you walk or run, add intervals of explosive movement -- leap in zigzag fashion up a trail, jump from rock to rock. You'll use more muscle to keep your balance and to bound, and work new muscles too.
3. Change surfaces Grass, sand, and dirt surfaces make you work harder than pavement or concrete. (Soft sand is tops, upping calorie burn by 30-50 percent at the same pace.) Try interval sessions where you alternate between hard and soft sand or a track and grass, keeping the pace the same.
4. Strength train Resistance exercise builds muscle, which incinerates more calories. It also gives a sleeker appearance by toning and firming. Best of all, with a stronger body, you can run, walk, hike, swim, kayak -- do just about anything active -- longer, so you can kiss even more calories goodbye.