Walking our way to Weight Loss

Walking and weight loss

If you want to lose weight and improve your fitness this year but don't know where to start, walking can be your best option.

This article explains why starting a walking routine is often the best weight loss option, how to get started on a walking program of your own and provides other useful tips and information to allow you to get the most benefit out of a walking program for weight loss and fitness.

Why start walking?

The popularity of walking as a weight loss activity is growing in leaps and bounds.

A regular walking program can help you to:

  • Burn Calories
  • Lose Weight
  • Reduce blood cholesterol
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increase fitness
  • Boost bone strength

For those of us who want to lose weight, walking is often the best exercise to get started on because:

  • It is one of the easiest exercises to do
  • It can be done almost anywhere at any time
  • No special equipment or expertise is required to get started
  • Progress is easy to plan and measure over time
  • It isn't too taxing on the body so it can be done everyday
  • It can easily be done with others making motivation easier
  • Even a little bit can produce beneficial results

Getting started on your own walking program

Almost all of us can begin walking for weight loss and fitness because a walking program is simple and relatively inexpensive to start.

Walking "equipment"

The only essential equipment needed to get started walking are comfortable clothes and shoes.

As far as clothes are concerned, layering loose pieces of clothing often works best.

Because walking elevates our body temperature, layering clothes means that we can take off a layer or two as our body begins to heat up.

When it comes to shoes, those designed specifically for walking or jogging are best. To make sure we get the right shoes to suit our needs and walking style, buying shoes fitted by specialist shoe and sports apparel stores is a good idea.

As well as wearing comfortable shoes and clothes, it is almost always a good idea to wear a hat, sunglasses, a factor 30+ sunscreen and some Aerogard or similar insect repellent if we plan to walk between 11am and 3pm, especially in the warmer months of the year.

While not absolutely necessary to begin a walking program, a heart rate monitor may provide valuable exercise feedback, a walkman or iPod can certainly help make our walks much more enjoyable and a mobile phone can be great in an emergency.

A must for anyone walking for more than 15 minutes is a water bottle full of clean, refreshing water.

Once we have the right footwear, appropriate clothes and other necessities, we're ready to go.

Always warm up before a walk

Every walking workout should begin with a brief warm-up and a few simple stretches.

For relatively short works (under 5kms / 3miles), walking around the house or in place for a few minutes to get the blood flowing to the muscles before we attempt to stretch them should suffice.

As an absolute minimum, it is a good idea to stretch our calves, hamstrings (back of our upper leg) and quadriceps (thighs) before we start our proper walk.

Although walking primarily works the major muscles of the legs, it's always a good idea to stretch our back, shoulders and arms as well. This will help to loosen up any tension we may be carrying in our muscles and make our walk more enjoyable as well as more effective.

For a range of perfect pre-walk stretches, visit our stretching workout section.

Where to walk and how far

Often the hardest part of any walking program is deciding where to walk and how far to walk.

For some of us, the thing that often makes this decision an easier one is the amount of time we have / or are prepared to devote to walking on any given day.

If we only have a little bit of time, there isn't too much point in wasting most of it traveling to scenic walking tracks to walk.

This time would be better spent actually walking.

If our time is limited, walking around our own neighbourhood for as long and as far as possible is often best.

If we have the time to travel to the beach or a local lake for added motivation and still have enough time for a considerable walk, then great, by all means let's do that. Otherwise, let's put what valuable time we have into actually walking.

In addition to the amount of time we have or make available, our current fitness level, injuries, and the number of kilojoules or calories we want to burn should also come into consideration when determining how far or for how long we should walk.

If our current fitness level or injuries limit the amount of walking we can do, we can start with very short walks – like a five-minute stroll for example – and gradually but consistently build on the distance and time as our fitness and health improves.

Beginning walkers can make their workouts less strenuous by limiting how fast and far they walk.

In addition, beginner walkers should forget about walking speed and concentrate on walking at a comfortable pace for the maximum amount of time.

As a general guide to walking speed, if you can't talk comfortably while walking, you are probably walking too fast.

How many kilojoules or calories we want to burn should also help determine how long we walk for each day.

To work out how many kilojoules or calories you'll burn while walking at different speeds, visit our Exercise Energy Charts. According to those charts, a 100kg (220 pound) person burns an average of around 550 kilojoules or 130 calories per half-hour of walking at 3kph (2mph).

As our fitness improves, we should all try to walk a little faster and a little further so we can burn even more kilojoules or calories.

Other great walking tips

OK, once we've gotten started on our walking program (which is by far the hardest part), we should try to make our walks as effective and safe as possible. Here's a few of our very best tips to help us all do just that:

  • When walking try to focus on good posture, keeping our head lifted and shoulders relaxed.
  • Always try to swing our arms naturally and breathe deeply. If we can't catch our breath, we should slow down and avoid hills.
  • Once we have reached a point where we can walk a few kilometres, we should start to vary the intensity and increase the length of our walks.
  • Walking hills, in addition to increasing our fitness and burning extra calories, is a great way to tone our legs and butt.
  • Don't forget to reward yourself after each workout with a few minutes of relaxing stretches to help prevent sore muscles.
  • Listening to music while walking is a great way to energize our workout. But if you wear headphones, keep the volume down and watch out for traffic that you may not hear.
  • It can be very motivating and rewarding to keep track of our improved fitness by recording each of our walking times and distances covered in an exercise diary.
  • It can also be very motivating and rewarding to sign up for, and participate in a walking event, particularly if your entry fee goes to a good cause like the local children's hospital or some other equally worthy charity.
  • Many experts recommend that we walk a minimum of 20 minutes a day. But there are no hard and fast rules, just try to walk as long as you can, as often as you can.
  • Fit walking into your schedule whenever you can. That may mean two 10-minute walks each day or even hour-long walks two to three times a week. The best schedule is one that keeps you walking and keeps you fit!
  • If you'd eventually like to add jogging to your exercise program, incorporate some very short jogs into your walks and over time increase the number of those jogs and their duration (for example, walk 5 minutes, jog 1 minute, walk 5 minutes, jog 1 minute, etc).
  • For maximum enjoyment, motivation and safety, find a walking partner to share your walks with. Choose from family (including your dog(s), friends, colleagues and neighbours with similar weight loss and fitness goals to you.
  • Be very careful walking at night or early in the morning when it is dark. Where reflective clothes so you are more visible to cars and be careful where you step, potholes and overhanging branches can be particularly dangerous when unseen.

Conclusion   
 
If you want to lose weight and improve your fitness this year but don't know where to start, walking can be your best option.

This article explained why starting a walking routine is often the best weight loss option, how to get started on a walking program of your own and provided other useful tips and information to allow you to get the most benefit out of a walking program for weight loss and fitness.

Good luck with your walking and weight loss and thanks for visiting weightloss.com.au.

Copyright Ultimate Weightloss.

This article was written by Scott Haywood.

Scott is the editor of weightloss.com.au. Scott has developed an expertise in fitness and nutrition, and their roles in weight loss, which led him to launch weightloss.com.au in 2005. Today, weightloss.com.au provides weight loss and fitness information, including hundreds of healthy recipes, weight loss tools and tips, articles, and more, to millions of people around the world, helping them to lead happier, healthier, lives.

You can follow Scott on Google+ for more interesting articles.

Top 5 Exercise Articles

Weightloss.com.au Facebook Page Weightloss.com.au Twitter Page Weightloss.com.au Pinterest Boards

Follow us on Facebook

Follow our Pinterest Boards