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Healthy You

How To: Burn More Calories When Walking

Wednesday, April 05, 2017 9:00 AM

Spring in Chicago means heading outdoors! After being cooped up inside all winter, we are ready to do everything outside. Walking is a great way to get outside, get moving and has many health benefits. For those who want to kick their walking up a notch, Gordon Wood, MD, Pediatrics at NorthShore, shares ways you can burn more calories while walking.


  1. Drink chilled water before heading out and after your walk. Cold water can help keep your body temperature regulated and energy levels up, and is helpful as we lose water with breathing and in perspiration.
  2. Maintain proper posture. Good posture strengthens the body core and reduces abnormal strain on back, neck and hips. Good erect posture is actually more efficient and reduces strain and increases comfort. Walking with one’s head up improves engagement in the surroundings for interesting sights and improved safety. Your ears should be aligned with your shoulders and hips.
  3. Pump your arms. Swing your arms in an arc from your waist to your chest. When your elbow goes backwards, your thumbs should almost graze your hips. Keep your elbows in and do not let them cross your chest.
  4. Turn up the tunes. Music can fight fatigue, boost motivation and help maintain pace. As a safety note – people listening to music outdoors or on a shared track MUST have at least one ear open to hear approaching traffic and other walkers, runners or cyclists.   
  5. Shorter, faster steps helps boost your speed which helps boost your calories burned! This is especially true for tackling hills – too long of steps can add strain to ankles, knees, hips. 
  6. Wear a heart rate monitor to stay within the optimal fat-burning zone.
  7. Grab some poles or weights to increase the level of exertion. Ankle weights or carrying dumbbells can help torch more calories – but check with your physician before grabbing more weight. If using poles, plant the pole 45-degrees behind you and push back with force to engage your upper body and torso. For walkers who are less strong or unsteady on their feet, trekking poles may allow them to go further or on uneven ground with less knee strain. 
  8. Incorporate circuit training. Walk for a quarter-mile then stop to do some body-weight exercises such as lunges, squats or push-ups. There are a number of parks or preserves which have stations set up to also include pull-ups, sit-ups and other exercises. 
  9. Trade the treadmill for trails on bad-weather days. On treadmills you can increase your speed or incline to further challenge yourself. Or do an increment workout with alternating speeds and incline.

Before you start walking, make sure you talk with your physician and invest in a good pair of shoes.

What’s your favorite way to mix up your walks?