In this fast-paced life, people hardly have time for physical activities. The increased inactivity level of the body is a significant cause of several conditions such as obesity and cardiovascular diseases. In addition to this, there’s a significant reduction in the flexibility and motility of joints. Walking is a low-impact physical activity that can work wonders for the body. After a long day, walking helps relax the strained muscles, improves mood, provides relief by reducing stress, and strengthens thighs and calves muscles.
Walking is convenient and easier to incorporate into occupational and domestic schedules. One can regulate the intensity, duration, and frequency of walking on their own. It can be routinely incorporated into the daily lifestyle and can be a cumulative adaptation leading to habitual activity.
Why You Should Walk
Walking is an effective low-impact cardiovascular physical activity that increases the heart rate and improves blood flow in the body. It doesn’t require costly equipment or special training and is simply an accessible way to stay active. Taking up walking challenges and hitting a certain number of steps has made walking a perfect way of staying active.
Walking lowers blood pressure by boosting blood flow in the body. It can increase energy levels by releasing hormones such as endorphins, often called the feel-good hormones. Endorphins help relieve stress, improving sleep quality, memory, and cognitive abilities while you feel calmer. It’s also an excellent way of weight management. It increases the non-exercise activity thermogenesis (N.E.A.T. activity) that helps burn extra calories and regulates weight management.
American College of Sports Medicine recommendations for physical activity to maintain health and promotes weight loss are:
- For maintaining and improving health: 150 minutes/ week
- Prevention of weight gain: 150-250 minutes/ week
- Promotes weight loss: 225-420 minutes/ week
- Prevention of weight gain after weight loss: 200-300 minutes/ week
Health Benefits of Walking
Walking helps in weight management by improving body composition. Studies suggest that walking increases physical activity and promotes weight loss. Walking less than 5000 steps/ day indicates sedentary behaviour, whereas steps more than 8000 or 10,000 show an active lifestyle. Brisk walking an hour a day helps reduce the effects of weight-promoting genes to half. It is the most accessible physical activity preferred for preventing and treating obesity. Another study shows that encouraging walking as a form of transportation, called walking buses, can increase weight loss among overweight and obese adults.
Walking can be a self-management program that promotes joints’ flexibility, stability, and mobility, preventing the symptoms associated with joint and bone disorders. In addition, planned walking reduces pain, stiffness in joints and bones, joint dysfunction, and muscle weakness.
A study assessed the effect of daily walking to prevent the risk of functional limitation in knee arthritis. Walking 6000 steps per day shows a 16-18% reduction in incident functional limitation and protects against the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis. Furthermore, walking helps reduce blood pressure, decreases the risk of type-2 diabetes, and improves the musculoskeletal system. In addition, it greatly relieves the symptoms of chronic pain in joints and bones.
Studies suggest that walking is crucial for primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Short-term benefits reported in this study were improved fitness, body composition, blood pressure, and lipid profiles. At the same time, the long-term benefits have reduced the risk of coronary heart diseases, cardiovascular disease, and mortality rate. The improved heart rate and lower blood pressure decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Walking improves energy levels by stimulating the production of endorphins, i.e., feel-good hormones. Endorphins help to reduce stress and in turn, calm the mind and body. It also helps in improving sleep quality and duration, and brain function. Endorphins are the body’s natural pain killer and a neurotransmitter that acts as a potent mood enhancer.
Walking helps reduce stress-related symptoms, such as anxiety, sadness, fatigue, and lack of motivation. Studies show that walking reduces the progression of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It also helps in improving motor functions such as balance and coordination.
Tips to Follow When Walking for Weight Loss
Over the past few years, walking has become the most helpful weight management tool. Here are some tips to get the most out of your walking session.
Choose the Right Shoes
Opt for a good pair of sneakers instead of your old flip-flops. The primary and most crucial equipment necessary for walking is a pair of comfortable shoes with flexible soles and stiff heels. They can also reduce the risk of injury and prevent side-to-side motion.
Invest in Reflective Clothing
If you frequently walk outside, try a two or three-layer system while dressing. Dressing in layers can keep your body warm throughout your walk. Depending on the weather, you can add or remove the extra layer. Furthermore, wearing reflective gear and bright colours keeps you safe by increasing visibility.
Keep Proper Posture While Walking
Think about your posture while walking. Walk with your core engaged as someone propels you forward by keeping a hand on your lower back. A correct posture is necessary to improve strength and muscle tone.
Grab a Snack
Nutritionists strongly suggest a pre-workout meal when walking for weight loss. However, make sure to eat at least an hour before walking, especially when walking for more than 60 minutes. Skipping a pre-workout meal before intense walking increases the risk of low blood sugar and muscle breakdown. Some good pre-workout meal options include banana, peanut butter with bread, smoothies, or a bowl of sprouts.
