Walking is one of the most natural activities known to humankind. It’s simple, practical and beneficial to mind and body. It can help you switch off from day-to-day stresses and problems, or give you the time and space to solve them. It can also entail striding out alone on challenging terrain, or socializing with others on a weekend ramble. But can it be used to improve and maintain fitness? Can it assist in weight loss, and make significant changes to our health? You bet it can. As a runner, I had always thought of walking as simply a way of getting from A to B – not as a fitness activity. But nine months of injury forced me to resort to walking, and I can tell you, I was surprised at just how challenging – and effective – it could be. Although my injury problems are in the past, and running remains my first love, I still use walking as part of my all – round fitness regime – not just because it gives my joints a break but because I simply enjoy it so much. It’s really very great to see my favorite running routes at a pace at which I can actually take in the scenery!
That said, strolling along the street at a snail’s pace, or walking with poor technique, won’t help you get the most from your fitness activity. You need some know – how to plan a walking program to boost your fitness or shed pounds, to protect your heart and joints or even to enhance your well – being – mental and physical. And that’s where this article comes in. Walking is also very important for losing your weight.
Research suggests that nearly 30 per cent of mean and nearly 45 per cent of women are trying to lose weight at any given time. Walking presents a convenient, accessible and effective strategy. Given that women tend to gain a pound a year from 37 to 64, the role of regular walking in increasing calorie expenditure is very important. Walking for one hour at 4 mph burns nearly 300 (based on a 70 kg person). Walking up stairs burns nearly 300 calories in half an hour. But it isn’t just through burning more calories that walking can help assist weight loss. It teaches your body to mobilize fat more efficiently, releasing it from ‘adipose’ tissue where it is stored and metabolizing it (burning it for energy). It also enhances the development of the enzymes needed to break down fats to release energy. So the fitter you are, the more efficient the fat – burning process. Incidentally, in a large – scale epidemiological study, people who quit smoking but remained sedentary gained 5 lb in a two – year period. Regular physical activity after stopping prevented this weight gain.
A study from Duke University Medical Center suggests that not only can half an hour of regular walking can stay away you from weight gaining in most sedentary people, but the fact is, that additional exercise time can aid fat loss. They also found that while the quantity of exercise determined whole body fat loss and weight change, exercise intensity seemed to be the elementary determinant of gain in muscle which is commonly known as lean body.
The American College of Sports Medicine’s position stand on exercise and weight loss recommends building up to 200 – 300 minutes of activity per week. Sounds daunting, huh? But there are two points to bear in mind. First, those two words ‘building up’ – you don’t have to do it from day one! Second, that 200 – 300 minutes breaks down to 40 – 60 minutes, 5 days a week – and it can incorporate both ‘workouts’ and your daily lifestyle activity.