It is a generally well-accepted fact that exercise burns calories and can improve the overall health of the body and mind. Most of us also recognize that walking is one of the simplest and most effective exercises for weight loss and health. What many people don’t realize is that they may not get the most effective returns on their efforts. It really only takes a little tweaking of a simple walking program to make it more effective as a weight loss program.
Many experts recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of sustained physical activity every day for health. However, 30 minutes of walking a day, although it may initially cause valuable and welcome weight loss for an overweight person, will often not be the final answer. Initial weight loss results may not be sustained as the body adapts and learns to accept the new demands placed on it.
Rest assured, walking (or participating in other activities) for a sustained 30 minutes a day WILL result in better health, higher energy levels and well-being, as well as some weight loss. However, anyone who is seriously overweight probably won’t achieve the sustained, permanent weight loss they seek in just 30 minutes a day.
It’s a matter of time.
Due to the way the body uses stored fat vs. other stored energy reserves, the first and most valuable step, once you have gotten into the habit of walking, is to increase the amount of time you spend doing the activity. Forty-five minutes is better than 30 and 60 is better than 45 minutes.
It’s true that walking an hour a day, six or seven times a week can be difficult for some to fit into their schedules. However, simply increasing your activity time to 45 or 60 minutes two or three times a week will result in greater weight loss than keeping all walks to 30 minutes.
Another technique is to increase your walking speed on days when you don’t walk for more than 30 minutes. This also has the benefit of conditioning the body in a slightly different way than longer, slower-paced walks. Remember, no walk should present extreme shortness of breath. A general rule of thumb is that if you can’t talk or walk, you’re trying to go too fast or too far. Always slowly build up to new levels of effort.
You may also consider adding resistance training, such as with free weights, or equipment like the Bowflex or Total Gym, or similar exercise machines. This builds muscle tissue that will burn more calories even at rest. Also, walking exercises only certain muscles and muscle groups. A resistance training program can be used to train muscle groups not usually involved in walking.
Although extended walks of 45 and 60 minutes will be slightly more effective if done at the same time, two 30-minute walks in a day will be more beneficial for fitness and weight loss than just one. In fact, many experts recommend getting a pedometer and simply trying to make sure you take 10,000 steps every day.
I’d like to take a moment to talk about walking vs. running as a weight loss program.
Certainly, if you train to the point where you can run certain distances at certain times, you will almost certainly experience great weight loss if that is what your body needs. However, you can be as fit as a walking runner with much less danger of injury. A beginning walker in particular is more likely to experience less discomfort during and after a period of exercise than a beginning runner.
Once you’ve built muscle and stamina, you may want to move on to a running program. Additionally, at the beginning of any exercise program, whether for weight loss or fitness, the extreme demands on the body and physical, mental, and motivational resources can cause the program to be abandoned. It is usually easier to transition from a sedentary lifestyle to a permanent walking program than to a running program.
One final argument for at least starting a walking program is that you can sneak into a walking program without any special equipment or preparation, and no one other than yourself needs to know that the shopping trip to the mall was actually your secret walk from the gym. day. . My mother is turning 90 this year. She often drives to a nearby store and shops for a while, placing things in her basket as she walks through the store. She then walks around the store some more and puts everything back. That way, she joins the walk, the cart stabilizes her, and she has to reach, stretch, lift, and stoop in a safe, comfortable, air-conditioned environment. It’s an added bonus that my son-in-law is one of the managers of that store.
There’s an old saying that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step…so does a successful weight loss program.