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Walking to Lose Weight: How to Make Your Steps Count

Walking to Lose Weight: How to Make Your Steps Count


Walking is an excellent form of exercise to help meet weight goals and improve overall health and fitness. You can benefit from various walking speeds and amounts of time spent walking. There are lots of ways to create a walking plan that fits your needs.

This article will discuss walking plans and tips for those looking for a simple way to be more active and fit.


How Walking Promotes Weight Loss


Walking can help reduce waist size, and lower weight, body mass index (BMI), and body fat percentage. The American Heart Association recommends that everyone get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, per week. Exercising for longer amounts of time each week further increases the benefits.

Walking to Lose Weight: How to Make Your Steps Count
Friends in a walking club!

Exercise like walking increases cardiovascular fitness and burns calories. Your body has to work and burn calories to move your muscles to perform activities like walking.

The concept of calories in, calories out is just one part of weight management. In reality, weight management is a complex system related to hormones and metabolism. Burning more calories than you take in can help you lose weight in the short term.

Studies have also shown that a long-term dedication to getting physical activity by walking, especially when combined with dietary changes, helps with weight loss.

However, don't expect results for weight loss overnight. It can take weeks to notice any changes, and will vary by individual and also by the amount of calories you are consuming. In the meantime, you may appreciate the other benefits of walking.


Other Benefits of Walking

In addition to its potential for helping reach weight loss goals, walking can improve the following:

  • Bone and joint health

  • Muscle strength

  • Balance and coordination

  • Endurance

  • Mood

  • Sleep

  • Stress and anxiety levels

  • Gut health

  • Heart Health

  • Immune system


Regular physical activity like walking can also help lower your risk of certain diseases like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, dementia, and certain cancers.


Walking Plans to Lose Weight


Walking to Lose Weight: How to Make Your Steps Count
Walking is great way to lose weight!

There are many ways to incorporate walking for weight loss and overall health into your routine. And you don't have to spend a lot of money or walk a strict number of steps every day of the week to have a benefit. Even walking 8,000 steps a day for one or two days of the week offers benefits. The following are some suggested walking plans to consider as you get started.


Beginner

For anyone looking to start out walking, it's a good idea to begin with slow exercise or short duration. It's easiest to start on level terrain (such as a paved asphalt, concrete, or track surface). Start out with slow-paced 10- to 15-minute walks, and gradually increase your walking pace over time.


The overall goal is to get to at least 150 minutes per week walking at a brisk pace. It's OK if it takes you a few weeks to build up to this. Don't get discouraged, because any amount of physical activity you do has benefits for your endurance.


Moderately Challenging

If you're ready for more of a challenge, increase the pace and length of your walks. If using a treadmill, increase the incline. If walking outside, consider more varied terrain, such as hiking or walking in hilly areas.


If you have a heart rate monitor, aim for a brisk walk that gets your heart rate up to 50 to 75% of your maximum predicted heart rate, which is 220 minus your age. The following chart shows ranges for various ages.


Effects of Walking on Appetite


Every individual is different in terms of how exercise increases their desire to eat. When adding any kind of exercise to your routine, you might notice an increase in appetite. While studies have been conflicting, some evidence suggests that long term regular exercise can increase appetite, affect appetite-related hormones, and and improve satiety (feeling full after a meal).


So when starting exercise routine like walking, you should not be surprised to find yourself hungrier. However, it's important to choose nutritious options (like fiber-rich vegetables and whole grains, beans and legumes, and lean meats or seafood, nuts and seeds; and low in processed foods with a lot of salt, sugar, and saturated fats). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy weight, nutrition, and physical activity.

Also, stay hydrated to replenish the fluid lost in sweat during your workout.


Tips to Walk More


While walking is a simple activity, it's not necessarily easy to fit it into your everyday routine. A busy schedule, lack of motivation, bad weather, or lack of space to walk can make walking challenging and hamper your fitness goals. Here are some tips to help you walk more:


  • Monitor your step count and set goals for steps per day; devices like a smartphone or wearable activity tracker like a watch or simple clip-on pedometer can all be used to count steps through the day.

  • Walk with a friend, set goals together to keep each other accountable. Search for local walking clubs where you can meet other people interested in walking for health.

  • Switch it up: walking in different locations can keep things exciting. A stroll in the neighborhood might be accessible for some, but other locations like an indoor shopping mall and local parks and trails can be options to keep things more exciting.

  • Make sure you have comfortable shoes and clothing that are appropriate for the weather. Some new athletic clothes might get you excited to start working out, but don't feel like you need to spend a lot of money. Many affordable options exist. Wearing sweat-wicking fabrics rather than cotton can help keep you dry. Layers are great for colder weather, since you can remove an outer layer as you warm up. Simple well-fitted lightweight athletic shoes like sneakers with arch support and rubber soles are appropriate for walking.

  • Park your car farther away in the parking lot- not only will you get some more steps in, but you might feel good about leaving parking spots open for those in a rush, carrying children, or with mobility needs.

  • Talk the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator whenever you have the chance. Every step counts!

  • Add 5 minute walking breaks to your workday and walk on your lunch break.

  • Bring along some headphones for podcasts or motivating music; however always be aware of your surroundings and do not keep volume at a level that will impair you hearing nearby cars.

  • Put it on your calendar and set reminders- a phone alarm or smartphone apps can send alerts to remind you throughout the day to take breaks.

  • Celebrate achievements- take time to recognize your progress along the way, whether it's through reaching step counts, progress in losing weight, or hitting milestones.


Summary


Walking is a great form of exercise that can not only help you lose weight, but has benefits on overall fitness, heart health, sleep, and mood, among other things. Everyone should aim to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week, and the more the better. There are many ways to incorporate walking into your day, and even just short bouts of walking are beneficial.

Author: Angela Ryan Lee, MD


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