By Danielle Braff, Special to Tribune Newspapers
8:49 PM EDT, July 11, 2012
Walking can be a great form of exercise, as long as you're doing it correctly.
Sure, window shopping will burn a few calories, but if you really want to get into shape while you're pounding the pavement, you'll need to make a few changes to your stride.
We grilled the top trainers to find out their tricks for making that walk count.
Get off to a good start: You'll get the most out of your mileage by making sure your body is aligned properly before starting. You should feel as if you're wearing a girdle of strength around your center. That means your navel should be attached to your spine, your chest should be open and your shoulders should be down, away from your ears. You should walk from your core and not from your shoulders or head, so that your entire body will be taking part in the activity, not just your legs or arms. While you walk, breathe evenly and deeply. The more you inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, the more efficiently you'll burn calories.
— Risa Sheppard, star of the DVD "Pilates! A Gentle Formula to a Strong Body"
Add resistance: By adding extra weight, either by wearing a weighted vest or carrying hand or ankle weights, you'll burn more calories and add muscle tone. Make sure the weight is distributed evenly.
— Tamilee Webb, star of the DVDs "Buns of Steel" and "Abs of Steel"
Side-step: Walking doesn't always have to be straight walking with a heel-toe stride. Try side walking by turning your body to one side and stepping, moving the same direction as if you were walking straight ahead. Take a step with your right foot, crossing your left leg over your right leg. Then take another step with your right and cross the left leg behind you, alternative front-back steps. Do this for 10 to 20 steps, and then change sides. Since you're challenging your body to work a little differently than usual, you'll burn more calories. Take it up a notch by holding your arms overhead and swinging from side to side. Each time you step with your right leg, your arms should swing overhead to your right. Once you cross-step with your left leg, lower your arms to chest level and swing them from right to left. Alternate with each step.
Swing your arms: Keeping your elbow bent at a 45-degree angle (halfway between a right angle and fully straight), slightly exaggerate your arm swing so your hand comes up to your shoulder height in the front of your body. Focus on the return motion, pulling your arms back in the arm swing and raising your elbow so your upper arm is 45 degrees to your back.
— Robert Forster, Santa Monica, Calif.-based physical therapist to Olympic medalists, basketball and tennis stars
Do intervals: Mix up the speed to get your heart pumping. Start easily, gradually increasing your stride. For example, walk for 3 minutes, then slow your pace and take steps as if you were stepping over a hurdle that reaches your hip. Lift your right leg up (to the imaginary fence), taking a step, and then doing the same with your left leg, for 30 seconds. Walk normally again for 3 minutes before doing a walking lunge for 30 seconds. If you're on a public street, skip the lunges and high-stepping moves, and instead simply do 3 minutes of regular walking followed by a 30-second speed walk. — Webb
Incline and step up: Whenever you add inclines to your walk, you'll burn more calories. Hiking is a great way to tackle this, since (the terrain) naturally goes up and down. But if you don't have a hill to hike or a road with some inclines, you can make up your own. When you're walking by a bench or a step that allows you to step up, do it. Try to step your entire foot on the bench (avoid stepping just on the balls of your feet). Step up and down 10 times per leg before switching sides. Walk for another 3 to 5 minutes and then look for another step or bench. — Webb
Lift your legs: Bring each knee up as high as you can (at least to a 90-degree angle) while you march. This movement and position strengthen your hip flexors, giving you a solid pillar of strength from your core while increasing your hip flexors' flexibility.
— Teri Jory, personal trainer and star of the "Poise Fitness" DVDs
Take a seat: At every stoplight, do a chair pose until the light changes. This engages your glutes and quads while maintaining the heat you created on your walk. Bring your feet together with your heels slightly apart. Squeeze your knees together and lower your hips as if you were going to sit in a chair. Tuck your tail slightly so you don't have a huge sway in your back, and lift your arms up alongside your ears. Lift your chest and breathe deeply.
— Jessica James, celebrity yoga trainer
Grab a pole: Poles aren't just for skiing. Using a Nordic walking pole burns 20 percent more calories each hour than walking without one, and it elevates your heart rate 4 to 8 percent higher than walking without one, according to a small study by the Dallas-based Cooper Institute. Grab a pair of poles (sold at sporting goods stores and online), and loop the straps over your hands. Walk with the poles held low, and let them swing along with your arms without trying to use them first. Once you've gotten into a rhythm, try to use your arms more. Keep the poles close to your body while your pelvis is lifted high and your posture slightly forward-leaning. Opposite arms and legs swing alternately forward and backward.
— Nicole Nichols, creator of the "SparkPeople: 28 Day Boot Camp" DVD
Lift and open: Challenge your balance and strengthen your core with this easy walking exercise. Place both hands in front of your chest with your palms facing each other. Step forward with your right leg, and lift your left leg out to your left side at least 4 inches off the ground. As your leg goes out to the side, open your arms wide. As you lower your leg, bring your arms back to the starting position. Repeat. — Samantha Clayton, personal trainer and former Olympian sprinter
Copyright © 2015 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC