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Wanna lose weight but don't have the time to hit the gym? Or perhaps enrolling in fitness classes are just way above your budget? Why not just walk it off?
You heard me right! Walking is actually one of the easiest, cheapest and most effective way to lose weight. It's a form of exercise that can be done by almost anyone of any age - no need for a personal trainer, doctor's certification, or special equipment - just sincere commitment to making this a regular part of your life.
As long as you can stand up and move about with your feet, you can walk your body towards achieving your weight goals and fitness aspirations.
Weight and Calories
Okay, maybe you're thinking right now that walking can't possibly be the solution to your flab problems. Before we discuss more about walking, let's talk about weight and calories first.
Your weight is the result of the balance of calories you eat per day versus those you burn. If you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight. If you eat the same amount of calories as you burn, then you maintain weight. If you burn more than what you intake, then you lose weight.
Now, to lose weight, you have 3 choices: increase your physical activity in order to burn more, eat less calories than what you burn each day, or do both. So how much calories should you be burning to lose weight? That depends on a number of factors like your weight, rate of physical activity you're used to. The easiest way to find this out is to get your Total Daily Energy Expenditure or TDEE.
TDEE is the amount of calories your body burns in a day just to keep your internal organs working and to go about with your normal activities like chewing food or talking. There are many ways to getting your TDEE, the more accurate ones being those that involve complicated equations and special equipment like a calliper, but the easiest to get you started is to compute about 15 to 16 calories per pound of bodyweight. So if, for example, you weigh 120 lbs, your TDEE is about 1,800 calories. To lose weight you have burn more than 1,800 calories, eat less than that number or do a combination of both.
You should also consider that it takes 3500 calories to burn a pound of fat. So, if your goal is to lose 1 pound a week, then you need to burn 3500 calories more than what you eat that week, reduce your intake of food or do both.
How can walking make me thinner?
A study published at the Journal of American Medical Association reported that you can burn over 100 calories by simply walking for 30 minutes straight. Why? Because you use up energy to bring your weight from point A to B. Weight multiplied by the distance is actually the formula to compute for the amount of energy you use up while walking.
The speed of your walk may increase the amount of calories you burn but it doesn't really matter as much as walking longer distances. In fact, according to researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, walking at a slow pace of 2 miles per hour can burn you more calories per miles than walking at a slightly fast pace of 3 to 4 miles per hour!
How is that possible? Well the reason behind this, according to the researchers, is that by walking slowly, you're not using the advantage of momentum gained from starting your first step. Instead of just putting your foot forward to catch the push of your previous step, you stop and start your next step by exerting the same amount of effort to carry your weight each and every time.
Is there a "proper" walking technique?
Yes, there is such a thing as the proper walking technique. It involves keeping a good posture while walking and following the correct way of executing your stride. If you don't make use of the proper walking technique, you can strain certain muscle groups of your body that potentially cause injury.
Let's start with correct posture: Ensure that the body is straight and relaxed throughout the entire stride. Your lower back should be flat while doing this, without forward or backward tilt of the pelvis. If you bend forward or backward excessively while walking, this can strain your lower back and limit your hip movement, bringing you closer to an injury. It would help to strengthen your abdominal muscles with sit ups to help you hold yourself straighter when walking.
When walking, roll through the step with your forward foot from heel to toe. All of the power of your walk comes from pushing with the back leg and foot. If you are trying to walk fast, concentrate on taking shorter, quicker steps.
Use your arms to counterbalance the leg motion and add power and speed to your walking routine. Bend your arms to about a 90-degree angle then swing them naturally back and forth opposite the leg motion. Keep your elbows close to your body and swing your arms mostly forward and back only.
What's the right walking pace for me?
The right walking pace for you to begin a regimen will depend on your fitness level, your goals and the area where you want to walk around in. If you're relatively healthy and would like to lose some weight, you can walk at a pace that's about 15 mins per mile. Maintain this for about 30 mins, then increase the distance gradually until you can keep walking for about 45 mins to 1 hour. Eventually, you want to be able to walk 1 hour a day for 4 to 6 days a week.
You can increase the speed of your walk to increase your heart rate as well. Increasing your heart rate for at least 30 minutes causes you to burn more calories since your giving your metabolism a big boost.
How do I prepare for a walking regimen?
It's always good to start a regimen with some preparation: physically, mentally and psychologically. When you're prepared and hyped, you have that extra will to finish the distance today and repeat the same thing the next day, and the day after that.
Walking for fitness should be a regular thing. It can't be just a great idea that you'll do today and forget tomorrow. The secret in losing weight due to walking is the commitment to do your routine regularly until your body enjoys the benefits later on.
Here are some suggested things to prepare that can kick start the walking routine:
1. Eat Healthy Meals - Before you even start a walking regimen for weight loss, make sure that you have a planned set of meals for the days to come. This is because walking can really be tiresome and can bring about hunger pangs at anytime of the day. So, if you don't want to waste the calories you just burned yesterday, make sure that your meal plans for today don't exceed the number of calories you plan to burn again.
2. Dress accordingly - A good pair of running shoes provides better cushioning to spare your feet and knees the unnecessary stress and tension. Make sure that your shoes fit well, leaving enough room for your feet to expand when you're already walking. Walking shoes should be about 1 to 1Â½ size larger than your original foot size.
Wear comfortable clothes. Ideally a lightweight T-shirt and jogging pants or shorts will do for hot humid days. You may opt to invest in polypropylene shirts to wick the sweat away from the body immediately. If you plan to run during daytime (like in the morning or during the late afternoon), it's best to equip yourself with sun block, sunglasses, a hat and a water container to keep you away from collapsing from heat stroke and from developing skin cancer because of the sun's harmful UV rays. Have a belt bag to keep your essentials with you while you walk and bring some music to entertain you while you're working out.
3. Learn how to warm up, cool down and stretch - To avoid injury and lessen sore muscles after your walking routine, learn to do some warm ups and some light stretches before walking. It is also important to cool down and stretch again after walking.
Warming up is like telling your body "be prepared for some exercise". It's basically a set of low intensity exercises that can kick start blood circulation and increase flexibility of your muscles so that it won't be prone to injury. For beginners who plan to do a 30 minute walk, a five minute warm up will do. As you progress through your walking program and engage into a more challenging distance and pace, you may need to extend the length of your warm ups.
Cooling down is just as important as warming up because it slowly lowers your body temperature, breathing and heartbeat rate as you go back to a state of rest. The farther distance you have walked or faster pace taken, the longer your cool down exercises should be.
Cool downs are made up of light exercises just like warm ups, except that they're done after the workout.
Stretching helps you relax your muscles and improve your flexibility. You can stretch after warm ups and/or after walking to make sure that your muscles are already pliable and ready be elongated. Whatever happens, don't ever subject your "cold" muscles to stretching because this may lead to muscle tissue tearing.
Can I over-train myself from walking?
Even if you're desperate to lose as much weight as possible, don't forget to give time for your body to recuperate. If you walk several hours a day and do this regimen 7 days a week, you can over-train yourself. If this happens, you do your body more harm than good: hurting your already sore and bruised muscles.
Resting a full day gives your body time to repair, build new muscles and store up more energy to get you back in your tip top condition for your walk the following day. Don't worry, you can still continue with your weight loss goal anyway even while you're at rest by watching what you eat and by engaging in low intensity activities such as reading a book or cooking.