Learn how to walk off the pounds and improve your overall health

Carrying excess weight is linked to a host of serious health conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, and stroke. Research over the past 30 years has stressed the importance of increasing physical activity in order to manage weight to lower these risks and prevent death. As such, our public health leaders have introduced major initiatives to encourage Americans to move more. Among the many available ways to exercise, walking stands out as a highly effective way to lose weight.

The Perks of Walking

Whether enjoying a leisurely stroll on the beach, sightseeing across a big city by foot, or walking briskly on the way to work, millions of people rely on walking as one of their primary modes of transportation.  Walking is also considered a hugely popular form of exercise, and for good reason; it costs nothing, does not require any special skills, and can be done practically anywhere.  All you need is a quality pair of walking shoes.  As an added bonus, because a walking regimen is low-risk and can so easily be adapted to your specific needs and abilities, it is more likely you’ll stick with it in the long run.

Walking and the Body

As a weight-bearing exercise, walking engages over half of the body’s major muscle groups, including the lower body, the arms and upper body, and the postural muscles. When you walk, the muscles contract, requiring both energy and oxygen for the muscle cells. This increase in demand for energy and oxygen is what leads to the burning of calories for weight loss.  Walking offers benefits that span beyond weight loss; it has also been shown to improve heart health. A 2018 study revealed that after only six months of walking, a group of sedentary adults saw a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure. Walkers benefit from higher heart rate variability as well.

How Much to Walk?

To reap the general health benefits of exercise, the CDC recommends you do at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity such as jogging, or 150 minutes of moderate activity such as brisk walking, per week . But if long-term weight loss is what you’re after, step it up a notch by walking 250 minutes over five to seven days per week. It is important to note that exercise alone rarely leads to meaningful weight loss. Exercise combined with a healthy diet is the key, so make sure you are making healthy food choices as well.

Steps For Walking to Lose Weight

  • Establish a weekly walking schedule. Aim to include 250 minutes of brisk walking over five to seven days per week to maximize your weight loss.  
  • Challenge your muscles in new ways. Accelerate and decelerate your speed throughout your walk. A recent study shows that you can burn up to 20% more calories by changing up your speed alone.
  • Change it up. Modify your incline. Walk up and down hills. Hike on different terrains. Explore grassy and gravely areas, uneven sidewalks, and natural trails.

  • Keep hydrated. Keep plenty of water on hand, and don’t be tempted to reward yourself with food when you are done exercising.