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Walk to fitness

Plan strengthens heart, burns calories


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Walking is a great way to get fit.
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CNN's Summer Workout was developed by Atlanta, Georgia, fitness professional Gin Miller, who has 20 years of experience and is known as the creator of step training.
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Watch CNN's Summer Walking Workout on House Call with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Saturday and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. ET.
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- CNN House Call's Summer Workout is a way to get fit fast, says Atlanta, Georgia, fitness expert Gin Miller, who developed the program.

All you need is a pair of walking shoes, a wristwatch and permission from your doctor to get started.

Later, you'll add strength training to your routine.

Before you begin this workout, you should be able to walk comfortably for 30 minutes without stopping. Good walking technique includes standing tall, rolling from your heel through your toe, pushing off your forefoot, and pumping your arms close to your sides at about 10 and 2 o'clock.

Take a bottle of water and a hand towel in case you perspire.

If you are not able to walk 30 minutes continually, build your base -- start today with a 10-minute walk and then gradually increase the duration two to five minutes each time you walk. Continue to increase your walking time -- over about one to four weeks -- until you can walk the entire 30 minutes without stopping.

Now you're ready to start our interval-walking program.

Faster (interval) walking

Each interval workout starts with a 10-minute warm-up that includes strolling and stretching, making sure that the first three to five minutes of walking are slower than your steady walking pace.

To test yourself, after a 10-minute warm-up, pick up the pace for at least 10 to 30 seconds. If you don't have a watch, choose a point 100 yards away and walk toward it.

How do you feel? Can you manage four or five more 30-second segments?

To increase your walking speed, bend your arms so the elbows form a 90-degree angle then pump them at a faster pace than your usual walking motion. Take a shorter stride, and your legs will keep pace with your arms.

Interval walking involves faster walking periods followed by recovery or resting walks. Interval walking can be quite a bit faster than your normal pace.

If you really want to push it, walk as fast as you can manage for the duration of the interval.

Every faster interval you do benefits your body more than ordinary walking. As you walk faster, your body responds immediately. For instance, your heart beats faster, indicating a higher demand for oxygen. That strengthens your heart and increases your blood flow. You work your muscles harder and develop new muscle fiber. You burn calories faster. You boost your fitness by teaching your body to hold a faster pace.

After 30 seconds of fast walking, relax and walk at a steady stroll for a full minute. This is called your "recovery interval." Walk slowly, allowing your breathing to return to normal, and then speed up for another 30 seconds. Repeat this pattern as often as you like.

A reminder: The recovery interval should be about twice as long as your walking interval.

After you have completed your interval walking workout, remember to cool down for about 10 minutes and stretch your calves, shin muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps and lower back.

Strength training

Strength training is a great way to boost your metabolism and firm your muscles -- and there are a multitude of other benefits such as increased bone density, higher levels of daily energy, and better health and appearance.

Strength training can also increase general health by reducing risk factors associated with high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol.

Check with your doctor before you begin to make sure these or any other strength training exercises are OK for you to do.

Perform these exercises twice a week. If you are feeling really energetic, you can supplement them on Sunday. Each exercise should be performed for up to 24 repetitions.

At first, some of the exercises may seem too difficult to complete in one set, so you can take a quick rest after the first six or eight and then continue until you finish the entire set.

You'll need a pair of dumbbells, (optional broomstick or dowel) and a sturdy step or bench. Your step platform should be at least 8 inches high so you'll have clearance for some of the exercises such as dips and pushups. Use a towel or mat for cushioning and have a bottle of water handy as well.

CNN producer Juliette Merchant contributed to this report.


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