Wouldn’t it be nice to skip the weight room -- replete with sweaty, thick-necked men grunting for your notice as they heft barbells overhead -- and tone your muscles in a calm yoga studio or while walking outdoors? Turns out, you can. Both walking and yoga provide resistance from your own body weight, giving you a total-body, muscle-toning workout that you can do every day.
Rise and Shine
Sun salutation, the most basic sequence of yoga moves, tones your muscles, improves strength and reduces body fat. Research out of India in 2011 found that women who did 24 rounds of sun salutations six days a week for 24 weeks increased muscle strength endurance -- as evidenced by their ability to lift heavier weights and perform resistance exercises longer periods of time -- and lost about 2 percent body fat.
If you’re short on time, walking for 30 minutes provides identical benefits to walking for twice as long, a study conducted by University of Miami researchers concluded. They followed a group of overweight women in their 30s over a period of 12 weeks and found that regardless of training duration, all women experienced favorable changes to body composition. These results persist even when you divide the workout in three, 10-minute jaunts.
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Increase the challenge of sun salutations by incorporating warrior poses, which tone your muscles through isometric contraction. Warrior one works your arms, core, hips and thighs. Warrior two increases the challenge to your lower body and targets your arm muscles from a different angle. Warrior three recruits stabilizing muscles throughout your body, tones the muscles of your back and shoulders and targets each leg individually. Finally, reverse warrior stretches your obliques and continues to tone your legs. Perform the warrior sequence three times on each side three days each week for gorgeous muscle tone.
Take a Hike
Walking on uneven surfaces, uphill and downhill increases overall muscle activation and targets different muscle fibers than walking on a level surface. If you can’t make it outdoors, make the trek on the treadmill by selecting a program of varying elevations.
Ditch the Toning Shoes
Before you race to the store to purchase a special pair of toning shoes, consider this: Research indicates that the hype over these expensive kicks is just that, hype. The “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research” published a study in its September 2012 issue that concluded that wearing special rocker-bottom shoes neither increased muscle activity nor burned more calories than wearing regular, flat-bottomed shoes.
- Asian Journal of Sports Medicine: How Effective is Sun Salutation in Improving Muscle Strength, General Body Endurance and Body Composition?
- International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders: Dose-Response Effect of Walking Exercise on Weight Loss: How Much is Enough?
- Journal of Women’s Health: Effectiveness of Long and Short Bout Walking on Increasing Physical Activity in Women
- Mind Body Green: Reverse Warrior Pose: How-To, Tips, Benefits
- Gait and Posture: The Effects of Grade and Speed on Leg Muscle Activations During Walking
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Rocker-Bottom, Profile-Type Shoes Do Not Increase Lower Extremity Muscle Activity or Energy Cost of Walking
Pamela Ellgen began writing in 2000 for "The Asian Reporter" newspaper. She is an award-winning journalist and writes on religion, culture, health and fitness. Ellgen graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in writing from Washington State University and is a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine.