Walking for weight loss is a popular approach to getting in shape, particularly for people who are overweight, those recovering from extended illness, surgery or injury, or those who have been away from exercise for a long time. Walking is a good way to consistently increase your heart rate and improve your calorie burning ability, while boosting endurance and metabolic speed. While it isn’t the fastest approach to getting in shape, walking for weight loss is an ideal start for many people towards better health!
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Benefits of Walking for Weight Loss
Some of the top benefits of walking for weight loss include lowering your body mass index, protecting your heart, reducing your risk of diabetes, balancing hormones, preventing arthritis, lowering stress hormones, decreasing your likelihood of injury, improving mood and strengthening the bones.
While walking may not be the fastest way to burn calories, the extended periods of movement and muscle function will burn a notable amount of calories over the long term. For those looking to lose weight, walking is a slow, but steady approach to shedding pounds by erasing small chunks of calories every single day.
Many research studies have found that regular walking lowers stress levels and the amount of stress hormones in the body including cortisol. One of the worst things about chronic stress is that it can impact the thyroid gland and hormone production, often leading to more fat deposition, the opposite of what you want when trying to lose weight. Furthermore, fresh air and physical activity can improve mood, lowering your risk of stress-eating or engaging in other negative lifestyle behaviors.
By regularly elevating your heart rate and engaging in mild exercise, your body will eventually begin to “learn” this new trend and increase metabolic speed, basically allowing the body to perform similar physical activities for longer periods of time while using less energy. This increase of metabolism (and the muscle gain from regular walking), can help to increase your passive fat and calorie-burning, even while you’re not exercising or walking!
Studies have shown that regular walking can help to strengthen tendons and ligaments, allowing them to better support bones and lower your risk of premature osteoporosis. Weak bones often become a prohibitive factor for more strenuous exercise and weight loss but walking is a low-impact form of exercise (unlike running) that will boost bone health.
People who regularly walk have a lower risk of developing diabetes, as they are avoiding a sedentary lifestyle, boosting heart rate, and often complementing their exercise with a better diet, all of which can prevent many of the preliminary factors of diabetes.
Boosting the metabolism and regularly fluctuating your heart rate with exercise and physical activity can lower your risk for high cholesterol, stroke and heart attack. Following a cardiac event, many people gain weight, as their physical activity declines but regular walking can act as a preventative measure for these issues and a way to get back into shape following a cardiac event.
Increasing blood flow to the ligaments and joints, which occurs during a full-body exercise like walking, can help protect the health and integrity of those areas of the body, which are so often struck by arthritis. Once arthritic symptoms appear, walking and exercising can become painful, leading to a more sedentary lifestyle and weight gain. Preventing arthritis with regular physical activity is a great way to counter this as you age.
Reduces Risk of Injuries
When you don’t do regular physical activity, your body is far more prone to injury. Walking can help keep your muscles limber and stretched out, improve your reflexes, and even improve your immune system. The increased circulation will also help to speed your recovery process from injuries and illnesses.
Alternate Your Speed
Walking at the same pace will slowly help you burn calories, but interval training (regular walking mixed up with power walking at a brisk pace) will increase your calorie-burning and help you lose weight faster.
Set Personal Targets
Holding yourself accountable is one of the most important aspects of walking for weight loss. Do not promise yourself that you will “walk more this month”, but set weekly, monthly and even yearly goals. Small modicums of success and achievement will keep your motivation high and decrease the chances of your walking habits slackening off.
Walking 10,000 steps per day is excellent, but this physical activity should also be complemented by a low-fat, nutrient-dense diet, namely one that is high in fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes, rather than empty carbs and processed sugars.
Walking on a flat plane will not be much of a challenge for your body, but by adding hills and stairs to your daily walks will give your body a much better workout, and you will see weight-loss effects much more rapidly. Combine altitude changes with pace changes to make your walking even more impactful.
Drink Water: Properly hydrating the body is essential while walking. If you don’t have enough water, your body’s metabolism is far less likely to respond to physical exertion by burning calories. Studies have found that drinking 1-2 glasses of water before walking for an extended period will result in up to 25% more calories burned.
Walking is a very good place to start for obese individuals or those just getting back into the swing of exercise. However, adding in other forms of exercise, such as resistance training or cycling, can help your metabolism become even more dynamic and improve your body’s ability to burn calories more efficiently.
One of the best ways to increase the efficiency of walking for weight loss is to do your walking in the morning. This is one of the most important “best practices” for walking, as it can significantly boost the impact of walking on your body. While you sleep, your body continues to use energy, depleting your glycogen stores, which is why you often wake up craving a hearty breakfast.
However, if you choose to go for a walk every morning, your body will not have a store of energy to burn, which means it will more rapidly enter fat-burning mode. Using fat as your primary energy source gives your morning stroll much more of an impact on your weight-loss efforts.
How Many Steps to Take to Lose Weight?
Most experts agree that walking 10,000-15,000 steps per day, including brief periods (30-60 minutes) of brisk or power walking, will lead to weight loss, as this equates to 400-500 calories being burned every day. If you maintain this level of activity for an entire week, it equals approximately 1 pound of potential weight loss per week. This is also assuming that you maintain a regulated diet that doesn’t counteract those burned calories.