Build a calorie-busting walking workout

LOS ANGELES "It's that old adage of 'a journey of 1,000 miles begins with that first step,'" said Fitness expert Gunnar Peterson. "It does. Get out there and take the first step."

Peterson says put one foot in front of the other and before you know it, you are on your way. But start with a small jaunt then build on that to avoid burnout and fatigue.

"The way I do it, the way I have people do it, is start off in one direction and do it for time," said Peterson. "Just say, 'I am going to walk in this direction for seven minutes, I'm going to turn around and try to walk back in less than seven.'"

Work up to 10 minutes, then 15.

"Before you know it you'll have a nice walk set up, you didn't get lost, and you've logged it," said Peterson.

Four years ago a national campaign called America On the Move asked people to take as little as 2,000 extra steps a day, or about a mile, in order to lose weight, with the hopes of working up to 10,000 steps when possible. Americans currently average about 5,300 steps daily.

But consider this: A 150-pound woman walking about 3 miles per hour will burn 350 calories in 90 minutes.

Yet even a low-intensity stroll can help. A University of Pittsburgh study tracked 200 overweight women who strolled rather than bustled and found they still lost about 1,000 calories a week and an average of 13-pound weight loss, regardless of pace. Clearly walking works.

One of the most important things to know about walking or any exercise program is that it doesn't have to be all at once.

If you do three 10- to 15-minute bouts of exercise -- any movement -- it's nearly the same physiological benefits as if you've done one huge workout.

Then there are the incentives. Nordic poles and walk vests both fire up your furnace. Pedometers, dogs and buddies are also helpful. But Peterson cautions not to rely on someone or something else.

"At the end of the day you have to be able to count on yourself," said Peterson. "And if your training partner fails you, you can't use that as a reason that you stopped exercising."

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