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Body Watch

Walk That Walk : You burn calories, you increase your chances for weight control. Go ahead--put one foot in front of the other at break time and feel the benefits.

February 14, 1996|KATHLEEN DOHENY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Let co-workers slurp coffee, scarf doughnuts and put their feet up at break time and lunch hour. As downtown walkers know, stepping out during the workday offers a multitude of benefits:

* You burn calories, with the exact number dependent on your body weight and your pace. A 160-pound person who walks a brisk 4 mph (or a 15-minute mile) burns about 5.8 calories a minute, or 348 per hour.

* You improve cardiovascular conditioning and boost endurance.

* You improve the chances of weight control.

* Your injury risk is slight compared with that connected with other exercises. It's virtually impossible to injury yourself while walking unless you stumble and fall.

* If done correctly, walking is low impact and much easier on the knees than running. With fitness-walking, your body lands with one to 1 1/2 times your body weight. With running, you land with three to four times your body weight.

* Your injury risk declines even more with proper form. Don't walk as if you're searching for a lost coin on the sidewalk. Instead, keep shoulders back, hips forward and chin up so it's parallel to the ground. Keep hips and gluteal muscles relaxed, not locked.

* It's versatile. If you don't feel up to speed, even slower-paced walking can yield rewards.

* Unless you're a real speed demon, you probably don't need a shower before returning to work.

Sources: Casey Meyers, walking consultant and author of "Walking: A Complete Guide to the Complete Exercise" (Random House, 1992); Tracy Jo Wilson, race-walking/walking pro, the Cooper Aerobics Center, Dallas.

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