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Tone your arms while you walk with this upper-body routine

Get your arms in on the action with these five exercises you can do while you walk.
Two senior black women exercising together
We naturally pump our arms when we walk. To maximize calorie burn, practice deliberately pumping with a little extra force.kali9 / Getty Images

Walking is one of the simplest forms of exercise we can do every day. Because it’s so basic, a lot of people tend to think it’s not as effective in weight loss or fat burn. But this is definitely not the case. research suggests that walking throughout adulthood may help prevent long-term weight gain.  

So if you tend to fall back on walking as your go-to form of exercise, don’t underestimate the benefits. Taking a walk outside or on the treadmill at the gym is an effective way to encourage weight loss and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

But if you’re starting to get bored of your walking routine, there are plenty of ways to enhance your workout. One of my favorites that I often recommend to my clients is adding in arm movements. This not only engages your core and adds a toning element to your walk, but it makes it more intense, increasing your heart rate and calorie burn. 

I’ve compiled a list of arm movements you can add in while on a walk, whether you’re outside, on the treadmill or walking around the house. Remember to go at your own pace and focus on walking first and arm movements second. Be sure to focus on your balance and keep the upper body controlled. You can do this by pulling your naval in toward your spine as you walk to engage your core and help with stability.

Forward punch exercise

Forward punches

While walking, keep your elbows bent and your hands clenched in fists at chest height. One by one, begin punching your arms straight out in front of you. First punch your right arm forward, straightening it out in front of you. Bring your arm back in and repeat with your left arm. Start off slow until you get the hang of it. If you’re feeling confident in this movement, increase the pace of your arm movements or the pace of your walk. You can time each punch with a step: As you step with your right foot, punch with your left arm; as you take the next step with your left foot, punch with your right arm, and so on.


side to side punch exercise

Side-to-side punches

The side-to-side punch requires a little more attention than the forward punch. This is because each punch to the side is pulling you away from the midline. Starting in the same position as above, with your elbows bent and fists clenched near your chest, slightly rotate your fist so your fingers are pointing down toward the ground and punch your right arm out to the right just at shoulder height. Bring it back in, and punch your left arm out to your left side. Remember to start slow and be careful when slightly rotating to the side so that you don’t lose your footing.

upward punch exercise

Upward punches

While walking, begin punching your arms up toward the sky one at a time. Start with your right arm, straightening your arm and extending it above your head. Bring it back down and repeat with your left arm. Make sure to keep a steady pace while keeping your head straight and eyes in front of you.

side overhead raise exercise

Side-overhead raises

Walk with your arms straight down at your sides. As you walk, lift your right arm straight out to the side so that it’s parallel to the ground. Then bring it straight up overhead. As you bring it back down, repeat with your left arm, bringing it up into the air at should height, then straight overhead. You can do this movement with both arms together for a more advanced option, or stick with one arm at a time. The faster you do this movement, the more challenging it will be to maintain your balance and walking speed.


pumping arms exercise


We naturally tend to pump our arms when we walk. To maximize calorie burn, we can practice deliberately pumping with a little extra force and movement. With your elbow bent, try bringing your fist all the way up to the side of your face and then all the way down to the side of your hip when pumping each arm. This extra arm movement will help encourage more calorie burn while increasing the heart rate.