Exercise

Walking — the first steps on your weight loss journey

Walking — the first steps on your weight loss journey

Physical activity is an important consideration for weight loss. One of the easiest ways to increase our total daily physical activity is to walk more. Walking is an accessible exercise that’s suitable for people of all fitness levels including beginners.  Increasing our daily steps is a great way to kickstart your weight loss goals

Walking can also improve our emotional and mental wellness in a variety of ways, which indirectly aids weight loss.

Is walking enough to lose weight?

Walking can support weight loss but is usually not enough to significantly reduce body fat alone. The most effective exercise for fat loss is more high-intensity exercise, such as high-intensity interval training or resistance training

However, walking should be included as a single piece of the weight loss puzzle, alongside diet, resistance training, and behavioural change. This holistic approach to health is much more effective for long-term weight loss

Engaging in any physical activity is beneficial for our physical and mental health, for example, by lowering our blood pressure. To lose weight, the aim is to burn more calories than we consume. Walking is a simple, free way to burn some extra calories and improve our health. 

If you are new to exercise, walking can also be a fantastic first step to incorporating exercise into our routine.  

Key points:

  • Walking is fantastic for our overall health.
  • Walking alone is not enough for significant weight loss.

How can walking aid weight loss?

Brisk walking is a moderate form of aerobic activity. Aerobic exercise uses oxygen to provide energy for our muscles. Benefits of this form of exercise include increased stamina and reduced risk of heart disease.  

So by brisk walking for an extended period of time, you are basically burning up energy. This happens at a relatively slow rate but over time, if you are walking a lot, it can aid weight loss by increasing the amount of energy you are using up. 

Brisk walking can be characterised by warming you up while increasing our heart rate and breathing to the point where you can still talk but not sing. A brisk pace varies between individuals but is roughly 3 mph.

Science shows that full-body strength exercises are beneficial at least a few times per week on top of brisk walking. Benefits of strength training include increased strength, making it easier to do daily tasks such as carrying shopping or running around with your children and reduced visceral fat (hidden internal fat) which is associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Key point:

  • Brisk walking can certainly aid weight loss but is not enough alone to lose a significant amount of weight.

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How much should I walk for weight loss?

A commonly cited guide of how much to walk is 10,000 steps per day. Government bodies use this number as a guide to try and encourage you to reach their recommended 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, alongside strength exercises. 

However, there is little scientific backing for the 10,000 step claim. It was originally born from the invention of an early pedometer in Japan named the ‘Manpo-Kei’. This literally translates to a ‘10,000 steps meter’. They arrived at this number, in essence, by guesswork. The point of having a number goal is to provide motivation to increase physical activity but is by no means a rule.

Firstly, walking speed varies greatly between adults. Secondly, less time moving but at a faster pace might be easier to incorporate into daily life as well as better for weight loss.

It is difficult to keep tabs on how long or far you have walked. To help you track our movement, a fitness tracker can be incredibly helpful. Keeping an eye on how much you are moving can be both educational and motivational. Just remember that the 10,000 steps goal is an incentive to move more, rather than a rule.

As with any healthy habit, building a sustainable walking routine is key to seeing the long term benefits of regular walking. For example, a daily walk is going to confer many more benefits than a walk every now and then. 

Key points:

  • 10,000 steps is an arbitrary number.
  • Shorter but brisk walks are more beneficial to health and weight loss.
  • A fitness tracker can help you keep tabs on how much you’ve moved.

Why you should up the intensity of your walk

For significant weight loss, strength exercises should be included alongside walking and other moderate aerobic activity. 

Strength exercises, like squats, fall under the category of anaerobic exercise. A year-long study comparing the effects of aerobic and anaerobic exercise demonstrated that the combination of both resulted in the most fat loss. 

