Walking is great exercise, but falling into a rut -- same route, speed and form -- can stall your progress.
Kick into higher gear with these tips:
Hold your head high. The ideal walking posture is upright, with shoulders back and not slouched. You'll work more muscles to hold that position, including your stomach and buttocks. "It all starts with posture," says Dr. John Schaffer, an orthopedic surgeon at Sentara Leigh Hospital in Norfolk, Va.
Swing your arms right. Pump back and forth with your elbows bent at 90 degrees, arms close to your sides, wrists straight and hands unclenched to build speed and avoid hand swelling.
Step it up. The faster you walk, the more you'll use multiple muscles to maintain your posture. Many trainers recommend alternating short bursts of speed with recovery periods to burn extra calories, such as a minute of speed walking followed by a minute of strolling.
Gradually add distance. As an added challenge, pick routes with hills or stairs. You'll add muscle mass and burn more calories even at rest.
Work in some strength moves. Pause along your route for some pushups, lunges and squats. It's also easy to carry a lightweight resistance band and do a few arm exercises.
Reconsider weights... Some trainers say wearing a weighted vest can help build bone density, but many experts say that's not certain. As for hand and ankle weights, they may add stress to joints and throw off posture, Dr. Schaffer says.
... and consider poles. Walkers can burn more calories and improve balance by carrying walking poles, sold in fixed or adjustable lengths at many sporting good stores, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Be smart. Seek medical attention for pain that lasts a week or two and doesn't improve with rest and anti-inflammatory medications.
-- Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)