Walking For Weight Loss
Is it really that effective?
Many people use walking for weight loss. However, it is important to be aware that walking on its own is very limited in its ability to help you lose weight simply because the calories burned walking are relatively low compared to other forms of exercise.
Nevertheless, it is the preferred form of exercise for most people and therefore it is important that you get the most out of every exercise session that you do in order to use walking to lose weight effectively.
If you want to use walking for weight loss there are several points you need to keep in mind:
Walk at a relatively high level of intensity
Walking at a low level of intensity is almost a complete waste of time. In another article we examined the benefits of regular exercise and in that article we covered the difference between exercise and activity.
According to our definition, walking at a leisurely pace constitutes an activity rather than exercise, so it important that you keep the level of intensity high enough so that you make the session 'exercise' rather than 'activity'. This means your heart rate increases, your breathing rate increases and you start to sweat mildly. It also means that the exercise is non-stop for the entire session.
Therefore, you may need to increase the speed at which you walk, follow a route that involves walking up hills or perhaps walk on a surface that requires more energy to be expended, i.e. beach sand. Walking around a shopping centre, performing housework or playing lawn bowls does not constitute exercise (as I keep telling my parents)! Neither does walking on a treadmill reading a book!
Let's face it, the calories burned walking for 30 minutes a day at a leisurely 4 km/h is relatively low. An average 70 kg person will burn up around 100 calories, which is virtually the same as lying on the couch watching television!
However, if you increase the pace to a brisk (6 km/h) but manageable walk you now increase the calorie expenditure to 133 calories for the 30 minute walk as well as the extra calories you will burn after the exercise as a result of the metabolic boost you will have received from performing the exercise.
This is a 33% increase in calories just from the exercise session alone, not to mention the post-exercise calories and the additional benefits of exercise, which result in many beneficial physiological adaptations in the body that all assist your body in becoming a more efficient fat burner.
A good way to test of you are walking too slow is the 'talk test'. This simply means that if you can talk whilst you are walking the intensity isn't high enough!
Make your body more inclined to burn fat
If you are walking for weight loss then there are some very simply ways to make your body more inclined to burn fat rather than carbohydrate or protein during the exercise session.
The first step is to make an effort to conduct your walk in a mildly hypoglycaemic state. This means your blood sugar level should be relatively low before you commence the session. By doing so this can force your body to look for an alternative source of fuel, i.e. fat or protein.
There are 3 ways to create a mildly hypoglycaemic state in your body:
In each of these cases, your blood sugar level will be low, making your body more inclined to use an alternative source of fuel (because it wants to preserve any remaining glucose to be used by your brain and nerve tissue).
You can also use a fat burner (or thermogenic) prior to walking to lose weight. A fat burner or thermogenic speeds up your metabolism, gives you an energy boost and forces your fat cells to release stored fat into the blood stream, which may then be used as a fuel source during your walking session. These two steps are the best way to burn more fat and lose weight walking.
After you have completed your exercise session of walking for weight loss, don't eat or drink anything but water for the next 20-30 minutes. If you're walking to lose weight and you do it in the morning before breakfast you may want to get home, have a shower, get changed and then have breakfast.
During the 'post-exercise window' your metabolism will still be high, your blood sugar level will still be low, your blood level of free fatty acids will still be high and you'll keep burning maximum amounts of fat!
Walk frequently and for a long duration
If you are serious about walking for weight loss then you have to ensure you are doing it frequently (at least 5 times a week) and are doing it long enough to ensure you burn off as many calories as possible during the session.
30 minutes should be an absolute minimum length of time that you should do it for, an hour would certainly be better, but for some people it may take quite some time to build up to 30 minutes. Always start off within your own capabilities and gradually build up the duration over a period of time.
It is important that walking to lose weight becomes a permanent part of your lifestyle and if you go too hard too soon, you are likely to eventually give it up shortly after starting because it becomes too difficult.
Don't use hand/ ankle weights
When walking for weight loss don't waste your time using hand or ankle weights; there are several reasons for this. The additional calories you expend by using hand or ankle weights is negligible; you look ridiculous; and you increase your risk of injury because it places additional stress on your joints and it changes your proper walking gait.
As often as possible, walk with your partner or a friend
Walking for weight loss is far more enjoyable if you do it with your partner, a friend or in a walking group. This means you are far more likely to make it a permanent lifestyle habit.
It is amazing how much more motivated you become when you have made a public commitment to do something and then follow through. Plus, having a support system in place really does make a big difference.
One final point: Walking for weight loss is only one part of a comprehensive weight-loss program. If you are serious about losing weight and most importantly, keeping it off long term, then you must decide to incorporate many other principles into your lifestyle as well.
To get a complete range of weight-loss principles that cover: nutrition, aerobic exercise, resistance exercise (weight training) and supplements, get a copy of my book,
Look Good, Feel Great!
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