Walking can help you burn excess fat throughout your body.
If you're worried about a little extra jiggle in your arms, take heart: You're not alone, and there's something you can do about it. While all those infomercial promises about spot reduction are a myth - it's genetics, gender and age that determine where fat comes off your body first, not which muscles you're working - you can use low-impact exercises like walking to gradually reduce excess fat everywhere on your body, including your arms.
The Fat-Burning Benefits of Walking
Exactly how many calories you burn during any exercise depends on a number of factors, including your body weight, fitness level and how hard you work out. But as a general rule, if you weigh 185 pounds, you can burn more than 170 calories in a half-hour brisk walk at about 3.5 miles per hour. That works out to about 10 hours of walking to burn 3,500 calories - roughly the equivalent of a pound of body fat.
A Substitution for Spot Reduction
All right, so you can't spot reduce. But you can add arm-toning exercises into your workout routine. This has two benefits: First, it burns a few more calories, which helps any excess fat come off even faster. And second, it cuts down on jiggle by building lean muscle mass and creating a more sculpted look in your upper arms. If you're a woman and you're concerned about weightlifting making you look "too muscular," don't worry: That's a myth, too.
Walking Offers Many Other Benefits
While some exercises offer higher rates of calorie burn, walking packs a number of other benefits that make it the ideal weight-loss exercise. Because walking is low-impact, it's very gentle on your joints. It's also free, assuming you already own a pair of support shoes. You can walk just about anywhere - no need to commute to a gym, or to alter your fitness routine when you travel - and you can even catch up with friends or, if your workplace allows, hold meetings while you walk.
Does walking hurt your joints despite its low-impact nature? Try "water walking," or walking laps in a pool. If your pool has a deep end, you can wear a special flotation belt to keep you afloat so you can focus on maintaining a steady walking pace.
Boost Your Calorie Burn
Want to burn off excess fat even faster while you walk? There are a number of ways you can speed up the calorie burn from your walking workout. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is simply to walk faster. Remember that 170-plus calorie burn for a half-hour of walking at 3.5 mph? According to figures from Harvard Health Publishing, if you boost your speed to 4 mph, the same person would burn 200 calories in half an hour. That little bit extra adds up fast. If you don't fancy race-walking for your entire workout, try doing intervals: Alternate short periods of walking fast with recovery periods at your normal pace. Or take to the hills; walking uphill automatically boosts your calorie burn, too.
Even if you can't boost the intensity of your walk, you can sneak extra little scraps of walking into your day: Walk to the post office or to the store, take a short but brisk walk during your lunch break, walk down to the park while you chat on the phone, and so on. Every little bit adds up, faster than you might think.
A Note About Nutrition
If you're focused on losing some excess body fat, what you eat can either help you work toward your goals or it can work against you. So-called "empty calories" - that is, foods that fill you up with calories but don't offer any significant nutritional content - are the biggest factor that will work against you. Watch out for processed foods in particular; most of them have many more calories than you might expect.
On the flip side, there are many positive eating habits you can pursue; every time you have a success in this department, it helps boost you toward your goal. Try filling up on a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, eating a mix of healthy proteins including lean meats and fish, swapping out any grain-based foods in your diet for whole-grain alternatives and focusing on healthy fats that can leave you feeling more satisfied.