Getting started

Aim for 4 to 6 power walks a week. Beginners should strive to stride for 20 to 30 minutes. More experienced walkers can step it up to 45- or even 60-minute sessions (when time allows). As a rule of thumb, increase your workout time by 10 percent a week. So if you're currently walking 30 minutes a day, 4 days a week, then you should add only 12 minutes to your total weekly walking time the first week you increase. Remember that your workout time includes a few minutes to warm up and a few minutes to cool down and stretch.

  • Tips and techniques

It's super easy to walk off extra weight if you start walking the right way. Here's how to transform your everyday stroll into a fat-blasting, muscle-toning stride.

  • Roll heel, ball & toe

Tell most women to pick up the pace, and they will immediately lengthen their strides. But long strides are actually less efficient and more tiring than quick heel-ball-toe steps. To perform the proper quick-step stride, concentrate on landing on your heels, rolling through your instep, then propelling yourself with a push off your toes. You'll be surprised at how fast these little steps can be.

  • Hold your head high.

While it's important to watch where you're going, you don't want your head to hang down toward your feet. Raise your chin up and look about 10 feet ahead of you. This will give you plenty of peripheral vision to see the sidewalk below yet still keep your neck and head in picture-perfect posture.

  • Swing your fists

Instead of letting your arms hang down loosely by your sides, bend your elbows 90 degrees, close your hands in relaxed fists, and swing them in an arc from your waist to your chest, keeping them close to your body. By swinging your arms, you'll walk faster, burn more calories, build upper-body strength, and keep your fingers from swelling the way they often do after you've walked for a while.

  • Zip up

For a stronger stride, suck your abdominal muscles  in and up like you're zipping a snug pair of jeans. Contracting your abs not only helps tone your tummy, but also supports your spine so that you maintain proper posture while you walk.

  • Tighten your butt

Your glute muscles are the engine that puts power in your stride. Make these muscles work even better by keeping them active as you exercise. Hold your butt muscles taut and contracted as you walk by pretending to squeeze a dollar bill between them (it's silly, but it works) as you walk. As a bonus, your glutes will get firmer faster.

  • Pretend you're late

If you're still not sure how fast you should be walking, here's a quick, measurement-free way to remember. Pick up your pace to the point where you're just about ready to break into a jog. That's about where you want to hover for most of your walk. Your pace should feel as it would if you were running late for an important appointment.

  • Add intervals

If you can't quite sustain the speedy pace you'd like, add intervals to your workouts; it's the fastest way to get quicker and fitter. Although the term sounds intimidating, "interval training" means nothing more than adding quick bursts of speed to your workout. Do this on just 2 nonconsecutive days a week (walk at your usual pace on the other days) and you'll burn mega-calories as well as increase your walking speed. Here are a few 30-minute interval sessions to try. For all interval sessions, judge your exertion on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being standing still and 10 being on the verge of exhaustion.