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Walking with friends is a great motivator to get out and exercise.
Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
When it comes to weight loss, not all walking is created equal. While any and all exercise is a good thing, if you want to make the most out of your walk, there are a few things you can do to up your walking game and shed some serious pounds.
And time is not always the key. For example, two hours of walking can burn some serious calories, but so, too, can 30 minutes. So, whether you have a full 2 hours to devote to walking in one shot, or you need to spread your walking out over several shorter jaunts, use the time you have wisely.
Many fitness articles throw numbers around that may make you feel like you should have paid more attention in your high school math class. Instead of confusing yourself with general numbers and goals, use the specific numbers that work for your situation, like your weight, height, age and whatever else is needed, depending on how complicated the calculator is.
To get started, use a simple fitness calculator to obtain information that's tailored specifically to you. One of the best resources for fitness calculators is the American Council on Exercise. Using this calculator, you simply plug in your weight, how long you want to exercise and what exercise you're engaging in (in this case, walking), and it calculates how many calories you can burn.
In fact, you should spend some time playing with a fitness calculator in order to plan ahead and establish some goals. If you plug in that you'll walk 2 hours at a speed of 2 miles per hour, the calculator spits out the numbers of calories you can burn according to your personal information. Now try plugging in 3 miles per hour, and you'll appreciate how picking up your pace can help you burn more calories and lose weight faster.
To give you an idea of the difference, a 150-pound woman will burn about 270 calories if she strolls for 2 hours at 2 miles per hour. That same woman will burn 450 calories in 2 hours if she ups her pace to 3 miles per hour.
The smartphone revolution has also put a very valuable fitness tool right in the palm of your hand. There are a number of apps, such as Map My Walk, that are very useful in tracking your distance and calories burned in real time, giving you immediate results after each of your walks.
Step It Up
A two-hour walk along a boardwalk and a two-hour walk in the mountains are two entirely different animals when it comes to burning calories, even though the distances are the same. Starting out on relatively flat walks is a great introduction to the exercise, but as you get more fit, you'll find that you can do more varied terrain.
When this happens, gradually start adding some hills or stairs to your walk in order to get your heart pumping, Or you can do a walking version of the interval or sprint training used by runners. Pick up your pace to where you're almost breaking into a run for a few hundred yards and then slow it back down to your regular speed. If you do this several times throughout your walk, you'll keep your heart rate elevated and burn more calories.
Walk With a Friend
One of the best ways to spice up your walking routine is to have a friend or two join you. There's no greater motivator than someone who's willing to go the distance with you, and even challenge you to go faster or farther. And by going with a friend, you schedule this time for exercise rather than trying to fit it into an already busy calendar.
Another hidden benefit of walking with a friend is that as you walk and talk, you're training your body to use oxygen better through improved breathing.
And if you're walking on a treadmill at home or at the gym, audiobooks are fantastic tools to help you pass the time, as the narrator whisks you away into a story. You may even find that you go past your two-hour mark just so you can get to the end of the chapter, and you're eager to walk again as soon as possible in order to continue your book.
If you're lucky enough to be able to devote two hours a day to walking, you'll be well on your way to losing weight, especially if you make the most of your exercise time.