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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 own every one of her DVDs and love all of them I pick a different one each time I work out. Report
I'm a big fan of her DVDs! Report
This sounds like something that I might be able to do. Just not any jogging though, my ankle will not have that. Report
I have Leslie's Walk Slim DVD and I LOVE it ! What a great way to get in a 1 or 2 mile walk ~{I haven't tried the 3 mile walk on the DVD yet!}. She makes it FUN,motivating ,AND EASY TO DO at home! Report
I'm convinced. Used her 1 mile then 2 mile walk consistently during the winter when could not get out or wanted to stay in. Peppy presentation.
Convinced my husband to join me on those days and sometimes he does them by himself. Other times we encourage each other with the 2 mile walk and see if we can make it all the way. I never feel I "have" to do the full 2 miles since I've have hip surgery and now a knee hurts. Key to any of these dvds - modify! Report
I really love the dvds, but I wish it was labeled as one with jogging if it has jogging. I bought a couple that said there was a four mile hour, but she had us jogging for part of it. So that's not pure walking. I can actually walk pretty fast, and was looking forward to doing the four mile hour walk with her. Next one I get will be for beginners, because she really threw me for a loop when she started jogging! Report
I love Leslie's DVDs. When I first started exercising again, I walked outside. Unfortunately, the weather doesn't always cooperate, and Florida summers are suffocatingly hot, so I was so glad when I found Leslie's workouts. I first did them online, but it didn't take long for me to buy a set of two with a resistance band. Her workouts are my main form of exercise. I plan to keep buying her DVDs so I can get even more variety in my workouts. If it weren't for Leslie, I probably wouldn't be exercising much at all, but with her I get my workouts in everyday, sometimes two or even three times a day. I even do a mile on my break at work. Thank you SP for putting the word out about Leslie, and thank you Leslie for getting me off the couch and moving toward a healthy lifestyle. Report
I absolutely love Leslie's DVD's. I have a growing collection so my walks are never the same. Report
I loved her DVD s and used them regularly , and then I broke some from over using I guess, :(...gotta get some more.. Report
I just discovered Leslie's DVDs recently and I've been enjoying them a lot. I'm trying to keep up a consistent exercise routine using them. Report
I use Leslie's dvds in conjunction with other workout programs, especially on days I want an easy going workout and I can go at my own pace.

Now that the weather is warm, its time to take Leslie for a walk outside. ;) Report
I am totally addicted to these workouts!!! Report
I love her programs. Her programs always work for me. I am back on track and the Walk Away the Pounds DVD's are a part of my program! Try any of her DVD's, you can not go wrong! Thanks Leslie-you are awesome! Report
Thanks, Leslie! Report
I love Leslie's dvds they got me moving in the first place when I hated exercise. Now I walk most days. Thank you Leslie. Report
Great interview...love Leslie's motivation! Report
Love Leslie Sansone's DVD's. They are helping me stay sane and diligent with the exercise during an extremely difficult time. Report
These dvd's are AWESOME!!! I have several, plus one really old vhs tape! :) Winter in Montana cannot stop me from "taking a walk"... Report
I am going to try out her videos! Super excited! Report
I love Leslie's DVD's. I own 10 of them of varying levels, some with bands, cables, hand weights, etc. She is the reason I got moving again and have taken off 46 lbs. I can't believe how good I feel, along with eating healthy, but I always hated exercise and now I love it. Also, I'm getting toned, and I have a waistline again. I lost weight eating healthy, but the exercise and toning are what really made a difference in my size and figure. Thank you Leslie!! Walk On!! Report
I love Leslie's vids! I'm currently on mile 3 of her "4 Really Big Miles' video. The 4th mile uses the resistance band that comes with the DVD. She is so encouraging & motivating. I'll definitely be buying more & I am super excited about the 'Walk Your Belly Flat' DVD. I can't wait to get it!! Report
I love all of Leslie's DVD's-but my favorite is Walk-Jog! Then Walk the Walk- it is a Christian Inspired workout. They are both 1 and 2 miles and will leave you revitalized every day. Report
I just purchased two of her Walk Away videos after trying a 15 minute walk sample several times. They are a great change up for a walking program Report
Yes, walking is what I am mainly using to get back to my goal weight and to get toned. I have been doing Leslie Sansone's 3 mile walk for several days now and I am feeling stronger. I'm not sure that I look different yet and I have only lost a pound, but I know the results will come in time.
I also have added just 10 minutes a day of Pilates and every other day I lift weights with my son. Report
I love Leslie's WATP series! She has been very motivating and helped me lose over 30 pounds! Report
Leslie is a great motivator! I love her videos and you can do the exercises no matter what your fitness level. Report
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
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