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9 ways to ramp up your walking workout

Walking is a free, simple way to get your daily dose of activity and has multiple health benefits. If you are ready to bump up your current walking routine, try these tips.

1. Practice good form. Bend your arms at 90 degrees and swing one forward as you bring the other back, maintain good posture, engage your core muscles and walk with a heel-to-toe stride. "Proper arm movement increases your stride and speed," says Lauren R. Jeffrey, ACSM EP-C, NASM PT, an exercise physiologist at Piedmont Atlanta Fitness Center. "Taking the time to focus on good form can help you burn additional calories."

2. Walk backward. It may feel silly, but if you walk on a treadmill with arm rails (important for safety!), walking backward can help improve your agility and train different muscles than you normally use. Jeffrey advises against walking backward outside to avoid tripping hazards.

3. Add intervals. If you are an experienced walker and are ready to take your workout up a notch, add in some power walking or jogging intervals. For example, you can walk for two minutes, then jog for one minute. Alternate for 20 to 30 minutes for a complete workout.

4. Change up your routine. Go outside if you usually walk on a treadmill or take a new walking route in your neighborhood.

5. Increase the incline. Adding stairs, hills or incline resistance on a treadmill will challenge your lower body, build muscle and burn more calories than walking on a flat surface.

6. Take a furry friend with you. Walking with your dog may make you more likely to fit in a workout and regular exercise is great for your pup's health, too.

7. Turn up the tunes. Listening to your favorite music as you walk can motivate you to power through your routine. Leave one ear bud out if you are walking outdoors so you can be aware of your surroundings.

8. Walk with a friend. Make a walking date with a friend, family member or neighbor. Walking with someone else can inspire you to get out the door and gives you a chance to catch up with someone you love.

9. Head for the hills...or the lake, park, beach or mountain. Spending time in nature can be restorative, relaxing and a great workout because you are challenging your body on new terrain.

"Our bodies are made to adapt," says Jeffrey. "If you are doing the same exercise at the same speed for the same amount of time, your body will adapt and you may see fewer physical changes. It is important to increase your speed, incline or the amount of time you are walking to continue to see and feel results."

For more exercise and fitness tips, click here.

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