Are your walks a tad, well… wimpy? We all know that exercise promotes health benefits and weight loss, but does walking count as real exercise? The kind of exercise that blasts fat in record time?
Certainly, but not all walks are equal when it comes to losing weight and boosting cardiovascular health. A fit person who stays within a healthy weight range, for example, isn't likely to drop many pounds with a walk (even a brisk one). But if you're overweight or just starting out, power walking may help you lose weight.
Walking for all fitness levels is also affordable, safe and highly accessible, and perfect for beginners looking to take it up a notch or gradually ramp up exercise intensity and frequency.
Torch More Calories by Walking Faster
If you have only a few pounds to lose and you don't have an extra two hours per day, you're better off alternating your favorite walking workouts some days of the week with more intense routines and HIIT sessions, in order to train for fat loss.
According to the National Institutes of Health, a 200-pound person burns about 500 calories with a one-hour walk, and people who weigh less would have to walk longer to burn as much. Since muscle is more active and burns more calories than fat, a more muscular 200-pound person would burn a significantly more calories during the same walk as a less fit 200-pound person!
Harvard University studied 12,000 adults and concluded that those who live in cities are less likely to be overweight than those living in the suburbs. For example they found that 37 percent of the men living in urban parts of Atlanta were overweight, compared to 45 percent of the men living in suburban Atlanta. Why? Because on average, people who live in cities have to walk more.
Make Your Walk a Heart-Thumping Cardio Workout
If you're a good candidate for walking to lose weight, go for it. As you become accustomed to your daily walk, even if you're starting out relatively slow, you're likely to increase intensity as you feel stronger and more confident. From there you can step up the intensity to include cross-training workouts, hiking, maybe even a 21 Day Fix workout now and then.
Here are a few things to keep in mind while you're power walking, according to San Francisco running coach Danny Dreyer, author of Chi Walking performance books and DVDs. To maximize your results and avoid any aches and pains, pay careful attention to your form. Once you've made a habit of maintaining good posture and brisk strides, you'll transform your body into a much more efficient walking machine — and you'll burn even more calories!
Posture Tips for Walking Harder, Faster, and Farther
- Lower your chin parallel to the ground; don't jut your head forward.
- Consciously draw your navel in toward your spine, and keep your back straight. (Think "tall" but not stiff.)
- Lift your chest and comfortably draw your shoulders down your back.
- As your propel yourself forward with each step, it may feel natural to lean slightly forward. Lean from your ankles, not your hips.
- Keep your elbows bent 90 degrees and don't swing your arms too high or cross them in front of you.
- If you want to increase your walking speed, take smaller steps instead of wider ones.
- Most people automatically rotate their hips a little as they walk. If you don't do this naturally, try to develop the habit to reduce the impact on your joints.
- Land on your heels with the front of your feet raised, rolling into the next step. When you land flat-footed, you create undue stress to your knees, ankles and feet.
- Finally, pay attention to how your walking shoes feel. Walking shoes wear out from the inside, so it's not always easy to tell when you need a new pair.
Is There an App for That?
To lose weight with walking and cross-training, pedometers and mobile apps can make walking more like a game. Since it might take a month or so for you to notice a difference in your weight, these apps can help you stick with it. For more inspiration, try these:
Does the thought of winning money motivate you? Pact is an app developed to monetize health improvement. Just sign up and tell the app your goals. You won't get rich, but you can earn a dollar here and there.
Walk for charity! The Charity Miles app has paid out more than a half-million dollars to various organizations. It works for other activities too!
If you're like a lot of people, music plays a key role in your fitness regimen. Use it to stay excited about your daily walk. Crank up the speed (and beats-per-minute of the music), and the pounds will fall off more quickly. Or try Spotify, which will create an instant playlist for you based on your music preferences and walking speed.
If music isn't your thing, consider podcasts, audiobooks, or a walking mediation to keep you motivated to return to your walking workouts often.