Why Walking Is A Totally Underrated Way To Lose Weight

Why walking is a totally underrated way to exercise and lose weight

You just need to know how to make it work for you

THERE ARE GENERALLY two components to be factored in if you’re looking to lose weight: diet and exercise. If you’re not super into fitness, you might think that finding a workout plan that suits you can be difficult and daunting. In reality, all you need to do is walking for weight loss.

If fancy fitness classes and online workout programs with their packed classes and strict routines sound like a nightmare, you don’t have to do them, even if you want to achieve healthy, sustainable weight loss. You just need to find something that you enjoy enough to keep doing, day in and day out.

That might mean bringing exercise back to basics. Walking might be one of the most underrated forms of exercise. We do it so much anyway that we probably hardly even consider it exercise – but it is one of the most effective forms. All you need to a pair of shoes (or not, if that’s your vibe) and a place to take a stroll. No special, expensive equipment needed, and no waiting in line for a squat rack during rush hour at the gym. It’s one of the few exercises you can do just about anywhere, at any time.

It’s a little unsurprising, but still useful to keep in mind that research published in the Journal of Nutrition has found that when people were eating diets that contained fewer calories than usual, those who added walking to their programs saw additional loss in fat mass and had healthy drops in fasting insulin levels compared to people who just ate fewer calories.

To make walking for weight loss really work, keep a few things in mind.

Walk more than you do now

There’s no magic formula for how many steps, miles, or hours you have to walk to lose the amount of weight that you want. Starting out, the key is just to do more than you’re doing now. ‘If you have a job where you’re on your feet all day, you have to do more than that,’ says Michele Stanten, founder of MyWalkingCoach.com and author of The Walking Solution. ‘But if you have a sedentary desk job, a walk every evening after dinner may show real results.’

A lot has been said about getting a baseline of about 10,000 steps a day for health reasons. If your goal is weight loss, you’ll likely want more than that once you get into a routine. But you don’t need to start right at 10,000. Get your baseline first. ‘If you’re only getting 3,000 steps on a typical day, don’t try to get 10,000 steps the next day. That can be really discouraging. Aim for 5,000 every day for a week. Then go up to 7,000 the next week,’ she says.

Challenge Your Pace

The best way to take off extra weight is to challenge yourself with intervals – periods of faster walking interwoven with periods of slower walking. Research has found that interval walkers lose more weight than people who just go the same speed all the time. One study of people with type 2 diabetes found that interval walkers who alternated three minutes of fast walking with three minutes of average-speed walking not only helped their boost their fitness and control their blood sugar better than steady-state walkers, but their body composition also changed, leaving them with less belly fat and less body fat.

Of course, if you really want to change your body composition, you’ll want to add strength training to your life. Bonus: It helps you walk faster, Stanten says. Also remember that healthy management of stress, sleep, and food all contribute to weight loss, too.

Make it your thing

You don’t have to walk for hours every day to start losing weight, but it’s important to get in the habit of walking every day. Just make it part of your daily routine – something you do without even thinking about it – even if you’re only walking for 10 or 15 minutes on some days of the week.

Ideally, you’ll want two to three interval walks, or shorter, faster, higher-intensity walks a week, a couple hour-long ones, and the rest can be short, moderate-intensity ones. The shorter ones are great to do with your partner, your dog, a friend, or just head-clearing walks on your own.

Don’t just leave walking to your workout; do it wherever you can (the whole park the car farther away from the supermarket thing). And taking the stairs is such familiar advice that it can fade to the background, but it burns more calories than walking on a flat surface and helps develop leg and glute muscles, too.

Use inclines

Walking on an incline increases your heart rate, and helps activate your glutes, quadriceps and calves, according to Tyler Spraul, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and the Head Trainer at Exercise.com. Depending on the incline, you can achieve similar benefits to running without adding stress on your joints, he explained to NBC News.

‘Adding an incline is a great way to increase the challenge for your cardiovascular system and get the same kind of benefits that you can get from jogging or running without the same amount of wear and tear on your knees,’ he says, ‘The extra effort burns more calories’.

Sign up for an event

‘One of the things that keeps people motivated about walking is signing up for an event,’ says Stanten. Plenty of 5K and 10K races are walker-friendly. ‘Most people don’t know you can walk a half-marathon,’ Stanten says. Some races are better than others for that. If it’s an in-person event, check time cutoffs carefully. If you’re not the event type, consider moving the whole walking experience to nature and checking out trails in your area.

You burn as many calories if you walk at 5 MPH – ‘which is doable with training and practice,’ Stanten says – than someone who’s jogging at that pace.

Increase your heart rate

Although you don’t need to go into a full-on run, or even a jog, picking up your walking speed can burn more calories because it increases heart rate. But don’t worry, there’s no need to sprint – you can get a good workout in by walking at a moderately intense pace. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a moderately intense workout can be obtained by raising your heart rate to 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Weighted walking for weight loss

Rucking requires you to simply walk with a weighted rucksack. It builds strength and endurance while delivering cardiovascular benefits. Rucking is the perfect addition to your walking plan to increase the intensity.

You can fill your rucksack with weights, or anything heavy that you see fit or wear a weighted vest if you prefer, and walk. It’s as simple as that. According to a study conducted by researchers at The University of New Mexico, walking on a treadmill in a weighted vest increased calorie burn by an additional 13%.

This article originally appeared on Men’s Health UK.

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