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15 April 2011

To lose weight, put a little spring in your step

When it comes to weight control, almost nothing is easier and cheaper than brisk walking.

Going for a walk every day can improve mood, increase energy, lower blood pressure and protect against diabetes, osteoporosis and cancer.

But to reap these benefits, you need to get the lead out and put some spring in your step.

It's not window shopping or taking a stroll in the park. Walk like you're late for the bus.

You should be able to carry on a conversation, but you'll be a little breathless when you talk, says Miriam Nelson, director of the John Hancock Research Center on Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity Prevention at Tufts University in Boston.

You should be able to feel that your heart rate is up. Keep in mind that a brisk walk for one person may be a stroll for another, she says.

Pace yourself. If you are just starting out with a walking program, you should try to work up to a pace of at least 3 mph, says Anne Lusk, a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Here's another way to look at it:

• Less than 3 mph is considered slow walking.

•More than 3 mph is considered brisk walking.

•More than 4 mph is considered very brisk walking.

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