Walking can form the core of an effective weight loss program, but to lose weight successfully you must understand what walking can and can’t do. Walking is a low impact activity, but low impact doesn’t have to be slow. You can get an intense cardio workout from walking that burns calories and helps with weight loss.
Like every fitness activity, there are limitations to what walking can do! Walking is real cardio exercise, but if you’re not careful you can out-eat even an intense walking routine. Having reasonable expectations and setting achievable weight loss goals will help you stick to your walking routine and lose more weight in the long run.
Find out why most effective weight loss routines start with walking, but you might need to add other elements to hit your weight loss goals.
Why Walking is Great for Overall Health
- Walking can have great cardiovascular benefits. By raising your heart rate, walking improves your circulation and improves heart health. Walking just 30 minutes a day can have a real impact on your heart.
- Walking can tone your muscles, improve your lung capacity, and improve your mood.
- Walking is a great activity for older adults, people with arthritis, or anyone who can’t participate in higher-impact workouts.
- Walking can help with your balance and coordination.
- Walking and other exercises can help control your blood sugar.
Most health organizations recommend at least 150 minutes per week (30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) of moderate-intensity physical activity like walking. This exercise is important for your health whether or not your goal is to lose weight.
There’s a lot of new (and older) research showing that getting exercise by walking is great for your health. Walking is low impact on your joints, doesn’t require much gear to get started, and can be done in many different locations. You can choose to walk in a group or on your own, indoors or outdoors, and you can vary your walk to reach different intensity levels.
Walking for Weight Loss
You might be interested in the many health benefits of waking, but your main goal might be walking to lose weight. If so, you’re in luck! Here are a few reasons walking is a great way to start losing weight.
- Walking burns calories! Depending on your weight and walking speed, you might burn 200-300 calories per hour.
- Walking has been shown to improve your overall mood, which could prevent stress eating and other unhealthy habits.
- Injuries can stall your weight loss efforts, and walking is a low-impact activity with a lower risk of injury.
- It’s easy to increase the intensity of your walks and burn more calories by adding incline walking, stairs, or an interval workout.
To keep yourself committed to your walking routine, try changing up your route to keep things interesting. Walk with a buddy for extra motivation, and find a few good indoor walking spots so you can stick to your exercise plans when the weather doesn’t cooperate. And don’t forget good walking shoes to protect your feet!
Although walking is a core component of any weight loss routine, weight loss often requires more than just steps.
Limits of Walking for Weight Loss
Although walking can burn 200-300 calories per hour or more, there’s a famous quote that says “you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.” What you eat is as (or more) important than how much you exercise! With any exercise and weight loss plan, it’s important to consider calories burned versus calorie intake. Let’s face it – it’s just easier (and faster) to eat or drink calories than it is to burn them. (What’s a calorie? Find out here!)
Most experienced walkers find walking fun and enjoyable. Even so, think about the effort it takes to walk for a whole hour, and compare that to the effort it takes to down one blended coffee beverage or one fast-food burger. Consider these stats:
- Starbucks Venti Java Chip Frappuccino®: 600 calories (2-3 hours of walking)
- McDonalds Big Mac®: 540 calories (almost 2-3 hours of walking)
- Subway Footlong Italian BMT: 820 calories (2.5 – 4 hours of walking)
To lose weight, you’ll need to burn more calories than you consume every day. So in addition to your walking plan and step goals, it’s crucial to develop healthy eating habits to make sure you’re getting the full benefits of walking. Nutritionists generally advise avoiding fad diets or restrictive eating plans in favor of gradually adding more whole foods to your diet. That’s our best, honest advice as well. Instead of looking for a quick, easy fix, you’re better off making small eating changes that add up over time!
What You Eat Matters Just as Much!
Since you’re already putting in so much work getting your steps, put in a bit of work to identify better choices in what you eat. Do a bit of research on portion control, find healthier, lower-calorie snacks that you still love and eat better on the go to complement your new step goal. Swap out one high-calorie drink daily with plain water or unsweetened tea. Many people find success using a food journal or using one of the many calorie-tracking apps to keep tabs on what you’re actually eating each day.
Losing weight by walking will be a slow and steady process, which is considered a healthier way to lose weight than rapidly dropping pounds. It may be hard to keep up your motivation when weight loss is gradual, but tracking your progress and setting realistic milestones can help you stay committed. Consider planning small rewards for reaching your milestones, like a new outfit or a nice pedicure.
The Right Perspective
Losing weight is never easy. It’s always more work to burn and reduce calories than it is to eat them! But if you find an activity like walking that you really enjoy, and you can work to reduce your caloric intake in a healthy way, you’ll get closer to your weight loss goals. Just remember that walking alone probably won’t get you all the way to your weight loss goals. That’s ok!
It’s also important to remember that the number on the scale isn’t the only measure of your health and fitness. Not everyone has a goal of losing weight, and that’s totally fine! An activity like walking will improve your heart health, flexibility, mood and energy levels, which can feel just as good as losing weight. In your efforts to lose weight, don’t forget to pay attention to the other benefits you’re getting from your walks.
If you’re serious about losing weight through walking, commit to a walking plan and watch your diet. With patience and commitment, walking can help you reach your weight loss goals. But don’t forget to enjoy the other health benefits you’ll get from walking, and have fun while getting your steps in.
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