Studies have confirmed that walking as a form of exercise can help lose weight and improve muscle tone. In this guide to walking slimmer, we look at how to make the most of walking as a fitness regime.
Is Walking a Good Workout?
The answer is yes. As long as you cover a good distance and walk briskly, you can potentially achieve significant weight loss over the course of a few months. The key is to walk every day and be consistent. A Harvard article explains that walking is just as good as running, even though running literally gets your desired results sooner. The article compares the cost/benefit of walking against running, quoting the higher likelihood of injuries from running as a key differentiator. Walking is more sustainable and it does not require specialised clothing and footwear. The article also quotes a comparative study, which found that walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 31%.
Walking for Weight Loss
When I was writing my book Strictly Walk Slimmer, I tracked the distances I walked and the calories I burned. The amount of calories you burn depend on your walking speed, your weight and the distance you cover.
In the weeks I spent writing the book and measuring my progress, I have found out that, as long as I kept a routine of going out for daily walks, my mood and my fitness benefited as a result.
Consistency is almost more important than actual distance walked: as long as you can commit to a daily walk, your body will respond by activating muscles and speeding up the metabolism. Of course, you still need to have a healthy diet to make sure you achieve actual weight loss.
If you compare different sources about walking for weight loss, the more conservative figure is 150-250 calories per hour burnt when walking at a sustained pace (the point at which you almost run out of breath but can still hold a conversation).
According to the app Map My Walk, you could potentially use up 300-350 calories per hour by walking.
Making the Most of Walking
For best results, replace sedentary activities with walking: the easiest ones are walking to a colleague at work on another floor instead of sending an email, or not using means of transport for short journeys, or alternatively to that, stepping off the bus one or two stops early and walk the distance.
If you are walking during the day and need to look smart for the office opt for comfortable flat shoes with a durable and flexible sole that will not hurt your feet. You can change into trainers after work.
To choose the correct trainers for your specific needs, go to a runners’ shop and get assessed on your gait. The way you put one foot in front of the other matters, as we all have different walking styles, including distributing our body weight differently on our feet.
Depending on our muscle tone and posture, we may be rotating our feet either slightly inwards or slightly outwards. To check that, just look at the way you wear your shoes out. Is the innermost or the outermost part of the sole more worn out than the rest?
Posture and Technique
The way you hold yourself and the way you place your feet are important.
When you walk, think of a line starting from the top of your head, into your neck and shoulders, along your spine, to your hips and all the way down to your feet.
A good posture will not only make you look good but it will also help you tone up your muscles. Keeping a nice straight (but neutral) back requires you to engage your abdominal muscles.
The way you place your feet as you walk is also important. Sometimes we distribute our body weight incorrectly on our feet, either shifting too much weight on the outside or the inside of the foot. This, in turns, creates muscle imbalances, which can be the root cause of knee and hip pain.
What also makes a huge difference in your walking technique is your level of awareness and concentration: by focusing on the act of walking, instead of looking at your phone while walking, for example, you can pay attention to your spine’s alignment and your gait.
Walking Is a Low-Impact Form of Exercise
How likely are you to exercise on an injury? Unless you have a major sporting event and you are hell-bent on participating in it, you should rest to allow your injury to heal.
The advantage of taking walking as exercise is that you can train every day without major strains on your muscular-skeletal system. Of course there is the risk of a twisted ankle if you walk on uneven terrain, but as long as you concentrate on your technique and don’t get distracted (for example, by your telephone), you have a lesser chance of accidents.
Keep Your Pace With Music
You need to be slightly out of breath when walking if you want to lose weight and tone your muscles efficiently. Before you set off for a walk, create a number of music playlists according to duration: whenever you have a spare 15, 30 or 60 minutes, choose a playlist that will accompany you in your walk.
Songs should have a fast tempo, so if you like some club classics or any up tempo dance track, pick songs that will make you pick up your pace.
Plan Your Routes
Give yourself extra time at the weekend to explore new areas and neighbourhoods and work out some routes with different levels of difficulty. If you commute to work and you walk in a different area at the weekend compare to during the week, try and keep your weekday walks on tried and tested routes around your workplace and experiment more when you have time off. Exploring new places is a great way to clock up miles without realising. Don’t forget to keep your energy levels: see more.
Find Out More: Strictly Walk Slimmer
You can find out more about how walking can help you lose weight in my book Strictly Walk Slimmer, which features interviews with experts plus some healthy eating recipes.