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How to get the best walking workout — whether you have 5 minutes or 40

Make strides in your physical and mental health regardless of how much time you have to walk.
If you only have five minutes, pump your arms and power walk to maximize your calorie burn
If you only have five minutes, pump your arms and power walk to maximize your calorie burnKlaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

Walking is one of the best forms of exercise. It requires no equipment, can be done anywhere and has a plethora of benefits for our physical and mental health. Research even shows that walking more as a society could reduce rates of chronic disease.

Because it is an activity we all do every day, walking is often overlooked as a serious form of exercise. Even just a short walk each day is linked to health benefits and there are so many ways to supercharge your walk and make it an even more efficient, calorie-burning workout.

Many people think that walking for exercise isn’t worth it unless you can set aside a substantial amount of time, but that’s not true! Whether you have five minutes, 20 minutes, or over 40 minutes, you can shift your focus to get the best possible workout in whatever time you have to hit the pavement.

I’ve created a few different walking routines that you can choose from based on the amount of time you have to walk.

5 minutes: Power walking or walking mediation

Power walking is all about speed and arm motion. If done correctly, power walking is a great way to squeeze in a quick calorie-burning workout when you only have a few minutes to spare. The most important aspect of power walking is making sure that with each step, you move from heel to toe while pumping your arms. Shorten your gait to take as many steps as you can; this will help maximize your calorie burn. You can power walk anywhere that’s convenient for you. If you don’t have enough time to bundle up to brave the cold, power walk around your house!

Not up for a power walk? You can also use the five minutes to focus on your breathing and create a walking meditation. Follow this breathe pattern: in, in, out, out. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. The idea is to breath in as you step with your right foot then left foot, and then breathe out when you step again with your right foot then left foot. Syncing your movement with your breath is a form of moving meditation that can help you feel more centered, relaxed and calm — a great way to spend a five minute break during the day.

20-30 minutes: Interval training

Interval walking uses short bursts of a quicker speed to help you burn calories and get your heart rate up — a great option for those trying to lose weight. For an effective interval walking workout, you’ll need at least 20-30 minutes to get the most out of the technique.

Start with a five-minute warm-up. Walk at an easy pace and work your way up to a more moderate pace. Then, begin your first one-minute burst. Walk quickly from heel to toe, pushing off each step with force. After one minute, return to a moderate pace for three minutes. Repeat these intervals a few times and finish with a five-minute cool down walking at a normal pace.

40+ minutes: Endurance training and mental health

If you have 40 minutes or more in your schedule, you have a few options to choose from. This is a perfect amount of time to work on your endurance, meaning that you set a moderate, steady pace to maintain throughout your entire walk. Over time, you’ll find that this pace becomes more comfortable. Once this happens, you can increase your speed.

Focusing on your mental health is another great option for a longer walk. For a meditative walk, focus on your body and breath with each step you take. Avoid ruminating about your to-do list or other stressors; as thoughts come to mind, let them pass through and re-focus on your breath and moving your body. You can also bring your attention to natural elements like trees and flowers, the sound of birds chirping or how the wind feels on your skin. You can even combine endurance training and meditation into one workout! Do this by breaking the walk into 10-minute intervals, meditating and walking at a slower pace for 10 minutes and then walking at a quicker pace for the next 10 minutes. You’ll make strides in both your physical and mental health in under an hour.

Try these other walking workouts:

3 meditative walks that will boost your mood and shift your mindset