By Patricia Canole
Most New Yorkers may think they’re experts when it comes to walking. After all, we’re known to the rest of the world as the best city for walking.
But take it from those in the know: Besides getting you from point A to point B, walking is the best heart-healthy exercise going. Here, some pointers on the proper way to better walking and getting the extra calorie-burning bang. Try them on your next stroll around town.
Borrow this simple move from Olympic champions. Bend arms to 90-degree angles and swing them as you walk. Correct arm positioning plays a vital role in how fast you walk, and the faster you walk, the more calories you burn.
WALK A HOUND, LOSE A POUND
Studies show that walking a pet dog is beneficial to one’s health. No pet? Then volunteer to walk dogs at an animal shelter! Doing this daily routine not only alleviates depression but trims your waistline as well.
MIX IT UP
Alternating short stints of fast walking and medium-recovery periods is a wonderful way to burn calories without adding time to your workout. Try the “talk test” to judge your effort: during the short bouts of fast walking, talking should be very difficult; more comfortable during recovery.
YOUR FOOT ARMY
Exercising with a partner increases the chances that you’ll stick with it. New York City native, Nadia Singh, 35, took this concept one step further and created a rotating roster of walking friends that helped her lose two dress sizes. “Four years ago, I started walking by myself, but got bored—even with an iPod, says the six-day-a-week walker. “Now, I coordinate about 20 walking enthusiasts through e-mail. I have one group that only walks on Saturdays, another on Tuesdays and Thursdays and a third on Wednesdays. I also have some ‘floaters’ who can walk any day of the week.” Follow Nadia’s lead and gather your friends and family for weekly walking.
WALK LIKE YOU’RE SKIING
Using Nordic poles will increase your calorie burn by up to 40 percent. Doing so works your upper body to help propel you forward. Using more muscles means you’re burning more calories. Don’t worry if you get funny looks. Just mention you’re training for the Olympics!
PUSH YOUR WEIGHT AROUND
A recent study found that those of us who pushed strollers loaded with 35 pounds burned 18- to 20-percent more calories than when they walked without. For an average woman that equates to 375-400 calories per hour.
HEAD FOR THE HILLS
Walking on flat roads and streets is all fine; however, hills can make you burn up to 50 percent more calories and tone your body.
Most of us have heard this by now: Aim for 10,000 steps each day to get fit. But how did this originate? It all began in Japan during the 1960s, when Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D., tracked habitually active walkers. His team determined that the average man burned 300 calories by approximately walking 10,000 steps. And so manpo-kei (“10,000 steps meter”) was born. Today, it’s better known as the pedometer.
Today, most experts agree the number is a bit arbitrary. Nevertheless, counting steps is essential. Keep in mind the number of steps depends on your aim. The rule of thumb: Walk as much as you can whenever you can. You know it has health benefits—so why not just do it?
By now you realize that walking is good for your heart, burns calories, and helps you stay young. But there’s more…
CUTS BREAST CANCER RISKS
Walking, even for a few hours a week, significantly reduces the risk of developing breast cancer. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, walking helps lower levels of body fat, a source of estrogen. The research looked at 7 post-menopausal women and found those at a healthy weight lowered their risk by 30 percent while those who were overweight, by 10 to 20 percent.
A brisk walk will help you get a better night’s sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Walking boosts levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin, which relaxes you. The rise in body heat brought on by walking may, in turn, signal the brain to lower your temperature later, which promotes sleep.
Just 30 minutes of walking three times a week does wonders for your bones. This type of exercise, which uses 95 percent of your muscles, actually pushes your bones to become stronger so they can handle the load. Walking is not just for cardio.