Summer’s unofficial kickoff – Memorial Day weekend – is just around the corner! Time to make good on those winter promises of gardens that include home-grown fruits and veggies and outdoor fitness activities. Before you heat up the BBQ with friends and family, celebrate the start of summer by enjoying an outdoor calorie-burning walk.

You know walking is a convenient and inexpensive aerobic workout that’s easy on the joints, but what most people don’t know is that you can burn more calories walking a 12 minute mile than running a 9-minute mile. It’s true! You just have to stay focused and put on some speed.

In a recent New York Times report, researchers found that people experienced more enjoyment and walked for a longer period of time when they walked outdoors. Before- and after-walk tests indicated that walkers had higher measures of vitality, pleasure, enthusiasm and self-esteem and lower measures of tension, depression and fatigue after an outdoor walk. It turns out fresh air is good for us!

Staying motivated is one of the hardest parts of any fitness program. I’ve found that wearing a tracker (Jawbone, Nike Fuelband or FitBit) or downloading an app on your phone to count the number of steps you take (MapMyFitness, FitStar or Argus) makes the process more fun and game-like. And, we could all use a little more fun in our day 🙂 Your goal is to get to 10,000 steps and most people only log about 5,000 steps each day.

After you’re all set with your tracker, the next key to turning your walk into a workout is to pick up the intensity with intervals.

Try this interval walking routine, either around the neighborhood or even on a treadmill:

  • 5 minute warm-up (On a scale from 1-10, you should be at about a 5-6 in difficulty)
  • 2-minute interval (8-9 difficulty)
  • 2-minute recovery (5-6 difficulty)
  • 2-minute interval (8-9 difficulty)
  • Repeat steps 2-4 three times

To burn more calories, tone more muscle groups,  and balance out your workout, add an 8-minute strength training routine at the end of your walk. This week, the New York Times shared a study indicating that an exercise program that combines aerobic exercise with strength training sessions is superior to exercises that focus solely on cardio or weight training – especially if targeting belly fat is your goal.

Walking is one of the best paths you can take for getting in shape and staying healthy. Plus, it’s a great way to hang out with your friends to kickoff Memorial Day Weekend!

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