(NaturalNews) Walking is one the most preferred ways to lose weight and stay in shape. It's natural, it's free, and it's effective. Some people try to enhance their walking workouts with exercise accessories and following certain guidelines. There are ways to boost your walking workouts so that you burn more calories, but there are definitely tricks you shouldn't try. Learn safe methods to get the most of your workouts with this list of dos and don'ts.
Don't use dumbbells
Back in the 80s everyone had crazy clothes and insane ideas about exercise. A common thing to see in an aerobics class or on the streets were people swinging dumbbells around or wearing ankle weights in hopes to burn more calories. It didn't matter how uncomfortable or silly they looked, uncomfortable and silly were the status quo in the 80s. Music and movies from the 80s thankfully survived the test of time, but unfortunately so did some exercise ideas.
Research shows that walking with one-pound dumbbells in your hands does nothing for the overall calories burned in a workout. A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness in 2002 found that women swinging around three-pound dumbbells and 1.5-pound ankle weights during an aerobic workout burned no more calories than the women doing the same workout without the extras. You might think that the solution is to hold heavier weights while engaging in cardio. Although you may see a miniscule increase in overall calories used, the potential damage to your shoulders and elbows from the strain of holding 5-pound or heavier weights makes it not worth it. Your knees and hips are strained when you walk with ankle weights.
Bottom line: Ditch the dumbbells during cardio
Do use walking poles
Although hand weights are a bad idea, holding walking poles does make walking more effective for burning calories. Walking poles work your upper body, improve your balance, and cause you to burn between 20 and 45 percent more calories.
Bottom line: Walking poles look a little silly, but the short time you use them during workouts will improve how you look the rest of the time.
Do ditch the sidewalk and hit the trails
Free yourself from the concrete jungle and hit the trails, hiking trails that is. Walking on a trail challenges your balance, which ups your overall calories by up to 82 percent.
Bottom line: Trail walking burns almost double the amount of calories as walking on pavement.
Don't walk slowly thinking you'll burn more fat
People still believe that walking slower leads to fat loss because the body uses more calories from fat when at rest. The problem is that pounds of fat are made up of calories, so losing weight is really a numbers game. The more calories you burn, the more fat you lose. Therefore, pick up the pace. Brisk walking at 3 to 4 mph gets you into a moderate intensity workout zone, which is the minimum for a decent workout not only to lose weight but to increase cardiovascular fitness. Walking at 4.7 mph burns as many calories as jogging.
Bottom line: Walking as quickly as you can gets you to your weight loss goal faster than strolling at a pleasant pace.
About the author: Sarka-Jonae Miller is a published novelist and MARSocial Author of the Year runner-up. She's also a former personal trainer and massage therapist. SJ's published work includes the #3 bestseller "Between Boyfriends" and the just released sequel"Between the Sheets". The chick lit series was recently featured in the San Diego Reader, the largest alternative newsweekly in the United States.