10 Questions with Walking Guru Leslie Sansone

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Leslie Sansone really walks the walk. For 27 years, she has helped people get in shape by putting one foot in front of the other. Best known for her "Walk At Home" and "Walk Away the Pounds" fitness DVDs, she truly is America's fitness-walking authority. I recently was given the opportunity to interview Leslie via email, and the passion in her answers jumped off the screen.

Read on to see Leslie's answers to member-submitted questions, her #1 secret to keeping her walks fun and interesting, and her top 5 tips to starting a solid walking program.

Coach Nicole: How much of a role does walking play in your own workout routine?
Leslie Sansone: I love all of the ways that a body can be active, but walking is the ONLY workout I do on a regular basis. I am a former owner of a fitness center so I love group exercise classes, cardio machines, treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, strength equipment and more. However, I don't use equipment consistently enough for total fitness. I follow my own along with traditional outdoor or treadmill walks as the foundation for my health and fitness. Everything else is just a bonus!

CN: For a beginner walker, what's more important: duration, speed or distance?
LS: Everyone that is just starting a regular routine of fitness should only have one goal: Don't allow anything to keep you from your walk. Do at least 5 minutes of brisk walking before you say, "I don't have time for this today," or, "I don't feel like it." The #1 rule to success is to do a very small "dose" of fitness walking each day. The beauty of fitness walking is that it has the lowest rate of soreness or injury.

Start with a goal of walking 1 mile—no matter how long it takes. This can be a part of your regular routine, three, four or five times per week. Once you can walk that mile, try keep working until you can do a mile in less than 20 minutes; slowly progress to a one brisk mile in 15 minutes. I believe we can all enjoy great health well into our later years if we can continue to walk a mile in 15 minutes! It's a great mark of personal fitness at any time of life!

CN: What are your top 5 tips for creating a safe and effective walking program?
LS: I always follow the essentials of fitness science:
  1. Our bodies need "rehearsal" time—that's a warm up!
  2. Next we need a safe way to increase intensity. A gradual increase in pace will get us to the speed we need for health-enhancing results.
  3. Maintain that brisk pace for at least 12 minutes. We can get aerobic training effect in as little as 12 minutes a day!
  4. A safe transition to bring heart rate back down—that's a cool down walk.
  5. Stretch. The BEST time to increase flexibility and range of motion is when muscles are super warm, and that is always AFTER a brisk walk or any aerobic exercise.
CN: What's the next step after walking? Once your DVDs become easier or someone has walked for a while and is ready to take it to the next level, what do you recommend?
LS: Walk Boosters! We have a full line of fitness products that BOOST the results of our walking workouts. These are safe ways to add light resistance to every step, use more muscle and burn more calories—it's so easy!

CN: How do you keep both your outdoor and indoor walks fun and interesting? LS: MUSIC! Music really moves the body and soul. When my music is motivating, my walks are SUPER!

CN: Why is walking so important and beneficial when it comes to health and fitness?
LS: I just read the gazillionth study that showed how exercise keeps the brain performing at high levels well into our later years, and we have decades of research proving people that engage in brisk exercise get sick less. Study after study after study after study proves this! Walking is the exercise that most of us can do for a lifetime; make it your sport for life!

CN: You've created a Walk Leader certification, where you and your experienced staff train everyday people to lead walks in their own neighborhoods—and make money doing it! How can exercisers find a walk group/class in their area and/or how can someone start their own?
LS: Thanks for asking this important question. We are so proud to announce that we have launched our Walk Leader training! We are going back to our roots as an organization, as I started leading group exercise classes in 1979 in church halls. Now is the perfect time to get back involved with our communities and help with public health reform. Healthcare is each of our personal responsibility. We can greatly reduce the high costs of disease care when we all practice preventative health care! Starting walk classes in communities all across the country is one way to make a positive change! We walk the world!

CN: I also asked Leslie Sansone fans on SparkPeople to submit some questions for Leslie. Here are three questions that we selected to ask Leslie on behalf of our members.

MOMMIEHAMPTON: Do you have any 5-mile walks in the works?
WOW! MOMMIEHAMPTON, you must be super fit to ask for the long walks! I do have a great 5-Mile Fat Burning Walk available anywhere DVDs are sold or on my website walkathome.com. A 5-mile walk is so perfect for weekends or always remember that you can use our Mile System anyway that you choose; do 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 miles any time of the day or night. That's why DVD's are so important to maintain a regular routine—they are there when you are ready to walk!

