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Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Healthiest Walking Workout

The Healthiest Walking Workout

There's no question that walking is great for everyone: It dramatically boosts energy levels, fights fat, and protects your heart. But if you have high blood sugar, or if you have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or diabetes, walking can be a lifesaver.

"Walking is one of the best types of 'medicine' we have to help prevent diabetes, or reduce its severity and potential complications—such as heart attack and stroke—if you already have it," says JoAnn Manson, M.D., Dr.P.H., chief of the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Women who did at least 30 minutes daily of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, slashed their risk of diabetes by 30 percent, found the Harvard Nurses' Health Study. Even a single 90-minute session of aerobic exercise improved blood sugar control in at-risk women, according to research at the University of Michigan.

Walking also shrinks dangerous abdominal fat that raises your risk of diabetes. Excess fat around your abdomen causes inflammation in cells, making them even more resistant to insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar; this increases your odds of developing the disease. A Canadian study found that women who walked briskly for about an hour a day decreased their belly fat by 20 percent after 14 weeks—without changing their eating habits.

That's why walking is a key component of Prevention's Diabetes DTOUR Diet, a new eating and exercise plan designed to help you prevent and manage type 2 diabetes. The science-based DTOUR workout combines powerful cardio walks with toning workouts. "Together, the two build lean muscle and help reduce body fat—a combination that can dramatically improve blood sugar," says Francine R. Kaufman, M.D., medical advisor for The Diabetes DTOUR Diet and head of the Center for Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolism at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

No one knows that better than Debbie Bouldin, 48, who test-drove DTOUR's diet and exercise regimen. In only six weeks, she dropped nearly 11 pounds and lowered her blood sugar 23 points. "I haven't felt this good since I was in my 20s," she says.

Here's a modified version so you can get started today. In just two weeks, you could lose a few pounds, shrink your waistline, and improve your blood sugar levels.

Workout at a glance

What you'll need: Supportive athletic shoes, watch with timer, mat

What you'll do: Six workouts a week, divided into:

  • Fat-Torch Walk (two days a week): A steady-paced workout to burn flab.
  • Calorie-Scorch Walk (two days a week): Short intervals of fast walking to rev up your metabolism so you burn more calories all day long.
  • Belly Blast Routine (two days a week): A 15-minute toning routine designed to firm your core—abs, lower back, and butt. Studies suggest that adding strength-training to your workouts improves blood sugar more than doing just cardio.
  • For faster results: Check out for tips, meals, and success stories. Go to get The Diabetes DTOUR Diet (Rodale, 2009).

    Get started

    1Fat-Torch Walk (20 minutes)
    2Belly Blast Routine (15 minutes)
    3Calorie-Scorch Walk (15 minutes)
    5Fat-Torch Walk (20 minutes)
    6Belly Blast Routine (15 minutes)
    7Calorie-Scorch Walk (15 minutes)

    The walks

    Fat-Torch Walk

    0:00Warm-up3-3.5 mphLight: You can sing
    3:00Cardio walk3.5-4 mphModerate: You can chat with a friend
    18:00Cool-down3-3.5 mph

    Each week, increase the cardio walk portion by five minutes; build up to a 60-minute workout.

    Calorie-Scorch Walk

    0:00Warm-up3-3.5 mphLight: You can sing
    3:00Cardio walk3.5-4 mphModerate: You can chat with a friend
    4:00Speed walk4+ mphVigorous: You can barely talk
    4:30Repeat 10-minute cardio walk and 30-second speed walk intervals five more times  
    12:00Cardio walk3.5-4 mph
    13:00Cool-down3-3.5 mph

    'I walked a half marathon and lost 25 pounds!'

    In four weeks on the DTOUR plan, Kris Sumey dropped almost three dress sizes and lowered her blood sugar 17 points. "My energy levels skyrocketed," says Sumey, 42, of Havertown, Pa.—so much so that she took her walking workouts to a new level. She joined Team Prevention (at and finished the Philadelphia Half Marathon last November. "A year ago, I would have laughed at the idea," she says. "But crossing that finish line after 13-plus miles was amazing. I plan on doing two more this year."

    The Belly Blast Routine

  • Crisscross: Lie on back with feet off floor, knees at 90 degrees, and hands behind head. Contract abs, press lower back toward floor, and curl head and neck off floor. Inhale and extend left leg while drawing right knee toward chest. At the same time, twist to bring left elbow toward right knee. Exhale and twist to left, switching legs. That's one rep; do six.
  • Leg Circle: Lie on back with left foot flat on floor, right leg extended toward ceiling, toes pointed, and arms at sides. Hold for 10 to 60 seconds. Then, keeping abs tight, rotate right leg from hip in small circles. Inhale as you begin the circle; exhale as you finish. Do six circles; repeat in opposite direction. Switch legs. (For a challenge, straighten left leg.)
  • Leg Kick: Lie on right side propped on elbow and forearm, torso lifted off floor, legs stacked and in line with body, left hand in front for balance. Exhale and slowly swing left leg forward as far as it's comfortable. Hold and pulse, moving foot forward and back a few inches, for two counts. Inhale and swing leg back, past right one. Do 6 times without lowering leg. Switch sides. (For an easier option, extend right arm on floor and rest head on arm.)
  • Provided by Prevention


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