Walking may not immediately come to mind when you think of exercising, but maybe it should. Not only is walking one of the simplest and easiest ways to be active, it helps reduce stress, increase energy, and reduce the risk of serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Studies show that moderate walking is just as beneficial to cardiovascular health as running. And if you’re trying to lose weight, walking is an excellent choice for your fitness regimen — it can help you slim down in as little as 30 minutes each day.
How walking helps you lose weight
As with any activity, the number of calories you burn walking depends on several factors, including your weight and level of intensity. With walking, you’ll burn more calories as you increase your speed. Start at a pace and distance that feels comfortable, and gradually increase both.
In addition to burning calories, walking also helps improve the body’s response to insulin, which can help reduce belly fat. Pay attention to how your clothes fit, even if the number on the scale isn’t changing. Walking also increases your metabolism and helps prevent muscle loss, which is especially important as you age.
How to get started
The great thing about walking is that it requires no training or special equipment and can be done anywhere. Just get started, even if it’s a few minutes a day. The following tips will help you establish a regular walking program that will deliver the most benefits to your health and your waistline.
- Wear the right shoes. Walking shoes should be lightweight and breathable. Look for shoes that provide plenty of support, with the thickest cushioning in the heel. Athletic shoes will lose their cushioning after three to six months of regular use, or about 350-500 miles of running or walking, so make sure to replace your shoes when necessary to avoid injuries to your knees or ankles.
- Focus on your technique. Keep your back straight, head lifted, and shoulders relaxed. Avoid carrying hand weights, which will put extra stress on your joints. Use a comfortable and natural stride. If you want to walk faster, pull your back leg through more quickly rather than increasing your stride length. If you have trouble breathing, slow down.
- Warm up and stretch properly. Walk at an easy pace for the first few minutes, and then walk more briskly as you warm up. Stretch your hamstrings, calves, shoulders, and back after your walk when your muscles are warm to avoid soreness.
- Recruit a friend. It’s always easier to stick to an exercise routine when you have an accountability partner. Plus, joining a friend for a walk gives you an opportunity to socialize. Make it a contest and see which one of you can get more steps throughout the day.
- Mix it up. Use your walks to explore new parts of town. Or get creative and draw pictures using the mapping function on a running app.
- Sneak in some extra walking time. Walk to work if you can. If not, park farther away from the building. Take the stairs in front of the elevator. Walk the dog for longer periods of time. Get up and go talk to a colleague rather than sending an email. There are lots of ways you can work some extra steps into your day.
- Sign up for 5ks. There’s usually an option for walkers, and many events allow strollers and dogs. Gather a team and show your spirit with crazy socks and colorful tutus — you may be surprised by how elaborate some participants get with their costumes! Plus, many walks and runs benefit worthy causes or non-profit organizations, so you can give back to the community while you’re improving your health. Win-win!
Need help getting your weight back on track? Garcia Weight Loss and Wellness Centers offer personalized weight-loss plans customized for your goals and lifestyle. Contact us today for your no-cost consultation!
Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on April 5, 2017