The Best Exercise for Weight Loss: Walking!

Why Walk?

Complementing a diet plan with exercise is helpful for weight loss. The key to losing body fat is burning more calories than you eat. There are some types of exercises that are better than others for increasing the number of calories your body burns.

Burning calories happens by using your body to move as much weight as possible, as far as possible. And for most people, a very convenient and very heavy thing to move- is your own body! It’s hard to beat carrying yourself for long distances to burn calories. Long walks are great for weight loss.

You may have heard that to lose weight you have to go fast, sweat, or make your heart beat fast. There are some good reasons to work towards more intense activity that gets your heart beating fast. For example, running, dancing, jump-rope or other activities that get your heart rate up can be good for your heart and your circulation.

But, remember your goal right now is weight loss. Weight loss is also helpful for your heart, and your health. Running fast does not help you if it means you tire quickly and cannot cover a long distance. It also does not help you if you have a lot of excess weight and feel pain in your joints, or risk hurting yourself. So, pace yourself carefully and remember that covering distance, no matter how fast, is what will get you weight loss.

When in my weight loss journey should I focus on exercise?

It can be hard to do heavy exercise if you have a high weight, so no need to rush into high levels of exercise right away. Think of exercising when you have a lot of weight like exercising with a heavy backpack on. If you are carrying a heavy backpack, even walking can feel like good exercise!

For the first few weeks, work on getting comfortable with regular exercise as a habit if it is not already. Find clothes you feel comfortable in, activities you like doing, and ways to fit it into your schedule. Track your steps, so that you have a good idea of what your baseline is.

Once you have lost a good amount of weight, maybe 4-6 weeks into your program, you will feel lighter. This is a good time to start increasing your exercise load. It should feel more comfortable at that time, especially if you had any knee or joint pain.

How Many Steps Should I Take?

There is no magical number of steps to aim for, and everyone is different. How many you take will depend on your health, your fitness, and your lifestyle. But ideally, you should work slowly towards taking as many as you can in a day.

Start by measuring where you are now. A pedometer can do this, or many smart phones have a built-in step counter. If neither of these are an option, you can still estimate your steps. Most people get about 5,000-7,000 per day with normal housework or going to and from work. 2,000 steps for every 20-30 minutes, or 1 mile, of intentional walking is then added to that.

Once you know how many steps you take in a typical day, increase by 1,000-2,000 steps (an additional 15-30 minutes of walking per day). Increase again another 1,000-2,000 steps every two weeks. 10,000 steps per day is a good goal to aim for. The more you can take, the better, if you have the time and physical ability. Most people with desk jobs have to do some intentional walking for 30 min to 1 hour to get to this step count.

As you lose weight, the benefit from walking towards your weight loss will become less. You burn the most energy while walking when your body is heavy, but not when it is light. So, to keep the same weight loss benefit from walking throughout your program as you become lighter, make sure you increase your steps as described.

You may wish to jog or run to get your steps in. Getting steps by running or jogging can be good for heart health and stamina. But did you know that running 1,000 steps burns the same calories as walking 1,000 steps? It’s true! Therefore, for weight loss, there is no reason running your steps is better than walking them. The only advantage of running is that you can get those steps in faster if you are pressed for time.

If you have aches and pains that keep you from walking, any kind of movement still helps. Swimming is an excellent alternative to walking for those with joint pain. Even if you cannot get a lot of activity, this program can still produce a significant amount of weight loss that can improve your health through diet.