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Rev Up Your Walking Workout

Put one foot in front of the other. Repeat … again, and again, and again. If that’s the only recipe you know of for fitness walking, then maybe it’s time to spice up your routine.

Walking every day is good for you. It has wonderful benefits for the heart, lungs, and circulatory system. It can help you manage your weight and control your blood pressure and cholesterol. But it’s like a daily bowl of oatmeal—healthy but pretty bland until the cinnamon, dried fruit, or brown sugar is added.

To make walking something you can look forward to each day, add the ingredients that appeal to you personally.

If you like a challenge

Jazz up your routine by raising the bar and setting a goal.

For example, if it’s your habit to walk a two-mile course in 30 minutes, next week aim to complete the same course in 29 minutes, or keep walking for 30 minutes but try to walk an extra block or two in the same amount of time.

Or set a long-term goal: If a two-mile hike is a challenge now, how will you need to step up your routine in order to be walking five miles six months from now?

If you like company

Finding a walking partner, whether a colleague from work, a friend, or your spouse, can provide that extra motivation to get out every day and walk, and it cuts down on the boredom factor. If you can't find a partner, try joining an exercise class.

If you like gadgets

Buy yourself a pedometer to track how many steps you take each day, or a heart monitor to keep yourself in the right cardiovascular zone. Or, use walking as an excuse to purchase a portable music player so you’ll have an upbeat tempo to walk to—just be sure to keep the volume low enough that you can hear traffic and other sounds that could warn you of danger.

If you like serenity

Stressed out? Find a quiet, peaceful walking route.

If you are trying to lose weight

If you’re overweight, brisk walking is a good moderate-intensity activity that puts much less stress on your joints than running. But to use it as a weight-loss tool, understand that you’ll need to commit to walking every single day. Fit it into your lifestyle to continually provide that energy expenditure.

Remember that you won’t lose weight if you don’t also control the calories you take in by eating a healthy diet.

If you're a fitness fan

You can build up to vigorous exercise by taking on the challenge of race walking or “power walking.” The faster you walk in a given period of time, the more you’ll be working your cardiovascular system and the more calories you’ll burn. You can get similar effects by maintaining your speed while walking up hills.

If you are building strength

An ideal overall fitness program will couple walking or another form of cardiovascular exercise with strength training to build muscle strength and improve balance.