Release The “Fountain Of Youth” Hormone By Walking!

You’ve probably noticed that high-intensity workouts (also known as HIIT training) have been all the buzz lately. And, there’s good reason for it! Research proves that working out at your maximum level for shorter periods of time ignites your fat-burning ability more than moderate exercise does. But you don’t have to join a CrossFit class or put on your boxing gloves to reap the benefits of this high-intensity training. ANY form of exercise, even walking, can be just as effective.

I’m not going to lie — you’re going to need to push your walking speed up a few notches. High intensity walking is worth every drop of sweat, because your body will stimulate natural fat-burners and perform metabolism magic tricks.

The first hormone that’s released is human growth hormone — also called the “Fountain of youth hormone.” Kids release ample amounts of it, but as you age, become less active, and sleep less, your human growth hormone levels decrease. But, when you power walk, your body uses this fountain of youth hormone to turn fat into fuel.

The other category of hormones that are stimulated during your walk around the block are called “catecholamines,” which help your body release fat. In essence, this creates a double-whammy effect of fat blasting, because your all-out exertion leads to a big oxygen deficit. This leads to something called EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, which means that after your workout you need to take in more oxygen to recover properly. Because this requires more energy, your body burns even MORE calories.

In order to make walking an effective exercise, one that burns calories and tones muscles, you have to get your heart rate up. You cannot go at what I call a “window shopping” pace. Of course, that uses up some calories, but not enough to make a difference. You have to move at a rate that forces you to breathe a bit harder than just going for a stroll.

Start by incorporating an aerobic interval, which is a short burst of greater exertion. After warming up by walking at a comfortable rate (say a 4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 10), kick it up to a 6 or 7 for three minutes, then return to your steady speed. This is a recovery period. After three minutes recovery, pick up the speed again and repeat the cycle throughout your walk. Intervals keep your muscles on alert, which makes the workout more effective.

Also, consider form. As with most exercising, the best results come from by following proper technique: Stand tall, let your arms swing freely but with purpose, and land on your heels and push off with your toes.

If you really want to up the ante, place one foot in front of the other like walking on a balance beam instead of our natural side-by-side step. This puts the emphasis on longer strides at a faster pace and forces you to concentrate on form.

Tread quickly

With spring finally here,  it’ll feel good to get outside in the sunshine and warmer temps, but do not underestimate the benefits the treadmill. You can use it in any kind of weather, and it has readouts that show your improvement. Another plus is that you can listen to music or audio books or watch television while walking on it. You can even walk along with my audio walking workouts that come as part of the ReShape Weight Loss Program. However, if you are successfully reading a magazine or book while on a treadmill, then it’s too easy. Remember, no “window shopping.”

Treadmills are ideal for intervals, too.

Here’s a routine I call Double Trouble: Imagine climbing two hills. Start with the first hill at a steady state for five minutes, then raise the incline to 3 percent for two minutes, then 6 percent for two minutes, then 9 percent, and 12 percent all the while keeping your speed even. Then come down the hill at the same pace (two minutes each at 12 percent, 9 percent, 6 percent, and 3 percent). Give yourself a couple of minutes to recover before climbing the hill again. As you get used to the program, add a third hill.

Walking for a lifetime

Whether you are out and about discovering your temporary hometown, on a nature hike, or at a gym, walking works for everybody. You don’t need fancy gear to get started—find shoes that fit you well and cushion your feet with comfortable socks. I also love that there aren’t any age or ability limitations. Walking is the ultimate excuse-free exercise.

Want a little help walking your way to fitness? Take me along. Download my Walk Fit MP3 Super Playlist and I’ll give you tips to make your workout effective, motivate you to push through tough spots, and provide you helpful information to stay healthy. Find it and more at kathysmith.com.

Did you know?

  • Because it’s less intensive than running, most people tend to walk for longer periods and walkers get out more often.
  • Studies show regular walking can reduce risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases as well as improve memory.
  • 100 steps a minute equals a moderate to brisk pace; 120 steps a minute is considered fast.

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