JENNIFERKCM: Leslie has a lot of great videos! She was a pivotal part of helping me to get moving again. She made it doable. One thing I hear a lot is how to "step up" her videos (make them more challenging, harder, etc) as our fitness levels increase (or desire a more intense workout). What does she recommend?
Hellllooooo JENNIFERKCM! My first recommendation would be to BOOST the walk with Walk Boosters and "Boosted" walking, which is actually mild jogging in place of the walking periods. Walk Boosters generally add light resistance to every step and you will really notice how your muscles change and become leaner! Or you may want to GO THE EXTRA MILE. An extra mile once or twice each week can really shake things up and help to drop weight or bust through a plateau. Walk on, my friend Jen!

DODAYLADY: My question for Leslie is this. I have always heard that you should only weight train every other day to let your muscles rest. On most of her DVDs only two-pound weights are used, so can you use a light weight like that on consecutive days?
LS: Great question DODAYLADY. It is always best to use weights on non-consecutive days; muscles do need rest days as part of their conditioning cycle. I would do just the walks some days and then use the weights on opposite days. This also keeps the muscles guessing by varying the intensity from day to day! Keep walking strong, my friend!

CN: I'd like to thank Leslie again for taking the time to answer these questions for our readers in such a thorough and thoughtful manner. Her newest DVD release, Walk Your Belly Flat 3-Mile Walk is available now, and I hope to review it for our readers soon!

Is walking part of your fitness program, too? Have you ever tried one of Leslie's walking DVDs? If so, what did you think about it?

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I was so glad to see an interview done with one of my all time favorite fitness instructors. She is the absolute best. Her videos feel so personal as if she is only talking to me. Her words speak from the heart and not some mumbo-jumbo somebody is spewing. She gives you great information during the walk and she laughs...an authentic laugh...not fake at all. I have purchased several Leslie Sansone DVDs and I do the Boot Camp at least 1 a week (I do other videos other days of the week). The Boot Camp vid really works me out and I do the whole 45-min because I don't constantly watch the clock. Great, great, great interview. Keep it up SP! Report
Leslie Sansone is AWESOME! Her WATP dvds help me stay motivated to exercise. Report
I love Leslie Sansone's walking DVD'S. I walk in front of my TV and before you know it...I've walked a mile or more. I do like her walking 500 steps before each meal. It gives you food for thought [pun] when eating after walking your 500 steps. Report
I love Leslie's Walking videos. They are great for winter! Report
Leslie Sansone's Walk Away The Pounds DVD's are my favorite form of indoor exercise! Report
I have been using Leslie's DVD's for a year and a half, and just started her five-mile walk on Saturday - she is simply great, I love the whole concept, and I have loaned out some of the six DVD's that I own to others because this just works! I recently had a nuclear stress test, and passed with flying colors. When I told the cardiologist what i was doing (4 miles 5-6 times a week), he said, "It shows." Report
I found a video of one of Leslie's video workouts on youtube yesterday, did 15 mins yesterday and did the full 30 mins today.

I am feeling so great, I have already passed it on to some family members. I think what's so great about her walks is that, you don't need to stand in front of a mirror to learn new steps (or fumble around!) to make sure your form is right and all that, it's been so easy and natural to just walk and step and get the daily dose of exercise in!

I have a gym downstairs in my building, but getting ready, waiting for the lift, signing in and out etc takes me 12 mins, and usually I can't be motivated to go through all that before working out. This is great!

Thanks for the interview!!

