It’s widely accepted everyone should get 30 minutes of exercise each day and 10,000 steps is a good daily goal. However, are these factors critical to losing weight? And can someone walk to lose weight?
Health Benefits of Walking
Everyone knows walking is good for them. Not only is it free and no equipment is needed, regular walking can do great things for your health.
But how good really is it? We’ve listed some of the main health benefits of walking to inspire you to get out and about.
Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
Walking is a low impact way of increasing cardiovascular fitness as it works out your heart and circulation system. By reducing blood pressure and achieving a regular level, you reduce the risk of heart disease and experiencing a stroke. Most forms of exercise (e.g. running or strength training) will help increase cardiovascular fitness, however walking is a great way to get started and ease yourself into cardio.
Reduced Body Fat
Don’t be fooled, walking regularly will not guarantee weight loss. It will, however, generally increase heart rate and therefore calorie burn. Walk briskly for half an hour and burn a few hundred calories. The harder the walk, be it by pace or incline, the more your heart will race, and the more fat you will burn. Exercise caution though – be careful and do it at a reasonable, manageable pace.
Walking is only a factor in losing weight. Although increased fitness helps, losing weight is the result of active lifestyle changes; from daily exercise to dietary adjustments. No concise calories or weight will be lost from any one walking session as this varies from person to person and depends on a variety of factors such as intensity and length. Before undertaking any big changes or intense exercise, be sure to consult a doctor to reduce risk of injury or harm. Remember: a healthy lifestyle is aided by walking, but not created by it. Change does not happen instantly; you literally have to take it step by step.
Mental Health Benefits
Walking isn’t just beneficial to physical health, but also mental health. It may sound cliché but exercising and getting outside can have great effects on mental wellbeing. Exercise releases endorphins, otherwise known as “feel-good” chemicals or even the induced “runner’s high”. Because exercise helps increase endorphins and promotes a positive mood, some use it to reduce feelings of depression or anxiety.
It goes without saying that walking will not get rid of mental health issues, however, it may help reduce or momentarily alleviate them.
Walking to Lose Weight
As above mentioned, walking is not guaranteed to make you lose weight. However, there are ways you can adapt your walking to further increase heart rate and therefore increase calorie burn.
A gentle stroll is unlikely to get your heart racing – increase the intensity by increasing the pace.
Studies have shown that walking briskly for 30 minutes 5 days a week has equal, if not more, health benefits to other forms of exercise. Increase your pace so you are walking faster than a stroll, perhaps puffing or just about breaking a sweat. Be careful not to exert yourself too much; you should be able to hold a conversation still. After a few minutes, your heart rate will increase greatly, potentially even reaching fat burn zone. That is not to say you won’t burn fat or increase cardiovascular fitness at lower levels, but that effectiveness increases with heart rate.
As with walking briskly; the higher the intensity, the better the effects of the walk.
Walking on an incline, be it up a hill or on a treadmill, means you have to work that little bit harder to maintain pace. Incline walking helps activate your glutes, quadriceps and calves more than on flat ground, increasing muscle strength, as well as calorie burn. Alternatively, incorporate stairs into your walking route to work your glutes and burn calories.
For those with injuries or desire to run without struggle, walking on an incline is a great, low impact, way to hugely increase demand on your cardiovascular system without straining your body or weakening injuries.
Focus on Form
Especially vital for walking on an incline, ensure your posture is good when walking. Keep your shoulders back and stride reasonable.
Get the most out of your walk by tightening your abdominal muscles and glutes with each stride to ensure maximal activation. Not only will you build muscle strength and definition by perfecting your posture, you will also be preventing injury or strain.
Mix up your walking by including occasional intervals. Whether you use these intervals to inject some intense cardio bursts or perform bodyweight exercises like squats, intervals offer the perfect chance to include extra additions to your walk. Even if you’ve been walking briskly and your heart rate is increased, adding extra exercises will only further the positive effects felt.
Intervals of increased pace or jogging are a great way to build up stamina and cardiovascular fitness. If you struggle with sustained fast pace, start with short intervals and increase the time when you feel ready.
The more steps you do, the more you walk, the more benefits you receive. Most accept 10,000 steps as their daily goal; a challenging but achievable target of approximately 5 miles. There are many reports that attest to the physical and mental benefits of 10,000 steps per day – read one here.
Fitness trackers or pedometers are motivating guides for reaching goals, keeping constant track and giving users the ability to assess progress over time.
Top Tips for Walking to Lose Weight
Make Walking a Habit
The more walking is naturally incorporated into your daily life, the less it will feel like a workout. Make small adjustments to your daily life to increase your productivity and steps.
For example, consider walking to work or the local shops instead of driving. If you sit down all day, use your lunch break to stretch your legs. On a nice evening, go out for a walk to truly enjoy it. Got a friend with a dog? Offer to walk it for them.
Use a Pedometer
If you track your steps and distance, you’ll feel motivated to reach your goals. Not only will you be able to see how far you’ve walked, but also how close to your 10,000-step goal you are. Modern devices often also monitor heart rate, allowing you to see if and when you are reaching your peak cardiovascular capacity.
Take Part in a Virtual Challenge
Virtual challenges are a great way to get motivated to reach targets. Many virtual challenges let you complete your target within a given time frame, allowing you the freedom of exercising as and when you can.
At Race At Your Pace we have monthly challenges for a variety of distances for runners, cyclists, swimmers, and walkers to complete. Choose your distance, complete the amount across a month, and record evidence – it’s that simple. If you are new to walking or want motivation to get out more, these challenges are a great way to push yourself. You even get a shiny medal for your hard work!
Exercising with a friend is a great way to make it fun and engaging. Have a catch up with a pal while walking and burn calories without even realising. Even better – have a good laugh to burn even more calories. You’d be surprised how beneficial walking with a friend can be (especially a funny one).
Keep it Fresh
If walking gets boring, you may feel less inspired to carry on. Switch up your route, bring along a family member, plug in some music, or simply go at a different time to usual. Small changes or distractions may help keep you energised and excited about getting out.
Walk with Race at your Pace
If you want to increase your fitness by getting out and walking, why not motivate yourself with a Race At Your Pace virtual challenge? We have challenges for all walking abilities, so pick the distance perfect for you. With a whole month for you to reach your goal, you can walk whenever you want and find a routine that fits you.
Want to encourage the whole family to get fit? Involve the kids!