Walking for Weight Loss

Did you know that walking is the No. 1 form of physical activity among people who’ve successfully lost weight? The American National Weight Control Registry is a study of more than 5,000 successful weight losers, who’ve lost 66 pounds on average and kept them off for an average of five-and-a-half years. When researchers reviewed the exercise habits of the group, walking topped the list, with 52% of men and women reporting that they walk a mile or more a day.
So if weight loss is your goal, walking can definitely help, but you’ll need to do more than just put one foot in front of the other. If you’re starting from ground zero—the couch—then leisurely strolls around your block or accumulating steps throughout the day may be enough to get the needle on the scale moving. But if you keep doing the same thing day after day, the weight loss will likely plateau. To start losing again, you need to change things up—walk farther, walk faster, walk more often. If you’re not up for going fast your entire walk, intervals are a good option. In a Danish study, when people with diabetes tried interval walking for four months, they lost six times as much weight—9.5 versus 1.5 pounds—and shed more belly fat than people with diabetes who didn’t vary their walking speed.
Go faster The number of calories you burn increases somewhat as you go faster, but the benefits really kick in when you speed up over a 6 kms per hour. Counterintuitively, taking longer strides is not the best way to speed up. Rather, taking quicker steps with good posture (keeping your head up and not bending over) and proper technique (bending your arms and rolling from heel to toe) are the foundation for improving your pace. Focus on a spot ahead of you. Walkers who focused their attention on a cone ahead of them walked 23% faster to get to it than did walkers who looked at their surroundings as well as the cone, according to research published in the journal Motivation and Emotion. Even though they were moving faster, the focused group reported that the walk was easier than did those, who spent more time looking around. Strength train. Strong leg and buttock muscles power your stride, and a strong core helps you stay pain-free as you sustain higher speeds. When a group of women, average age 61, did exercises to strengthen their quadriceps, they were able to walk up to 15% faster after four weeks of training, according to one study. Stretch. Flexibility also influences speed. Tight hip flexors (the muscles at the top of your thighs) limit your range of motion and prevent you from fully extending your leg behind you for a powerful push-off. Climb hills. Whether you head outdoors or crank up the incline on a treadmill, making your walks vertical gives your glutes a more intense workout. In one study, walking uphill activated three times as many muscle fibers in the buttocks compared with walking on level terrain. Translation: you’ll firm up your back- side faster with hills. Adding incline also elevates your calorie burn by about 60% without any change in speed. Take the stairs. Anyone who’s huffed and puffed up a flight or two of stairs can attest that stair climbing provides an aerobic workout. Even at slow paces, stair climbing cranks up your calorie burn two to three times more than regular walking. Going downstairs does not provide as much of an aerobic workout in any case.

March 27, 2022

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