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Summer weight gain? Lose it at the park

Prevention magazine's senior fitness director, Michele Stanten, shares tips on summer exercises to burn off extra calories.
/ Source: Weekend Today

It's easy, it's effective, and best of all it's something anybody can do — park exercises. Michele Stanten, senior fitness director for Prevention magazine, was invited on the “Today” show to share her tips on walking and other ways to burn off summer calories.

Get ready to step into a smaller pair of jeans with Prevention's Walking Points Plan. It's our easiest walking workout ever — no special equipment or big chunks of time needed. This plan is designed to fit neatly into your lifestyle, while helping you reach your personal fitness and health goals.

It works like this: Every time you put one foot in front of the other for at least 60 seconds, you earn points. The more energetically you walk, the more you earn. As the points rack up, you score big benefits. You'll find point programs for flattening your belly, beating heart disease, blasting stress and more.

“Point assignments are a great way to meet your goals," says Dixie Thompson, Ph.D., director of the Center for Physical Activity and Health at the University of Tennessee. "People know they need to move, but they don't know how cleaning the house or hiking trails counts toward their goals. This makes it easy."Keep track of the number of points you do each day by printing out our "" and marking down your progress. Also, discover the points associated with additional daily activities and sports. Pick your program

Tone Muscles
Head for the hills to tone your legs, rear, and everywhere.Goal: 80 points a day

Lower Stress
Brisk walking and light stretching erases daily angst. Goal: 50 points a dayLive Longer
Upping activity lowers blood pressure and fights disease.Goal: 75 points a day

Burn Belly Fat
Energetic activity whittles your waistline fast.  Goal: 90 points a dayKey walking tipsThe faster you walk, the more quickly you earn points. Good walking form makes quickening your pace a snap, says walking expert Mark Fenton, author of “The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Fitness, and Weight Loss.”

Try these tips for an automatic turbocharge:

  • Bend your elbows. You wouldn't run with straight arms; don't fitness walk with them, either. Pump your arms so your fists swing in an arc from your waistband to chest height.
  • Keep your eyes on the horizon and your chin up.
  • Spring off your toes. Push off as though you were trying to show someone behind you the sole of your shoe with every step.

Tone MusclesWant firmer thighs and a tighter rear end? Find a hill near your house and climb it. Come down and do it again. Len Kravitz, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at the University of New Mexico, calls hill walking one of the best lower-body firming exercises you can do.

"It really tones and strengthens your quadriceps and buttocks," he says.

To shape muscles in your back, chest, arms and abdominals while you walk, add a simple walking tool such as Nordic poles or a PowerBelt, which has retractable cords you pull with each swing of your arms.

For the best body shaping, perform 80 points worth of fat-burning, muscle-building, 2-plus-point activity, like the hill workout below.Head to the hills:
Find a hill that takes about 5 minutes to walk up at an easy pace. Use poles if you have them.

  • Walk up and down the hill at an easy pace (10 minutes, 20 pts)
  • Walk up again, this time a little bit faster. Come back down at an easy pace (9-10 minutes, 25 pts)
  • Walk halfway up as fast as you can for about 2-1/2 minutes. Come back down at an easy pace (5 minutes, 10 pts)
  • Walk for 10 minutes at a brisk pace on a flat stretch (20 pts)
  • Cool down and stretch for 5 minutes (5 pts)
    TOTAL: 80 points

Lower Stress
Sprinkle energetic activity and stretching throughout the day to keep tension away.

  • Wake up: Spend 3 minutes gently stretching and limbering up your whole body (3 pts).
  • 10:30 am or 3:30 pm: Brisk 10-minute walk around building (20 pts). At home with kids? Add a stroller and keep it brisk (25 pts).
  • Noonish: Hit the stairwell for four flights before lunch (4 pts).
  • 5:30 pm: 10-minute body-weight workout (10 push-ups, 10 crunches, 10 squats, 10 lunges, 10 back extensions). An alternative: Brisk 10-minute walk before dinner (20 pts).
  • Bedtime: 3 minutes of stretching (3 pts).
    TOTAL: 50-55 points

Quickie 30-point stress-reduction workout:

  • Warm up with easy walking for 5 minutes (5 pts).
  • Pick it up to a brisk pace for 4 minutes (8 pts).
  • Go very fast for 2 minutes (6 pts).
  • Ease back to brisk for 3 minutes (6 pts).
  • Cool down gently for 3 minutes (3 pts).
  • Stop and stretch for 2 minutes (2 pts).

Live Longer
In a recent study, women who added 60 points worth of steps to their day improved their blood pressure and blood sugar levels. "Adding just 60 points of activity can protect you from obesity, diabetes, and heart disease," says Thompson. "Do just a little more, and you can boost yourself into the superior health category." Aim to accumulate 75 points daily. Have a healthy day: Boost your lifestyle activity, and you can get the health benefits of working out without all the work.

  • Morning pre-work: Do three flights of steps (3 pts).
  • Morning at work: Take the long way to the copier, cafe or mailroom for an added 1 to 2 minutes of activity (1 to 2 pts).
  • Noon: 15-minute easy walk after lunch (15 pts).
  • Afternoon: Take the long way to the copier, cafe or mailroom for an added 1-2 minutes of activity (1 to 2 pts).
  • Postwork: 15-minute brisk walk through hilly neighborhood or park, or power walk around the soccer field at your kid's practice (45 pts).
  • Evening: 10 minutes of light yardwork (pulling weeds, mulching beds) or housecleaning (10 pts).
    TOTAL: 75 to 77 points

Burn Belly FatResearch shows that exercise that increases your aerobic fitness helps you lose twice as much belly fat as leisurely activity. That means plenty of fitness-building 2-plus-point activity. Women who add high-energy points to their day will see improvements in PFF, or "pants-fitting factor," says Catrine Tudor-Locke, PhD, author of “Manpo-kei: The Art and Science of Step Counting.”Trim on the go:

  • Morning pre-work: Jump-start your day by walking up and down five flights of stairs (5 pts).
  • Noon, 65-point power lunch: Walk for 5 minutes easy (5 pts), then pick up the pace to a brisk walk for 10 minutes (20 pts). Turn it up as fast as you can for 2 minutes (6 pts), and bring it back to brisk for 5 minutes (10 pts). Repeat the 2-minute acceleration/5-minute brisk walk for one more cycle (16 pts). Finish with 60 seconds at top speed (3 pts). Cool down for 5 minutes (5 pts).
  • Postwork: 15-minute stroll after dinner (15 pts), followed by 5 minutes of stretching (5 pts); (20 pts total).
    TOTAL: 90 points