1. Use elevation to your advantage.
Heading up hills naturally increases the intensity of your walk even if you’re moving at the same pace or slower. “A walking incline can be even harder than running. Declines also serve their purpose, activating your core and strengthening your mind-muscle connection as you focus on each step.
Those lucky enough to live near undulating trails or roads can simply plan their route accordingly. If you’re largely on flat land, find any suitable slope—even a sledding hill or a parking-lot ramp—and do four to five hill repeats, walking up purposefully and down intentionally.
2. Do an out-and-back where you can do some stair climbs at the halfway point.
One simple way to add extra intensity into your workout is to incorporate some stairs into your routine. A common way to do this is to map your route to include regular walking as a warm-up, then hitting a flight of stairs for some higher-intensity work, and then walking back home as a cooldown.
Someone who lives a mile or so away could plot a route to their base, then climb up and down a couple of times before briskly walking home again.
3. Mix in some bodyweight moves.
Even if there aren’t stairs in your vicinity, you can still break up a walk with a burst of calisthenics. If you have access to a track or a park with a looped path, try walking the curves and doing dynamic or bodyweight moves on the straightaways, for instance, walking lunges, walking planks, or single-leg hopping. No track? Try it by time—for instance, two minutes of walking, then one minute of strength moves.
If you’re near an open playground and don’t mind toting along hand sanitizer, you can do pull-ups or monkey bars. Prefer not to touch? Try toe taps on a curb, step-ups on park benches, or a split squat with one foot elevated on a ledge.
4. Walk to music with a quicker tempo
There’s a reason group fitness classes blast power pop—music not only boosts your mood, research shows it can actually make hard efforts feel easier. What’s more, it can also work as a kind of metronome guiding your pace.
Spotify has playlists for songs of various beats per minute for keeping the tempo up. Choose one that’s comfortably challenging—say, 130 to 140 BPM—and will last for the duration of time that you want to walk, and aim to keep up with it. (You can also try our SELF playlist of the best workout songs for some motivation, too.)
Or use music as a cue for more intense segments. Walk easy for verses and fast during the chorus. Bodyweight circuit at the start of every other tune: 10 squats, 10 split squats on each leg, 10 lateral lunges per leg, and 10 push-ups, either on the ground or with your hands on a bench to make it easier.
5. Or even twirl, prance, or twerk.
Sprinkling a few moves into your walk elevates your heart rate and gives you an opportunity to move in different directions—critical for those of us hunched at desks and over our devices all day. Some moves are air punches, grapevines, lateral shuffles, and strutting on the balls of your feet, which works your calves and quads.
Don’t let self-consciousness or a lack of dance training hold you back.
Let go of everything that’s in your head and don’t worry about what people think.”
6. Use technology to your advantage (or leave it behind).
This is another time when it’s important to consider the purpose of your walk. If it’s a mind-clearing, meditative stroll, it might be best to leave your GPS watch at home and your phone in do-not-disturb mode. But if you’re aiming for fitness benefits, you can use digital tools as motivators.
If you have a watch or fitness tracker with a step count, try to take a few more steps during each 30- or 60-minute walk.
Stress and anxiety can affect what’s known as your rate of perceived exertion, or how hard it feels like you’re working to power through each step.
“You need to listen to your body,” even if the message is to slow down or back off. “If you’re used to hitting a certain number or certain metric, don’t be disappointed. You should be more excited and proud that you did something as opposed to nothing.”
7. Close it out with a stretch session.
Taking a few minutes to further loosen warm, limber muscles after a walk can ease some of the strain and fatigue you’ve built up and also give your session a sense of closure. “Often we walk and get to our car or back to our house and that’s it,”.
“Stretching makes it complete.”