Leslie SansoneIT SHOULDN’T BE EASY to catch up with Leslie Sansone. After all, the DVD exercise queen has been walking for 28 years straight. But it is — and that seems to be the secret to her success. No matter your fitness level, Sansone has a workout tailored to help you keep up and to benefit you.

“What a journey,” is how she describes the development of her “Walk at Home” program (Walkathome.com), which started at her gym outside Pittsburgh. “I saw a bunch of walkers all through the neighborhood and I wondered what they would do when it got cold. I figured we had to help them,” she says.
Sansone invented a walk aerobics class that avoided a dance feel while engaging more muscles than traditional walking does. She added side-to-side steps, knee raises, kicks and upper-body movements. “When you raise your arms overhead, your core naturally fires to stabilize,” she explains.

The classes filled instantly, and when one dedicated student asked her to videotape a session so she wouldn’t miss out on the workout over her vacation, it launched Sansone’s career, which has led to $200 million in sales of her videos and DVDs.

Her latest title, “Walk Your Belly Flat,” launched a few weeks ago, and she has a new series coming out this fall: “Walk, Eat, Lose.” “It’s a wonderful system of walking off a meal a day, and we give you the recipes for the meals, too,” she says.

While Sansone has focused on the home market for years, she’s hoping to go back to her roots with “Walk Leader” (Walkleader.com), a chance for folks to learn how to lead her style of workout in live settings. There are a smattering of training sessions across the country this year, but she expects the bigger rollout next year, when D.C. is on the itinerary.

Although gyms may want to host these classes, Sansone suspects they’ll have a bigger following among church groups and workplace wellness programs. “A 15-minute, one-mile walk at work is something you can sneak in. Do you want a full-blown workout at work? Not usually. But small doses are effective,” she says.

It’s also easy for various populations to scale. While a gentle walk is something almost anyone can keep up with, more advanced exercisers can up the burn with a “boosted walk,” aka jogging. “This is not sissy stuff. I don’t know if I could get so passionate about something so passive,” Sansone says. “You increase strength, flexibility and range of motion.”

And with Sansone, you’ll never walk alone.

Photo courtesy Leslie Sansone