There are carefree ways to boost your activity levels: play more often and you'll lose weight; play harder and you'll improve your capacity for cardio. Get ready to have fun with fitness.
Put pep in your walk
• Pick up your pace. Increasing overall walking speed burns more calories in an hour.
• Give a burst of speed and get a great cardio workout. Walk very fast for three telephone poles, then return to a moderate rate for one or two.
• Head for the hills. Hill walking pumps your heart and legs.
• Lunge-walk uphill. If you take a long stride, bending the front leg when you land, you'll use different muscle groups than if you're walking normally.
• Find a tree -- and do some push-offs, calf raises and thigh-shaping exercises. Do these in three sets en route, along with some lunges and squats, to get a full workout.
• Go up and down any stairs you pass.
• Try a fartlek (it means "run play" in Swedish). After 15 minutes of walking, break into a slow run for 15 seconds. Walk for another 5 minutes, then run again. Fartleks burn fat and give your heart a good workout.
• Fill a backpack with water bottles, binoculars and some nature guides and go for a hike. You'll burn calories, build muscles and enjoy the sights en route.
• Join the ministry of silly walks. Do figure eights, a never-ending snake or walk in decreasing and increasing circles. Elephant walk, frog hop and pony trot. Animal steps are good ways to get your aerobics and stretching, too. Try it on a track or take some kids along, so it looks like their idea.
• Drive your arms back and your legs will automatically go faster. Here's a suggestion: Walk with a basic arm swing for five minutes, then walk with your elbows bent at 90 degrees for five minutes; up the intensity by using more-vigorous arm movements for one minute. Repeat, gradually increasing the duration of the more difficult movements.
• Play while you walk. You can climb a tree, hop a fence or swing from the fence. Or walk backwards; when you do you're less efficient, so you work harder and burn more calories than if you're walking forward.
• Make life a beach. Kick seaweed, dodge waves and walk in the sand; a sand surface increases your workload and your heart rate -- and does wonders for your calves and thighs.
• Join or start a walking group. On days when you feel draggy, you'll be energized by the hot-to-trotters.
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Power your pool play
• Slow down! Doing a slow crawl, you can still burn as many calories as you do if you swim faster. To burn calories, as long as you swim the same distance, it doesn't matter how fast you go.
• Swim faster to pump up your heart. Do the same number of lengths in a shorter time, or vary the intensity: swim hard one lap and recover the next.
• Jog in the deep end. Buoyancy belts keep you upright and let you jog in deep water. You'll get a better overall workout than you would swimming and a much kinder workout than jogging on pavement.
• Do poolside pushups; try 10 of them after every two lengths you jog in the water.
• Run in waist-high water without a belt. Create resistance by going in circles.
• Play hopscotch without throwing a stone. Go backwards instead of turning around at the end.
• Stand in one spot in a crowded pool and, with your side to the pool wall, hang on to the edge and do leg lifts (10 on each side). Or, with your back to the side of the pool and the weight on your arms, lift your legs and scissor kick.
• Play with pool toys. Put a beach ball between your legs and pull your knees to your chest -- great for the abs.
• Do arm extensions and biceps curls with foam pool weights. Control the movements to avoid injury.
Steam ahead on skates
• Stop coasting. If you want a workout, stride, don't glide.
• Alternate hard and slow intervals every minute for 10 minutes, gradually increasing the lengths of time.
• In order to lose weight and build endurance, skate at a steady pace for a longer time.
Boom on your bicycle
• Park your car and cycle everywhere.
• Increase miles not minutes for an efficient workout. After half an hour, intensify your cycling for a minute. Ease off for a couple of minutes and repeat the hard intervals.
• Ride with a group and challenge each other. You'll cycle harder.
• Go faster! A 125-pound woman can burn about 120 more calories in an hour by increasing her speed from eight kilometres per hour to 14.5 kilometres per hour.
• Sit, don't stand on your bike when you're going up hills. Sitting is good for the heart and works different leg muscles.
• Don't lower your gears when you're going up hills. You'll work your muscles harder.
• Find a trail. Rough terrain increases the intensity and makes for a more interesting ride.
• Sign up for a charity bike ride. You'll get a fat-burning cycle for a good cause.
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Garden with gusto
• Use hand tools, especially if gardening is your main physical activity. You can cut your grass with a push mower and trim with clippers.
• Exaggerate your motions while raking or hoeing to elevate your heart rate.
• Split raking, hoeing and cultivating into three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions to build muscle and consume calories. Alternate your grip to balance the muscle groups you use.
• Lunge and weed. Lunge forward with your left leg, keeping your right leg behind you with the knee almost touching the ground. Try 10 seconds; alternate legs. It's a good warm-up for more-aerobic activities such as raking and planting.
• Keep a steady rhythm and change your grip while weeding for maximum aerobic benefit.
• Double-dig the beds, turn the compost and dig some holes for an intense garden workout. Raking burns 200 to 400 calories an hour; digging burn 400 to 600.
• For a total workout, add a chin-up bar to the arbour and a box on the path. Do a couple of chin-ups and step onto and over the box 10 times with each leg every time you walk by.
Get the most from golf
• Walk, don't ride. You'll burn twice the calories by pulling a cart or carrying your clubs.
• Play the course twice. Over 18 holes, golfers who walk burn about 1,000 calories. Think of the workout when you double that!
• Head for a hilly course to add intensity to your game.
• If you have a long wait, do squats and lunges, holding your club horizontally.
• And lousy golfers, take heart -- you get a better workout if you hit the ball more often.
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