These two super-fun and efficient power walking routines will torch calories, improve your cardio health, and help sculpt stronger muscles. If your primary goal is to blast calories like you would running, you’ll have to ramp up your walking intensity, and also change up your terrain occasionally, so your body does not adapt quickly to these brisk walks.
To further boost your burn, alternate 2–3 days of power walks with 2–3 days of more advanced circuit training, or high-intensity interval training.
The School of Public Health at Harvard University offers a helpful chart explaining how to judge your own exertions and exercise intensity. The Borg Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale ranges from 6 to 20 (the numbers, when multiplied by 10, are intended to correspond to your heart rate). A 6 is “no feeling of exertion” (sitting), whereas 20 is “maximal exertion” (sprinting up a mountain).
Before you pick up your pace or jumpstart your miles per hour (mph), consider your present fitness level, injuries, and your condition on the day of your workout.
Power Walk 1: Boost Fat Burning and Endurance
(Duration: 20–40 minutes)
Adding intervals is an easy way to increase the intensity of any walk. “Walking fast and hard builds muscular endurance, tones your legs and lower body, and also increases your heart rate and heats up your body so you burn calories efficiently,” says Whitney Cole, a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and a Pilates instructor in Marina del Rey, Calif.
Another bonus of fast walking outdoors? Striding outside keeps you in natural sunlight, which can help stave off the winter blues and your potential for a long winter hibernation. Also, ’tis the season to head out and buy the best cold-weather exercise gear imaginable. A bit of weather is no excuse for missing your walking workout!
0:00 – 5:00 minutes Walk at moderate pace to warm up (RPE 7–9)
5:00 – 10:00 Repeat the following cycle five times (RPE 10–13)
• Walk briskly for 20 seconds (4 mph or so)
• Jog for 20 seconds faster (up to 5 mph, pretty quick)
• Sprint for 20 seconds (walk-run as fast as you can)
10:00 – 12:00 Walk slower for two minutes of recovery (RPE 9–10)
12:00 – 17:00 Repeat walk-jog-sprint cycle again (RPE 10–13)
17:00 – 20:00 Perform a 3-minute cooldown, walking 2.5–3 mph (RPE 8–6)
During this slow-down walk, Cole suggests stopping every few feet in order to swing your arms, do shoulder shrugs, and other cooldown stretches. If you have time for a 40-minute workout, repeat the whole sequence twice through, Cole suggests.
Power Walk 2: Treadmill Hill Training
(Duration: 30 minutes)
“Walking hill programs on a treadmill has much of the fat-burning potential as running but without the joint-jarring impact,” says Jeanette Soloma Hale, a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist based in St. Paul, Minn. Hale recommends programming your treadmill on manual so you can keep punching in variable inclines and mph for every workout. It keeps your mind and your body busy too, and your workouts fly by, she says.
“Walking like this improves the circulatory system by strengthening your leg muscles, which boosts healthy blood flow to your working muscles, heart and brain,” says Hale. Walking can help you lose weight, too, especially if you are an exercise novice, she says.
0 – 5:00 minutes at 0 percent incline and 2 mph speed, gradually increase speed to 2.8–4 mph
5:00 – 8:00 Increase incline to 2 percent, increase speed to 5–5.5 mph
8:00 – 10:00 Maintain same speed, increase incline to 3 and then 4 percent
10:00 – 13:00 Increase incline to 6 percent, increase speed until you are breathing hard 5.5 mph (faster if you can)
13:00 – 15:00 Maintain speed at 5–5.5 mph, increase incline to 6–7 percent
15:00 – 16:00 Decrease incline to zero for active recovery phase. Decrease speed gradually to 4 mph and keep walking
16:00 – 19:00 Increase incline to 2 percent and increase speed to about 5 mph for one minute. Then drop speed slightly to 4 mph for a minute, and continue interval training
19:00 – 22:00 Decrease speed to 4 mph, increase incline to 10 percent
22:00 – 24:00 Decrease speed to 3–3.5 mph, increase incline to 10 percent (try a slow jog for the challenge)
25:00 – 27:00 Gradually pull back, decreasing incline to 4–5 percent, slowing your pace to 3 mph
27:00 – 30:00 Decrease incline to 0. Gradually decrease speed to 2.5 mph. Stretch thoroughly after every walking workout.
There are so many ways to blast calories, burn flab, and shape your legs and glutes with walking. The next time you want to shake up the same-old stroll, try one of these winner power walks instead.