These tapes are great when you want to do something, but not really in the mood to hit the gym or it's too hot to go outside.
Leslie is an awesome motivator! Report
I love Leslie's DVDs. They are great in the winter when the weather is uncooperative. Report
I have 3 of her dvds. I love Fast & Firm, 4 really big miles with the toning band. I try to do that 1 at least once a week. Report
I love LS and her DVD's. I own 5 of them. Because the moves are so easy to fallow means I am happy to put it in the player and hit the ground "walking" day after day. Over the years I have bought loads of DVDs on the newest trends in exercise, but of all of them, Leslie's are the only ones not hidden away, collecting dust. The simple fact is, if the moves are too difficult most of us won't use them, so how dose that help us. Simply put, it won't.
Thanks Leslie! Report
I LOVE all of Leslie's videos ~ I own 11. They are easy to do but I feel like I've worked out well! They are also easy to modify to fit what you need. I have one that has a specific part that hurts my knees and so have decided I will just walk through that part!! Her videos are simple but awesome! Report
I love "walk at home" I watch it on Exercize TV on Demand! It's easy enough for beginners, yet you can always intesify it for your level! The really great part is I don't need an exercize bra! Report
I use Leslies DVDs and LOVE them!! I just did the walk and kick 30 min walk for the first time last night...it was so fun and really got me sweating! The kick-boxing was a blast! Report
I absolutely love the LS walk at home DVDs. I am a little self-conscious about walking in my neighborhood or even around the track at our local high school. The LS DVDs allow me to have a great workout in the privacy of my home. I have 6 LS DVDs and I am expecting to get another one as a Christmas gift. Report
Yes I use Leslie dvds I love them Report
From the interview and comments I can't tell what the DVDs are. How do you use them in front of the TV and walking? I do Nordic Walking with poles. It is SOOO easy, keeps you walking at a much stronger pace, keeps your mind engaged, takes pressure off bad knees and backs, and burns (experts say!) 40% more calories - really amazingly better and more fun than regular walking. But, in Minnesota, there are simply some days when you are NOT going to walk outside. Sounds like I should try Leslie's tapes. Report
I love these videos! They really help me vary my workout and some of them are short so I can easily fit them into my day! I'm never sure how to track them in the fitness tracker though - do they count as aerobics or as walking? Report
I have one of her dvd's and am thinking of getting more. I love it for those days when I can't get out to exercise Report
I love Leslie. It's the first workout I've ever kept doing on a regular basis. Report
I absolutley Love Leslie Sansone Videos and DVD's. I've been walking with her "formally" since 2002, but have gotten some of her other workouts before then. I've got a huge collection and use them most days of the week. I enjoy having "variety."
Ruth Report
I love, love ,love Leslie and her videos. In fact, I watch them every day. I like the fact that they are one, two or three miles tracks depending on your time schedule or your ability for that day. I also have some of the belts she reccommends to aid in my walk. Report
I love, love, LOVE Leslie! She is such a motivation - I lost my first 50 lbs with her DVDs!! I own several of her workout DVDs and am always recommending her to people I know - along with Spark of course :) Report
LOVE HER!!! So positive, full of energy and she is a great teacher...repeats movements so they are quick to learn. I just bought 2 of her CD's. Highly recommend her if you haven't tried her walks yet! GREAT STUFF!!! Report
I love Leslie's DVD's and videos! I need to use them more than I do, though, and I shall. Report
I haven't used any of her DVD's but I am so interested in trying them. I've heard nothing but positive things about her and her walking videos. Report
A number of years ago I attended aerobics classes offered by Leslie - before she started the walking routine. Back in western PA. Report
Leslie and her walks are great!! Very motivating and fun no matter what the weather!! Report
I run, swim, bike and lift...among other things. But, I always take time for a walk at least 4 days a week. I agree that walking is for life. It doesn't matter what my other routines are, I believe that walking is a cornerstone of healthy living. Report
When I was entering into the fitness mode following my back injury I was (and still am) very sensitive to doing exercises that would not re injure or adgetate my back. As it turns out walking was the perfect exercise because it not only helped to naturally move my body in ways that it set my spine into alignment but then with WATP programs I was able to bump up the effectiveness of my walking and walk year round! The programs worked my core and then with the addition of bands and other moves, worked my upper body muscles as well. LOVE IT!!!! Report
Walking with Leslie Sansone is my main form of exercise. I use at least 1 tape or DVD at least twice a week. Im just walking 2 miles right now, but I do hope to be at 3 miles by February. Im working on boosting my walking with strecth bands and the waist band. Maybe Ill even try the light jog boost soon! Report
Walking is the main event in fitness for me, but I am still working to get a walk in everyday. I am working on adding some light jogging, more strength training, and a daily stretch video in as well. I have one of Leslie's DVDs and have used it a few times. I plan to get it out and use it some more as cold weather arrives. I love walking outdoors, but the DVD is a great way to stomp on the bad weather excuse. Report
Walking is my main fitness tool. I'll need to look into some of her information. Report
Leslie started me on my journey with her 1 mile walk. I lost 80lbs doing her 1-2 mile walk with the weighted balls and the 1-2-3 mile ab belt workouts. I love it and it showed me that it did not take a lot of time to see results.

