Walking is one of the most popular forms of exercise, and for many reasons! Aside from being a free activity, walking to lose weight can be done anywhere and doesn’t require special fitness equipment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, upwards of 145 million people choose to incorporate walking into their lifestyle!
Thankfully, you can lose weight with consistent walking as well. Let’s break down some exercise guidelines, the health benefits of walking, factors to be aware of when walking, and tips for losing weight!
Exercise Guidelines for Adults
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, most healthy adults need to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular activity each week. This can be broken down into manageable chunks in whatever way works best; most people find that 30 minutes of exercise at a time, five days a week, is doable. Other times, those 30 minutes can be split up; this could look like 10 minutes before work in the morning, 10 minutes at lunchtime, and 10 minutes after the kids go to bed, if necessary!
If you are walking to lose weight, incorporating two other fitness components is also recommended; this includes at least two days of moderate-intensity strength training each week, as well as at least two days (if not more) of flexibility and mobility for the entire body.
All these aspects will help you reach your fitness goals while keeping your body strong and healthy!
Health Benefits of Walking
As stated above, walking is a perfect exercise for those looking for minimal equipment and commitment. Walking is a feasible means of exercise for most people, whether in a busy city, out in the suburbs, or even in an apartment. Aside from the practical logistics of walking, you will also begin to notice several physical and mental benefits, including:
- Improved cardiovascular health (i.e., decrease in blood pressure, resting heart rate, etc.)
- Reduced mental stress
- Improved sleep quality
- Stronger muscles
- Improved bone density
- Weight loss and/or maintenance of healthy weight
- Increased levels of energy
- Improved cognitive function
- Decreased risk of chronic disease (i.e., cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.)
Factors to Consider When Walking
The first things often considered when preparing to exercise include proper clothing, footwear, and the like. While these items are essential, there are some other factors to consider with walking, either before you go or as you’re exercising.
One of the first things to consider is your overall safety. Can you walk safely out of traffic, cyclists, and general traffic? Maybe you’re walking in a state park and need to be aware of wildlife, tree roots, and slippery leaves; on the flip side, if you’re walking through a more populated area, you’ll need to watch out for potholes, steep curbs, and uneven sidewalks. If you walk the same route often, you’ll be more aware over time of specific spots on your walk that might pose a danger, and you can then move accordingly. However, in a new walking area, you’ll have to pay close attention to the environment to ensure you can walk safely and effectively.
Another factor to consider is temperature. If you live in a colder climate (and are choosing to exercise outdoors), you’ll have to carefully consider what you wear before heading out the door for your walk. Items like weatherproof jackets, fleece pullovers, and various layers will help keep you comfortable as you exercise. Other things that can often be overlooked include a warm hat or band to cover your ears, a neck guard, and gloves or mittens. On the flip side, ensuring the proper clothing to help keep you cool during your walk is also essential if you are in a warmer climate. Breathable shorts and t-shirts or tank tops that wick sweat away are suitable investments for warmer weather!
Lastly, think about the shoes you are wearing. There are different types of shoes in the sporting goods store for a reason – after all, you wouldn’t be wearing hiking shoes if you were powerwalking in a neighborhood, and there’s no need to wear lifters if you aren’t spending your morning in the weight room. Finding a good pair of actual walking shoes that fit correctly and provide enough support and comfort can go a long way in protecting your feet and making for a more enjoyable walking experience.
Tips for Weight Loss and Walking
And the big question is – how do you walk to lose weight? If you are new to exercising and want to begin walking, you’ll want to start slow. Not only does this decrease your risk of injury, but it will allow you to stay consistent over time – and possibly even let you enjoy your workout time during the day! Begin with small increments of time, such as 5-10 minutes. Once you have been doing this for a week or two, add another 5 minutes onto your time. Continue this gradual increase in time increments until you reach half an hour (or longer, if you want to keep going!).
You can always base your progress on distance traveled if that is a better indicator. For example, say you walk ¼ of a mile each day one week….then the following week, you can work up to ½ mile and increase from there.
One of the biggest tips to keep in mind regarding walking for weight loss is the intensity at which you are walking. Sure, a casual stroll is fine here and there….but if you have a goal of losing weight, you will have to walk at a moderate intensity pace to see results. Think of it this way – if you can have an entire conversation with the person walking with you, your intensity is probably not fast enough. Likewise, if you can only speak a word in between breaths of air, you’re walking vigorously (which is fine if you are conditioned to do this safely and it’s part of your workout plan). Getting to a spot in your conversation where you can still speak but in broken sentences will have you at the intensity you need to be to lose weight effectively.
Always get clearance from your physician before beginning a walking program. Then, once you are cleared and your doctor is on the same page regarding your exercise goals, get ready to lace up your sneakers and hit the pavement! With consistency, you’ll see a positive change in both your physical and mental health.