Is walking enough of a workout? The body craves cardio. Just 30 minutes a day can improve heart health, lung capacity, bone density, and mental clarity. And unlike most aerobic alternatives, walking is an easy form of exercise because it’s free and requires no special equipment.

But if you’re walking to help manage your weight, these guidelines should be followed:

Intensity

For cardio to count, the intensity level must be high. Slowly strolling down the street, or wandering around the aisles of the grocery store, are not considered aerobic activities. To fry fat and shave numbers off the scale, your heart and muscles must maintain a consistent level of exertion. So whether you’re walking outdoors or on a treadmill, keep it brisk and challenging. Incorporating inclines is an excellent way to make your muscles work.

One way to examine your exercise intensity is to perform the “talk test” when walking with a partner. Once you’ve been moving for about 10 minutes, monitor your speech. If you are walking at a quick pace, conversation shouldn’t be smooth since exertion requires more oxygen.

Duration

The body burns more calories when duration is increased. To support your weight goals, you should do at least 30 minutes of cardio a day, five times a week.

Strength and interval training

Cardio represents only one part of the weight loss equation. In addition to diet, the body needs strength training, too. Without it, muscle imbalances can develop, which makes the body susceptible to injury. Strong supporting muscles also help propel and power daily movements like stair climbing and standing up from a seated position.

For years, aerobic training consisted primarily of steady state cardio. Think of setting your treadmill for 30 minutes and walking at the same pace for the entire workout. This will burn calories, but not as efficiently as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), a unique blend of strength training and aerobics. Movements are executed quickly, with little rest in between exercises. Due to its intensity, workouts are done for shorter periods of time. HIIT makes the heart rate fluctuate, moves more of the major muscle groups, and keeps the body guessing from start to finish.

For your next weekly workout plan, dedicate three days to walking 30 minutes and two days to this 20-minute HIIT circuit. For best results, rest 30 seconds between exercises and two minutes between rounds. Complete entire circuit three times.

  • March in place. 60 seconds.
  • Reverse lunge kick. Stand tall with feet hip-width apart. Take a step back with your right leg, lowering your body until both knees are at a 90-degree angle. Keep your weight on your front left heel as you push through it, lifting your body. Kick your right foot forward. Repeat 10 times then switch legs.
Reverse lunge kick.
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Reverse lunge kick.
  • Body weight squat. Begin by standing with feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides and core engaged. Keep your body weight on your heels as you hinge back at your hips and extend your arms forward. Hold for two counts then push through your heels to return to the starting stance. Perform 12 reps.
Squat.
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Squat.
  • Side plank crunch. Start on your right side with your shoulder aligned directly above your elbow. Lift your hips off the floor, forming a straight line from your head to your feet. Your spine should be straight, neck neutral and feet stacked. Now extend your left arm overhead. Simultaneously pull your left elbow and left knee in toward each other. Squeeze for two counts then release. Repeat 10 times then switch sides.
Side plank crunch.
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Side plank crunch.

Make the most out of your March by stepping it up.

Ashley Blake Greenblatt, ACE-CPT, is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach. To learn more, visit ashleyblakefitness.com.