You don’t have to do a long-distance yomp for a walking workout to be effective. Heed these training tips to really boost your fitness levels.

We all have our own natural pace and speed of walking. But, by upping the speed and varying the way you walk, you can turn each stride you take into a calorie-burning move. Want to burn fat, tone your thighs or tighten your tum? Read on for tips on all these, plus how to get the best and fastest results from your walking workouts.

How far do I need to walk?

The standard recommendation is to aim for 10,000 steps a day to reap health rewards. This may sound a lot, but during a 30-minute walk you can easily take anywhere between 2,000-6,000 steps, and you’ll still have the rest of the day to build up to your 10,000-step goal. A good starting point to getting fitter is to establish the average number of steps you currently take. Do this by wearing a tracker for three days. Record the total number of steps you’ve walked at the end of each day, add them up and divide by three. Here’s what your total indicates:

3,000 steps a day – Sedentary

If you’re a beginner to fitness, building up from this point will help you start to improve your fitness.

6,000 steps a day – Somewhat active

This is a level of walking that will help improve your health and prevent you from gaining excess weight.

10,000+ steps a day – Active

You’re on target to stay fit and keep super healthy.

Once you’ve established your baseline number of daily steps, you can build up your total gradually in your walking workout. Try adding 500 steps a week by building a bit more time into your day for walking – choose a further shop for your lunchtime snack, or add some walking into your daily commute – you’ll be amazed how quickly the steps add up. If you want to aim for a distance goal, a great walking distance during the week is about two miles (around 5,000 steps). Then, at the weekend, you can head out to tackle longer distances.

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How fast do I need to walk?

To walk into shape, you need to aim to be walking at between four and five-and-a-half miles per hour. Here’s an easy guide to walking paces:

Stroll pace

This is the pace most of us walk at throughout the day – around the house or office, for instance. On average, we walk at about two miles an hour. So, walking at this pace, it would take you about 30 minutes to walk one mile.

Average pace

This is the speed most of us walk if we are outdoors – walking to the office or out shopping, for example. It’s a bit faster than stroll pace, at around three miles an hour. So, walking at this speed, it would take 20 minutes for you to walk one mile.

Walk-slim pace

This faster pace naturally engages your arms. The faster you walk the more you swing your arms, which helps increase your speed. Walk-slim pace is approximately four to five-and-a-half miles an hour. Walking at this pace, you’ll complete a mile in about 12 -14 minutes. This difference in intensity and effort pays you a big reward, giving you lots of weight-loss and toning benefits. As you get fitter, you’ll find your speed will increase. The harder you work, the better the results! Try to walk as fast as you can without being so breathless you can’t hold a conversation – sometimes called the ‘talk test’. Walking should be an aerobic exercise to ensure your muscles have sufficient oxygen. If you’re gasping for breath, you’re doing anaerobic exercise – slow down a little.

How often should I walk?

You should be aiming to walk whenever you can. As well as your walking workouts, try to incorporate as much walking into your life as possible. Walk to the shops, walk the kids to school or take a break from your desk and go for a walk at lunchtime – just increase your normal speed to help burn calories. You can log your walks into a training plan. But as walking is a safe, low-impact exercise, it’s great to walk on other days too, if you feel the urge to get outside.

Where should I walk?

Every environment offers a different benefit. Hilly terrain is great as it ups the intensity and gives your legs and bottom a great workout. Cross-country is another good challenge, as the mixture of terrains means you engage more muscles. Climbing over stiles and gates gives you that extra calorie boost. Beach walking has an additional challenge – you have to make more effort moving forwards as the sand doesn’t supply you with a solid foundation to propel your heel forwards from. In fact, walking on a sandy beach burns approximately 100 calories per mile. So even while you’re on your summer holiday you can stick to your walking plan and keep your mind and body healthy. Closer to home, pavements are a good surface for picking up your speed. Ideally, try to incorporate a range of terrains into your regular walks.