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Even though there are a lot of articles about walking – how it is available for everyone and really a very good form of exercise – I still think that it is a somewhat overlooked and undervalued form of exercise. And I guess many people still wonder if it’s possible to lose weight by walking.
There was this one summer, many years ago, when I really got into walking. I walked to work (just 30 minutes) in the morning with a colleague of mine and home from work as well. I changed clothes at home and did another 45 minute walk straight away (If you stay at home, have something to eat with an idea of going for a walk a bit later – forget about it, it’s not going to happen…). I didn’t even notice it at first but I lost quite a bit of weight that summer.
As with every form of exercise, no amount of working out is going to help you lose weight if you don’t watch your diet at the same time. But if you eat as you’ve eaten before, just add walking, then you should slowly see a difference on the scale. And if you change your diet for better at the same time, you’ll certainly get results!
Best things about walking
- It’s free so you can do it even if you’re on a budget.
- It is very easy to incorporate into your everyday life, for example walk to work or supermarket instead of taking a car.
- You can do it wherever you want and whenever you want
- There’s no need to feel self conscious about yourself or worry about what people think (as some might feel when they go to the gym for the first time)
- Walking is a low impact form of exercise so you can probably do it even if you are very overweight or have minor injuries.
- It is really good for your back! I recently noticed this. I work in an office so I sit all day and have started to notice a little back pain every day. I was just on active holiday for 10 days which included a lot of walking every day. I didn’t have any back pain while on holiday.
- It has a ton of other health benefits: Walking reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and cancers (colon and breast cancer in particular), strengthens your bones and is good for your heart, lungs and brain.
- Walking will improve both your mood and your fitness level.
- Day dreaming. I have to say that I do this a lot while walking. But it’s good for you! Go ahead, forget about everyday troubles, have some time for yourself and dream away.
How to start walking
If you are out of shape and want to start walking, you could start by walking just 15 – 20 minutes every second day. It is important that you do it regularly so that it becomes a habit. You will soon notice how it gets easier and easier to walk. You can then try to walk a little faster if it feels comfortable to you, but don’t force it.
Set goals for yourself
As soon as you feel comfortable walking, you should set goals for yourself, here are a few examples:
- Make a commitment to walk for example 3 – 5 times a week for the next month.
- Start walking to/from work if the journey isn’t too long. Promise yourself to do it whatever the weather! Do this for 2 months.
Write down your goals and decide how you’re going to reward yourself when you’ve achieved these goals.
It might feel silly to set a period of time that you’ll do it for but it has two very important benefits:
- It will be easier for you to stick to the plan when you can think that you’ll do it for just a month or two, as an “experiment”.
- It is the only way to see if you’ve achieved the goals you’ve set or not.
After walking to/from work for two months you’ve probably already made a habit out of it and will want to continue doing it.
How to make walking even more efficient and interesting
- HIIT (high-intensity interval training) type of exercises are so popular right now – why not add some of that to your walking as well? Change your pace of walking so that you have small bursts of walking as fast as you can before returning to your normal pace. Interval training can be structured (walk to a lamp post, run to the next lamp post etc.) or playful (run when you feel like you have the energy and walk to catch up your breath).
- Want to strengthen your heart and lungs? Make short fast walks – just 20 minutes but with a faster pace than usual.
- If you listen to music while walking, change your pace of walking to match the tempo of each song.
- Try Nordic walking by adding walking poles. This makes a great exercise for the entire body. Nordic Walking UK has a great list of things to consider when choosing the Nordic walking poles.
- Count the steps. You have probably heard that we should aim for 10 000 steps a day. Buy a pedometer(they are really cheap) and see how many steps you get a day. Aiming for 10 000 steps a day could also make a wonderful goal (see the bit about setting goals for yourself a little above in this article).
- Try new routes. If you’ve been to all corners in your neighborhood, take a bus or a car somewhere else and walk there. Walking is a great way to learn to know a new city that you’ve just moved into or to get to know areas of your town that you’ve never been to before.
- Invest in proper walking shoes. Check out these Mayo Clinic tips on how to choose the right shoe for walking.
- Try bare foot walking. Find a surface (like grass) that is suitable for bare foot walking and go ahead! If you get really into bare foot walking or running you can consider purchasing Vibram Five Finger or other similar shoes.
- Learn from the Chinese and walk backwards! This will certainly spice things up 🙂 It will be a whole new workout for your muscles and it’s good for your knees.
- Have a weekly walk with a friend. Instead of meeting in a restaurant, meet up around the corner and swap the gossip while walking.
- Sign up for a walking challenge for a charity.
If you want to lose weight by walking, you have to
- Be patient. Results won’t come overnight.
- Walk regularly. You won’t see results on scale if you walk just once a week. Try to walk a little every day. You’ll start enjoying it more and more – soon you’ll be upset if you miss your walk.
Have fun walking and share your results with us!