Exercise: it’s one of the easiest things in the world to do (really, at the simplest level it’s just moving around). But given the way people talk about it, it’s everything but simple. Between gym memberships, expensive home workout machines, elaborate exercise programs, personal trainers, is it any wonder that many people think of exercise with about as much fondness as they think of their next dental appointment?

Of course, it doesn’t have to be as involved as all that. There’s a form of exercise that many of us already do, day in and day out, which is as easy as walking. As a matter of fact, it is walking.

Walking: Exercise in Camouflage

Walking is a near universal opportunity to burn a few more calories every day, everywhere we choose to go. It is the most basic exercise. We move muscles, and those muscles burn calories as we go. But it’s such an automatic thing to do that we often forget the benefits that a good walking routine can provide us. So, lets’ take a look at five quick ways we can take advantage of our walking habit without going out of our way.

Step 1 – Walk Faster

Moving around requires the body to burn energy, which is stored in the body as fat cells. When you’re exercising, the body burns up its reserves of energy to power your muscles as they do the work they need to do. The more work done, the more energy burned, and speeding up the process can increase the amount of energy consumed.

For example, consider your daily walk to the mailbox. Say you burn an easy five calories on the way out and back. If you walk twice as fast, you may double that calorie burning without any other major steps. Do this all day, wherever you go, and you’ve found a way to make walking work for you without going to any particularly special steps.

Step 2 – Stairs Are Great

Elevators are a wonderful thing. As much as steel and reinforced concrete, elevators are what have made the modern skyscraper not just possible but reasonable. Yet, by their very nature they deprive us of an opportunity to burn a few extra calories by taking the stairs. Going up stairs burns even more calories than just walking, because you’re not only moving forward, but lifting some of your body weight as well.

Now, no one is suggesting that someone working on the top floor of a high rise take the stairs all the way up. That’s a bad use of time and you’ll be exhausted when you get there. However, if stairs are available, consider taking two or three flights of them up, then catching the elevator the rest of the way. Again, regularly taking small steps outside of the normal can give you a lot of benefits when added up over time.

Step 3 – Walk and Talk

We do a lot of talking on the phone, and a great deal of it is done sitting down. This was understandable with corded telephones and the earliest cord-free phones, but with many homes switching entirely to cordless and/or cellular, there is a golden opportunity to get a bit more exercise with every phone call.

Simply put, go take a short walk when someone calls you. If you have a yard or sidewalk, head outside and walk around while you’re talking if you can. If the weather doesn’t permit, stroll around inside your house a bit. Once again, this isn’t about taking a walk as an extra activity, but adding it to one you’re probably already doing quite a bit.

Step 4 – Walk Further

We’ve all done it. We know the shopping center’s in easy walking distance, but we just don’t feel up to it and take the car that half mile or quarter mile down the road to get what we need, even if it’s just a gallon of milk. But those are valuable steps you could be taking that could help you get into shape. Some experts recommend taking at least 10,000 steps per day. So, find short trips that you can make without the car, and see if you can include at least one of them a week to start with. And when you do need to drive, pick a further spot in the parking lot to easily add in a few more steps.

Step 5 – Walk Together

As we’ve said before, one of the easiest steps you can take is including a friend in your efforts. Walking is easy, and doesn’t take up a lot of mental effort, so it’s a great time to socialize. Get a friend, set a brisk pace, and spend twenty minutes catching up together every other day. You get the calories burned and time with a friend, both for just a fraction of your day.

Walking is a great way to take control of your life to help you lose weight. In many cases, it can be added to things you’re already doing rather than requiring a whole new regime. Additionally, the health benefits from walking can help you pave the way for bigger steps later on, building a strong foundation that can pay off magnificently in the future.

Larry Tobin is the co-creator of HabitChanger.com, offering effective and empowering solutions for losing weight. Try our 42-day weight loss program at Losing Weight.
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