Learn proper form techniques to make your walks more efficient.
Credit: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Fitness walking is an excellent way to tone muscles and burn calories. In fact, you can burn almost as many calories with a vigorous walk as you can running, and fitness walking is much less stressful on the body. You will need to average about 12 to 15 minutes per mile (measure your distance with a pedometer, available from sporting goods stores). Start by walking for at least 20 to 30 minutes three to four days per week. Increase this to five to six days per week if you're trying to lose weight.

Here are tips for proper walking form:

• Elongate your body by standing tall with head up, chin level, and eyes gazing forward.

• Lift chest, and relax shoulders. Breathe deeply as you walk to get the maximum amount of oxygen to your muscles.

• Bend arms slightly and swing them front to back, not side to side or crossing the body. Do not swing elbows higher than chest level.

• Tilt pelvis forward slightly, and keep abs tight.

• Push off with toes and land on heel, rolling back through to toe to push off again.

• Maintain a natural stride length.

Add speed intervals to your walks to burn up to 10 times more calories than you would during an ordinary fitness walk. After warming up, fitness walk for three minutes, then add a one-minute speed interval. Increase your walking pace to about eight or nine on an intensity scale of one to 10. At the end of one minute, slow back to your fitness speed. Continue alternating three-minute segments of fitness walking with one-minute increments of speed for a total of 10 intervals. You should interval train only twice a week to allow your body time to recuperate between workouts.

Quick Tip: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your walk, and start with a slow five- to eight-minute warm-up of slow walking. At the end of your walk, cool down and stretch.