Walking for weight loss is easy, fun, and cheap. All you need is a good pair of supportive sneakers and off you go. While purchasing a treadmill is an option, walking through parks, neighborhoods, and city streets is just as beneficial. Find out everything you need to know about walking for weight loss, including safety tips, the best footwear, and how to make it a habit, here.
The Benefits of Walking
The United States Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with the Department of Health, recommends that adults get at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. For children, the advice is for 60 minutes of activity every day of the week. Other health sources quantify the amount of walking into actual number of steps: 10,000 is the goal. Besides weight loss, the following benefits are gained from following this advice:
- maintenance of current body weight
- prevention of obesity
- lower risk of cardiovascular disease (one study showed that women who walked at least three hours per week cut their risk of heart disease by nearly one-third.)
- helps to regulate blood pressure
- lower cholesterol levels
- lower risk of depression
- lower risk of diabetes (one study showed that risk was cut by one-half in people who combined diet and brisk walking for at least 150 minutes per week)
- lower risk of osteoporosis
The basic requirement for putting one step in front of the other is quality footwear. We are born with only one pair of feet, so it is best to pamper them as much as possible, especially if walking for weight loss becomes an every day event. Shoes should be lightweight, properly contoured to your foot, the correct length and size, made for the dynamic motion of walking and made to last for a few hundred miles or about 6 months of use. It is a smart idea to take a trip to a specialty athletic shoe store as salespeople are often trained in fitting shoes for various physical activities.
Comfortable clothing will allow your body to move freely. Other tools that are handy, but not necessary include a treadmill, a pedometer, wrist and ankle weights, and an mp3 player or iPod.
Treadmills: Costing anywhere between $500 and $10,000, treadmills allow for indoor walking. These machines offer many bells and whistles in relation to walking for weight loss purposes. Calories burned, distance, and speed can be tracked. The higher end treadmills can be programmed for a variety of courses to include hills and increases in speed. Treadmill walking and your favorite television show make for a well-spent hour.
Pedometers: For counting your steps and ensuring you reach the recommended 10,000 steps each day, pedometers are priceless. You will be amazed at just how many steps you take during your waking hours. And, if you fall short of the 10,000 steps, your motivation may be greater because you can see just how many more steps you need to take to reach this goal. When it comes to walking for weight loss, pedometers can be the magic tool. They come in all shapes, sizes, features, and price tags.
Weights: Adding wrist and ankle weights increases the intensity of your walking work-out. Many sets are affordable, easy to use, and comfortable to wear. It is best to add weights only after an established walking routine has been in place for a significant amount of time.
Media Players: Whether it is an mp3 player, an iPod, or an old-fashioned walkman, adding music to your walking creates a form of entertainment. And, if you are bored when walking, music and audio books makes for a great distraction. Before you know it, you will be at the end of your walk.
Does Walking for Weight Loss Work?
A brisk walk at about 3.5 to 4 miles per hour uses nearly as many calories as running the same distance. It is best to aim for a walk that will burn 250 calories. If you combine this calorie usage with a 250 calorie reduction in food intake, you will enjoy an average of a one pound weight loss each week. If you want to increase the rate of weight loss, increase the intensity of your walk with either speed, incline, or length. The most important piece of the puzzle is to be consistent! This cannot be overstated. Even on days you want to skip the walk, push yourself to do it anyway. Habits form only with continued practice. Keeping an exercise journal may also be beneficial and motivating to stick to it. Simply log the day, mileage, and time in your journal and don't let a day pass without a new entry. Most often, if you get on the treadmill or in the park for a few minutes, you will end up going the distance.