Step up your walking workout!

NAKED YOGA, pole dancing, Zumba, belly dancing, cardio striptease, and whatever the latest fitness fad is - you've tried it, right? There's only one problem: Fitness fads come, but they mostly go. In other words, they're just not sustainable.

Fortunately for you, a simple secret can transform your fitness forever. What's the secret? Drumroll please ... walking. Agreed, walking is not a sexy workout. It's so well, simple, right?

Believe it or not, as little as 30 minutes a day of sustained walking could do wonders for your fitness and your health, too.

Why 30 minutes? According to numerous researchers, it appears that as little as 30 minutes of sustained walking, five to six days a week, not only reduces health risks for all major diseases, but also improves longevity.

A stunning 2004 report, published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is worth noting, because it definitively states the positive advantages of walking on mortality among U.S. adults, and especially those with diabetes.

Americans with diabetes who walked for two or more hours a week lowered their mortality rate from all causes by a dazzling 39 percent. That's huge. The results of that study also showed that simply walking extended the lives of people with diabetes regardless of age, sex, race, or BMI (body mass index).

So, ditch the fads, and get to stepping. Strive daily for the 10,000 steps. That's roughly five miles, and 30 minutes of sustained walking is about 5,000 steps, the halfway point.

Isn't that sweet? And you don't need any special workout gear or shoes. It's modest, smart, and achievable. Bet you're inspired now, huh?

But when should I walk? Everyone is different, so exercise to the rhythm of your own drum. Personally, I'm an early bird and prefer early-morning workouts, but others like midafternoon or evening. The main thing is to do it. You know yourself better than anyone else. Plan your walks and walk your plans.

What about food? Shouldn't I eat first? Again, when and what to eat varies from person to person. If you're not hungry, don't eat. Otherwise, eat a little something, like a piece of fruit, small bag of nuts, or a boiled egg. Skip the pizza, hoagie, or cheesesteak, please. Heavy meals will make you feel lethargic and completely demotivate you to walk or perform any exercise. The most important thing is to stay properly hydrated. Drink water before you go out and carry a bottle with you - especially on hot and humid days.

What about stretching? Don't worry about stretching before your walk. After the first 10 to 15 minutes of walking, your body will naturally warm up. That's the best time to stretch your muscles, when they are warm, soft, and supple. After the first 15 minutes or at the end of your walk is the best time for a gentle stretch.

Do I have to power walk? NO. You do not have to power walk, nor should you carry dumbbells and swing your arms rigorously. Just walk at a pace that is comfortably challenging to you. Don't worry about going fast, and don't let anyone else dictate your pace. Just get moving, and even if you are moving at what you feel is a snail's pace, it still has benefits. Be consistent, and then you can challenge yourself with faster pacing or more time.

Will I burn lots of calories? Yes, you'll burn about 100 calories for every mile you walk. Quick translation: 30 minutes is equal to about 250 calories burned, and ten-thousand steps is equal to 500 calories burned.

So, step it up, baby, and burn baby burn.

Kimberly Garrison is a wellness coach and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia. Her column appears on the first and third Wednesdays monthly.