I wasn't always a runner. At one point in my life, I detested running so much that walking was undoubtedly my activity of choice. Turns out, it wasn't a bad choice and I wasn't alone—national surveys continue to indicate that walking is the single most popular fitness activity. Probably because it comes so naturally, but also because it can lower blood pressure and body fat while reducing coronary and cancer risks. Truth be told, many of those same health benefits can be applied to running as well. But it's a common misconception that walking one mile is equivalent to running one mile.
The American Council on Exercise explains that walkers burn only 50 to 60% of the calories that runners burn over one identical mile. The basic explanation—runners are working harder and moving faster. But that's clearly not meant to discredit walking because not everyone is a runner. Or, some people are runners but their bodies just can't keep up for one medical reason or another. And that's OK. Walkers are clearly reaping the health benefits. And they can reap even more benefits with proper form and intensity.
Consider the following: Whether you walk on a treadmill, track or sidewalk, always keep up the pace. Fitness walking is meant to challenge you. My husband calls it "pep-stepping" for good reason. It's upbeat and active, clearly not your average stroll around the neighborhood on a casual Sunday. And speaking of the neighborhood, pick a path with hills. If you're on the treadmill, up the incline—but don't hold on! This essentially negates the incline because your body stays in a neutral position. Inclines are meant to challenge your energy level and your leg muscles, and they certainly will if you give them a proper chance. Additional leg burn can be achieved by simply lengthening your stride a bit, which calls on your inner and outer thigh muscles a bit more than usual. You can also challenge your abs by keeping them squeezed from start to finish. In addition, let your arms swinging casually and steadily to engage the upper body.
That said, I will leave you with a challenging treadmill routine. Give it a go and let me know what you think!