Anaerobic exercise works our muscles and can increase our body’s sensitivity to insulin which, in time, will reduce our blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of insulin resistance and weight gain

To increase the intensity of your walk and work your muscles harder, try:

  • Walking uphill
  • Including power walking intervals (where you walk very quickly for short periods)
  • Incorporating bodyweight exercises, such as walking lunges

Key points:

  • Anaerobic exercise can reduce our blood sugar levels and make it easier to lose weight.
  • Increasing muscle tissue can increase our metabolic rate, helping you burn more calories.
  • We can engage our muscles while walking in a variety of ways, such as walking uphill.

Other benefits of walking 

If our mindset is positive and in control, it is much easier to implement healthy lifestyle changes. Walking not only aids weight loss directly, by increasing physical activity but also indirectly, by providing significant emotional and mental health benefits:

Increased productivity 

Having trouble concentrating? A walk will gently re-energise you and help you focus afterwards. 

Reducing stress levels

A brisk walk stimulates the release of endorphins, which help to reduce our stress levels and make you feel happier.

Improved sleep

A trial of middle-aged women demonstrated that 2 sessions of brisk walking per week, alongside 2 other aerobic exercise sessions, significantly improved participants’ quality of sleep.  

The benefits of nature

Enjoy the benefits of being outdoors, such as fresh air and increased vitamin D. In Denmark, they focus on wellbeing by encouraging people to go outside at lunchtime in the summer for some fresh air, vitamin D and a proper break from our desks!

Key point:

  • Walking can improve our emotional and mental wellbeing in a variety of ways, which indirectly aids weight loss

Top 3 practical tips to walk more

  1. Make time

Finding time to do everything in life can be difficult, and people often make the excuse that they don’t have enough of it. However, what it usually comes down to is prioritisation. Fit walking into your daily routine by:

  • Leaving your house 10 minutes earlier to add 10 minutes of walking into your journey.
  • Going for a 10-minute walk in your lunch break, rather than sitting indoors. 
  1. Make small changes

The key to creating new habits is to make small changes one at a time, for example, start by gradually increasing the number of steps you’re doing each day. That way, our new habits will be long-lasting and sustainable. Some examples are:

  • Walking to the shops instead of jumping in the car.
  • Getting off the bus one stop earlier to walk the last part of your journey.
  • Taking the stairs instead of the lift or escalator.
  • Walking your dog for an extra 10 minutes a day. 
  1. Mix things up

Like everything in life, it’s sometimes good to mix things up. Fun ways to do so include:

  • Try changing your typical walking route about town, whether going to the shops or to work, with a new street or two. It can lead to the discovery of new places and keep things interesting.
  • Catch up with friends and family on the weekends by going on long walks instead of having a sit-down coffee. 
  • Join a local walking group. Not only are groups enjoyable but they can provide you with extra support and advice. There are lots of organisations and information online to help you do so. 
  • Get a walking buddy! Ask a friend or family member if they would like to commit to going on regular walks with you. This creates accountability and can be a fun activity.  
  • Find a podcast or playlist that you love and save it for your walks. That way, it can act as extra motivation to get walking. 

Key points:

  • Prioritise walking time by using 10 minutes here and there.
  • Make small changes one at a time, such as taking stairs instead of lifts.
  • Mix things up when you have time, for example, get yourself a walking buddy.

Take home message

  • Brisk walking is fantastic for our overall health and can aid weight loss.
  • It is recommended to aim for 10,000 steps a day, but the exact number is arbitrary and purely serves as an incentive to move more.
  • Aerobic exercise combined with walking is much for effective for weight loss than walking alone.
  • Prioritise walking time and make small changes one at a time to your routine.

 

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Write a response

Commenter
Dawne
10 July, 2021

Walking helped me lose the weight I needed with out the hiits as there was no way I could do that


Commenter
Theresa McGuinness
26 October, 2020

I love walking & particularly because we live on the beach… love it.


Commenter
Dave Freeman
11 December, 2019

I enjoy walking it’s the anaerobic exercise that I struggle with.


Commenter
Angela
7 August, 2019

All good advice. No need to join a gym – there’s a lot can be done for free.


Commenter
Saman
26 November, 2019

Yes. Agree that a lot can be done outside of a gym 😀