I get asked if walking is an effective exercise for weight loss all the time when I recommend walking as a starting point for people trying to start an exercise routine.
Walking is a great exercise for weight loss, but only at the right intensity and at the right frequency.
Skeptics see friends, family, or co-workers who are regular walkers carrying the same spare tire year after year.
No wonder they do not believe me.
Regular walkers (myself included) often fall into the same walking routine each time they take a walk (the same route, speed, and duration).
If you were sedentary before you started your walking routine, you might lose a few pounds.
But as your body becomes acclimate to the walking, what was once challenging becomes, well, routine.
When you reach this stage, you will not see additional weight loss from walking (also known as a plateau).
In order for you to continue to lose weight from walking, you must change one of the two variables: intensity or duration.
Increase the duration of your walk for weight loss!
When I talk about duration, I mean the amount time you walk. If you like your leisurely pace, you basically have to walk longer in order to burn more calories to see weight loss.
A leisurely pace for a 150 pound woman will only burn about 150 – 200 calories per hour.
That is not even one candy bar!
So for someone walking at a leisurely pace, you basically need to walk for about 90 minutes to burn off a candy bar.
There’s something wrong with taking longer walks if you have time for it and you are walking for weight loss.
However, I am very short time these days.
I rather increase my intensity and keep my walks within 30-40 minutes.
Increasing the intensity of your walk for weight loss
If you’re short on time, but still want to burn calories, then you want to increase the intensity of your walks.
When I talk about intensity I mean the amount of exertion you feel when exercising.
Remember how hard it was to walk 1 mile when you first started walking?
1 mile seems like forever for someone who has been sedentary previously.
However, if you walk that same 1 mile two months later it starts to feel like a stroll in the park.
At this point your body has become so efficient with walking the same 1 mile, that you are actually burning less calories than when you started.
If you’re walking for weight loss, you must increase the intensity every few weeks.
This is the reason why regular walkers who do not change their walking routine look like they carry the same spare tire year after year.
You can increase the intensity of your walks by:
Walk uphill or an incline.
If you have a choice of walking on flat ground or up an incline (no matter how slight) on your walks, choose the incline to burn more calories. Also this will give you a chance to work your glutes and quads.
Walk on grass, sand, or dirt.
The uneven surface of grass, sand, or dirt makes it more challenging to maintain your balance so you end up using more of your core muscle walking on these surfaces compared to the sidewalk.
And using more muscle groups during your walk means you will end up burning more calories.
Walk in intervals
Intervals basically mean varying the speed of your walking.
If you’re walking for weight loss, intervals are a great way to increase the calories you burn without increasing your duration.
The simplest way to add intervals in your walk is alternate between walking as fast as you can (imagine that you are running to catch a flight or the bus) between fix objects (ie. light posts, mailboxes, or the end of the block) and then back to your normal speed for the next few minutes for the entire duration of your walks.
If you want to lose weight from walking, remember that every few weeks you need to change either the duration or the intensity of your walk.
You don’t necessarily have to do one or the other.
You can do both.
If you don’t have time to take a walk outside, you can always walk at home around the house!