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more challenging workout. Here's how:

Change the surface. Consider changing your walking surface for a greater challenge. "Walking on trails and maneuvering around rocks increases muscular demand," Iknoian says. Snow, sand even grass makes walking more of a challenge.

"Just a few extra steps each day is a simple and easy way to take an active role in maintaining a significantly healthier life," says Timothy Gardner, MD, past president of the American Heart Association.

Check the intensity. Exercising at a particular heart rate percentage enables you to gauge the difficulty of your workout.

Find support online. Designed by the American Council on Exercise, the free online program includes a monthly newsletter with health tips and recipes, an online activity and nutrition tracker, access to an online journal, as well as the ability to connect with others for support and motivation. A search option also allows you to look for walking paths in your area.

"You simply go online, register, and take a quiz," Valentour says. "You'll receive a 12 16 week downloadable program." Beginners start with five to 10 Prada Bags Clutch minutes; advanced exercisers start with more challenging options.

After a year of regular walking, Zinn dropped more than 60 pounds. She's kept it off for eight months and continues to walk as her main form of exercise.

Starting a Walking ProgramCheck with your doctor before starting any new exercise program if you've been inactive for a while. "If you've been sedentary, start walking three times a week at a stroll for 20 minutes." Work your way up to five or so times a week, 30 minutes per session, for a total of 2.5 to 3 hours per week.

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Sign up for a race or charity walk. It gives you a goal to shoot for, which may motivate you to stick with Prada Crossbody Bag Nylon

Tips to Make It More ChallengingIf you're already fit, walking may seem too easy. But it's easy to kick up the intensity for a Prada Handbags Prices

Head for the hills. Walking up hills also increases intensity, as does lifting the incline on a treadmill. But don't hang on to the treadmill as you walk or you'll negate the benefits, Iknoian says. "You don't want to look as if you're waterskiing." Hanging on makes your body perpendicular to the treadmill, so ergonomically you're walking on flat ground.

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As one of the simplest exercises, walking requires no equipment aside from a good, supportive pair of walking shoes. "Exercise doesn't have to be hard to be effective," says Julia Valentour, MS, exercise physiologist and program coordinator for the American Council on Exercise (ACE). "The recommended 30 minutes can be broken up into two, 15 minute sessions or even three, 10 minute sessions, making it easy to weave into a busy lifestyle."

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You can check your heart rate by manually checking your pulse or purchase a simple heart rate monitor. Keep in mind, however, that the traditional heart rate formula standards do not fit everyone. "Most recommendations suggest starting out at 70% to 75% of your maximum heart rate, but this may not be enough if you're fit," Schurman says.

Or use the "talk test" to gauge your exercise intensity. "If you can string together six to eight words or chat briefly, you're in your aerobic zone," Schurman says. But if you find yourself gasping for air, lower the intensity. If you can say several phrases with one breath, you may not be working out hard enough.

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Weight loss isn't the only benefit of a walking program. Regular walking helps lower cholesterol, reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, increases bone strength, and improves circulation.

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Walking while listening to podcasts and audiobooks made it easy for Janet Zinn to stick to her daily exercise program. "I walk at least three miles, sometimes six or 10," says Zinn, 51, of New York.

5 Ways to Stay MotivatedHere are simple ways to keep your walks interesting and help you stay motivated:

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Choose distance or time. Some walkers focus on distance, others target time. "Ultimately, it's about speed," Schurman says. "If you can walk five miles but it takes you five hours to do it, it's not a fit level of work. So use both distance and time, as well as heart rate."

race walking, which uses more muscles and, therefore, burns more calories. Brisk walking at four miles an hour burns 334 calories and strolling at three miles per hour burns 221 calories, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. "Remember to pump your arms but keep the movement compact," Iknoian says. "The larger the arm swing, the harder it is to move them faster."

More from WebMD Top 20 Fitness Trends for 2011Alcohol a Motivator for Exercise?Nueve errores comunes en el gimnasioStretching Exercises at Your Desk: 12 Simple Tips

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a program.

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Wear a pedometer. Bit by bit, boost your daily steps. "Wear a pedometer for a week to see what days you have the most number of steps," Valentour says. "Then try to repeat the activities of that day and add another 500 steps the following week." Keep it up until you reach 10,000 steps a day.

Get a walking partner. "A walking buddy provides accountability. Neither wants to let the other person down," Valentour says.

Use Nordic poles to get upper body muscles involved. "You increase the cardio workout when using poles, plus they take the stress off of knees when walking downhill," Iknoian says.

Keep a walking journal. It serves as a motivator by allowing you to see your progress, Valentour says.

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