Walking is an excellent low-impact cardio routine and a great social activity, too. But while it’s possible to raise your heart rate while walking to the point where you burn lots of calories, many of us walk too slowly to get any major benefits from walking for shorter amounts of time, making it feel like an inefficient workout. “One of my frustrations is I feel like it takes forever to get a good workout walking, whereas running is quicker,” says walking expert Mark Fenton, a former competitive race walker and co-author of the book Pedometer Walking.
So how do you get in a good workout without walking for several hours? It’s simple—walk faster. Here are four tips from Fenton on boosting your speed and your calorie burn.
1. Maintain good posture
Make sure you’re walking tall, says Fenton: Keep your shoulders back, your eyes looking forward and your chin level. Pretend you’re as erect and graceful as a ballet dancer.
2. Think quicker, not longer
“Don’t exaggerate your stride,” says Fenton. “What you really want to do is focus on the frequency of your step.” He suggests counting your steps for 20 seconds to gauge your speed (count just one foot, then multiply by two): 40 steps in that time is a “healthy pace,” 45 is “moderately aerobic” and 50 is what Fenton calls “power walking.” To start, try getting to 45 steps in 20 seconds for at least a portion of your walk, then build from there.
3. Bend your arms
It’s simple physics: Bent arms can move faster than straight, and they won’t slow down the pace of your feet. (When’s the last time you saw a runner with straight arms?) “This is where you can take a good lesson from a race walker,” says Fenton.
4. Use your feet
“Consciously push off at the end of every step,” advises Fenton. “The cue I give people in clinics is to show the person behind you the sole of your shoe on every stride.” This visualization will help push you forward faster.