Walking is good for you; we all know that. And you’ve started doing it, weather permitting since the New Year made its appearance. So, give yourself an Atta-Boy, or Girl! Now you want to dial things up a notch and get better results with the amount of time your spending putting one foot in front of the other.

Walking is astonishingly powerful and scientifically proven by study after study. Walking transforms your body and mind. In fact, research shows it can add almost two years to your life. Of course, there’s the major perk that sneaking in those steps helps you shed unwanted weight; one Canadian study found that an hour-long brisk walk every day reduced belly fat in women by 20% over 14 weeks. But going for a trek can benefit your body in other significant ways too.

Here’s how:
It guards your brain. Two hours of walking per week cuts your risk of stroke by 30%. Hitting the road also protects brain regions associated with planning and memory, and doing it for 30 minutes a day has even been found to reduce symptoms of depression by 36%.
It strengthens your bones. Four hours of walking per week can slash your chances of a hip fracture by up to 43%. In other words, the more you move now, the more mobile you’ll be later in life.

It improves your heart health. Take a stroll for your ticker: A new study of more than 89,000 women found that those who walked briskly for 40 minutes two or three times per week had up to a 38% lower chance of heart failure after menopause than those who did it less often or more slowly. What’s more, researchers have found that walking for just 20 minutes per day lowers your risk of heart disease by 30%, and it can also cut your risk of obesity (a major risk factor for heart disease) in half.

The first three weeks of the plan will help you improve your endurance and establish a good walking foundation. The plan includes four different types of walks, which are categorized on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being easy and conversational (think: walking and talking with a friend) and 10 being on the verge of breathlessness. Listening to your breath is key to understanding how hard you're working and how much you need to dial your efforts up or down.

As you build stamina and get stronger, the intensity increases and the walks get faster. Before each walk, warm up at a leisurely pace for about three minutes. Then, walk at the suggested intensity and cool down for two minutes at a slower pace.
The plan includes four types of walks:
Easy: Aim for an intensity between 3 and 5
Moderate: Aim for an intensity between 5 and 6
Brisk: Aim for an intensity between 6 and 7
Fast: Aim for an intensity between 8 and 9

During the first week, you'll alternate between three days of walking at a moderate pace for 40 minutes and two days at a brisk pace for 30 minutes. For the other two days of the week, you'll work on strength training to build muscle in your core, glutes, and quads—which are essential for maintaining proper form while Power Walking / Running.

Speaking of form, be sure to keep posture in mind as you go: Stand up straight and roll your shoulders down and back. Consider pumping your arms to get your heart rate up and to engage your upper body and core. If you're unable to walk for the entire 40 minutes, start with 10 to 15 minutes and add five minutes every week until you can do 40.
And once you’ve built up your stamina to walk faster and farther during your time frame, try taking with you small 2-3-pound wrist weights to increase the resistance to your body. Swinging your arms, (slightly bent) will give you a little more resistance that your body will have to work through.

On the days that you strength train, do a 15-minute full-body workout that includes squats, rows, bridges, and planks. There are plenty of videos available via the internet to show you how to do this correctly. And if you have access to a gym membership, consult the training staff so that they can instruct you on the proper ways to go about strengthening your core and muscle groups correctly.

And to make sure your keeping track of how far your walking, the cadence, speed and even the changes in your heart rate. Using an activity tracker can provide you with that data and allow you to gauge just how well you are doing because having this data takes the guesswork out of what your results actually are. And it keeps you honest!  One that does the job and will continue to do so for a very long time is the Fitbit Alta HR Activity Tracker With the Fitbit Alta, you can better track your calorie burn, gauge your exercise intensity. And with its wrist-based heart rate monitoring ability it keeps track on just how much you're putting out with your exercising but it also monitors your resting heart rate, which is just as important.
It tracks all the basics like steps, distance and calories burned, and also provides you with friendly reminders to Move that motivates you to keep stepping. 

Start out week one with the following as your guide:
3 days: 40-minute walk at a moderate pace
2 days: 30-minute walk at a brisk pace
2 days: 10 to 20 minutes of strength training

Now that you're into the swing of things, it's time to pick up the pace! During week two, you'll commit to three days of walking at a moderate pace for 50 minutes and two days of walking for 40 minutes at a brisk pace. A moderate pace should feel purposeful but still easy enough to hold a conversation, while walking briskly makes it feel a little harder to speak in full sentences.

3 days: 50-minute walk at a moderate pace
2 days: 40-minute walk at a brisk pace
2 days: 10 to 20 minutes of strength training

Keep up the good work—you're halfway through your training! At this point, you should feel stronger and be able to walk faster for longer period of time. This is also a good time to kick your strength training routine up a few notches by lifting heavier weights and increasing the number of reps and sets per exercise.

3 days: 60-minute walk at a moderate pace
2 days: 50-minute walk at a brisk pace
2 days: 10 to 20 minutes of strength training

This is your first week of testing out your "fast" pace, which is your top speed, so be sure you can sustain it for the entire time. Remember to use your breath and propel your arms through each stride. You can also mix up your steps: Instead of taking longer strides, make your steps shorter and quicker, as shorter steps are more efficient.

1 day: 25-30-minute walk at an easy pace
1 day: 65-minute walk at a brisk pace
1 day: 35-minute walk at a brisk pace
2 days: 15- to 35-minute walk at a fast pace
2 to 3 days a week: 15 to 30 minutes of Strength training

The intensity of your workouts will be at its highest this week. Consider walking with a faster friend to help you push your pace.

1 day: 25- to 35-minute walk at an easy pace
1 day: 65-minute walk at a moderate pace
1 day: 40-minute walk at a brisk pace
2 days: 30- to 55-minute walk at a fast pace
2 to 3 days: Strength training

You'll notice that your walks will get easier as the weeks and months go by. That's because you're continuing to build up your body and stamina which will help complete the circle of being healthier and in turn, you’ll find yourself having less stress in your life.

Besides the exercising you’re doing, you need to strike a balance of also having a rested body. You need to be mindful of getting the proper amount of rest. Be sure to get enough sleep, eat healthy, and stay hydrated. This will prepare your body for peak performance as you continue to walk your way to a healthier you!
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