I love Leslie!!! Report
Words cannot express how grateful I am to Leslie Sansone and SP. I found a set of WATP vhs tapes (with the weighted balls included) at a thrift store18 months ago. I had never done one of her workouts and thought it might be a good fit for me because I was having a hard time figuring out how to exercise with my two young kids at home. I found the 1 mile workout challenging enough that I got a little sweat going and had a smile plastered on my face while doing it. Well I kept at it and improved my health and was motivated to try new things in my life. I started taking Taekwondo lessons but after 6 months hurt my knee and had to have surgery. I've been recuperating for the last 3 months and recently have started building up my fitness level again...with Leslie! Her workouts are so easily modified that I did a one mile walk within a week of having surgery. She always lifts my spirits and makes me feel happy and that makes me a better person.

ps I own about 12 of her dvds now and love them all. Report
i have her dvd walk at home...sometimes i use the belt she provides, sometimes I use my 5lb weights, sometimes i just walk and do the arm motions...it all works Report
Note to beginners: Invite this woman into your home. She will get you moving! Regardless of your size or fitness status, almost anyone can walk. She got me up off the couch and I am forever grateful! Report
I love her! She makes walking sooooo fun! I hated exercising. I wasn't exercising at all until I read here at Spark that a member used her tapes and had walked away 70lbs in her home. So, I went on Ebay and purchased a pack. It is the Walk Slim DVD's. I swear by them! I am down 42.8lbs and counting! I do the Fast Start 1 & 2 Fast Miles. I said by Dec 1st I was going to start doing the 3 Fast Miles and by April of 2010 I hope to be able to do the 4 Fast Miles and so on. She's a great inspiration! I recommend her DVD's to anyone looking to walk away the pounds! Report
When I started exercise, I weighted 183, now I'm down to 171, I started with the video "Walk away the pounds -Express 1-mile Easy Walk, 2 -mile Brisk walk, 30 min's since then I have bought a lot more video's of these and I am still doing these. They are my Favorite!!! I am working to bring my weight down more with them. So Thank you Leslie, for changing my lifestyle. Report
I have her Walk at home: walk away your waistline video and it is great. Report
I just got the 3 mile walk from the original 3-tape series. I previously had it on video tape but needed it on DVD. That's a really good one, especially the arm movements. Report
I have been using Leslie Sansone's walk DVD and it works very well if you stick with at least 4-5 times a week. Report
I wish I could walk for long periods. But I can't because of all things, I have arthritis in my NECK. I can walk for a number of short walks during a day, but a longer walk will make me very sore, and the soreness may cause pain for days and days.

It makes me very unhappy because I would like to do some walking vacations in England, etc. Report
Leslie is great! I just did her 2 mile walk on Exercise TV. Now to find the 3 mile. Great to do indoors when the weather is not so good. Thanks for the blog! Report
I haven't tried one yet.. But it sure sounds like fun !! Report
I have been doing Leslie's tapes for 2 years now. One lady in our government office building started with one of Leslie's 2 mile on Monday, Wednesday & Fridays. When she stopped bringing the projector & DVD because her job duties change, we put it on an audio tape cassette to keep it going due to us knowing how the routine by hard so we didn't need to see the visual. By Christmas time, many people had stopped all together. I brought my own copies and kept doing it at home. At the beginning of this year, another lady who was working on losing some weight took over bringing the projector and DVD three days a week. On the days we don't do it, I just go walking on my lunch hour around the downtown area back streets for at least 2-3 miles. My persistence and consistency have encouraged many women in the office to come to the Leslie workout class or start doing some exercise. I know I have lost at least 25-30 pounds. It is the most easiest exercise you can do and follow. You will be amazed how it strengths your body, the weight loss and you can do it at the comfort of your home! No matter how big, heavy you are, you can start slowly with the one mile and build it up from there. You will be amazed with the results that will start showing on you! Report
I have 4 of Leslies DVDs I love them all, and highly recommend them to everyone. You can buy them in the back by the Exercise equipment at Walmart, sometimes at Costco and even Online at her website. Try your local library too.
If you have Netflix, you may want to try one or several before buying one.
You'll be glad you did :) Report
Her videos are what got me sweating early on in my journey. Though I've moved on to incorporate other activities walking or boosted walking is still a good foundation. Love that you can do it anywhere! Report
I just heard of Leslie not too long ago went looking for her DVD's. I guess I haven't looked in the right places yet as I haven't found them anywhere so far. I will keep looking though. Report
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