Listen to a Podcast or Audiobook
Choose a podcast or playlist to keep you entertained on your daily walk. Engaging in the podcast topic or music can help you walk longer with interest.
Calculate Calorie Burn While Walking
Calorie burn while on your walk depends on your weight, distance walked, terrain and incline. A smartwatch can help give you a reasonably accurate estimate of the calorie-burning rate while walking. Or you can invest in a fitness tracker that monitors your heart rate while walking.
The HealthifyMe Note
Finish your walking with five minutes of stretching. It can improve range of motion and prevent injury. In addition, five minutes of static stretching provide relief and relaxation of the muscles after your walk. You can try tricep stretch, quadriceps stretch, and hamstring stretch.
Other Tips to Follow for Walking
- Choose the walking course wisely. There should be options to accommodate poor weather or change the intensity of walks. There are various walking courses such as track, sidewalks, mall, home, treadmill, and parks. Follow the safety procedures to prevent the risk of traffic accidents, injuries, and environmental hazards. Walk on different tracks to avoid boredom and to stay motivated.
- Walking on an elevated pathway helps burn more calories and increases the metabolic rate. Lean forward and slow the pace while walking on elevated platforms to prevent unnecessary muscle strain.
- Wearing a weighted vest helps to burn more calories. Avoid wearing weights on ankles as they can cause muscle imbalance and injury. Adding hand weights to the routine walking increases the energy expenditure.
- Add short resistance training intervals between walks to burn more calories and develop new muscles. Exercises such as squats, pushups, burpees, tricep dips, and lunges burn extra calories and increase muscle strength.
- Avoid eating sugary and processed food products. Instead, try to follow a calorie-deficit diet to shed weight quicker.
- Stroll for 5-10 minutes to warm up the muscles at the beginning and end of the walking routine. Then, gently stretch the muscles after the walk.
- Always stay hydrated. Drink at least 2-3 litres of water daily. Water reduces food cravings and suppresses appetite which in turn helps in losing weight.
- Walking along with someone or having a support group helps achieve the goals. In addition, the support group acts as a motivation to continue the walking routine.
- Make simple changes in daily movement patterns, such as taking stairs instead of lifts and walking to lunch, school, and work.
- Take short walking breaks at work to keep the body moving and prevent joint pain.
The HealthifyMe Note
Try to write a journal to keep reminding yourself of the goals and walking challenges. For example, write about the walking experience, the body parameters such as heart rate, blood pressure, weight, body fat, and body size, along with the duration, distance, and calories burned during walking.
Walking is a low-impact exercise with a multitude of health benefits. It helps to improve overall body functions by enhancing metabolism. On average, 30 minutes of brisk walking can burn about 150 calories. In addition, a consistent walking routine helps shed a few extra pounds and manage weight efficiently.
While walking has a wide range of benefits, balancing walking and eating is essential. Diet, along with walking, plays a significant role in losing weight. Incorporating a healthy and balanced diet with a walking routine helps reduce the risk of metabolic diseases such as obesity and cardiovascular disorders.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Can I lose weight by walking 30 minutes every day?
A. Yes, it is possible to lose weight by walking 30 minutes daily. Walking helps to lose weight and burn extra calories if performed consistently. One can burn 500-1000 calories per week by at least walking five days a week. Brisk walking for 30 minutes helps to burn 100-200 calories.
Q. Can I lose weight just by walking?
A. Walking is an excellent physical activity to manage weight. Adding 30 minutes of a brisk walk to your daily routine helps burn 150 kcal calories. Regular walking helps to lose weight as well as belly fat. It is important to note that the quicker your pace is, the more you walk, and the more calories you’ll burn.
Q. How long should you walk a day to lose weight?
A. It is essential to know that the number of calories you burn by walking depends on several factors such as weight and speed. Brisk walking for about 45 minutes to 1 hour helps lose weight and strengthens the thigh muscles and calves. In addition, it burns excess calories that help in weight control and loss. Though the process takes time, consistency is the key.
Q. What is the best way to lose weight by walking?
A. Walking 10,000 steps per day or brisk walking for an hour helps lose weight. However, simple walking is not enough. Brisk walking for about 45 minutes along with a calorie-deficit diet helps lose weight effectively. Avoid sugary drinks, control food cravings, and restrict eating processed food products. Consistent walking for about 10,000 steps daily is considered ideal for losing weight.
Q. Can I lose weight by drinking water?
A. Yes, drinking water before meals helps suppress appetite. Drinking water while craving sugar helps reduce sugar consumption and excess calorie consumption. It helps remove toxins and waste from the body. Water improves metabolism and increases the basal metabolic rate of an individual.
Q. What is a reasonable distance to walk every day?
A. Walking is a form of low-impact, moderate-intensity physical activity. 10000 steps per day, equivalent to 8 kilometres, is considered a reasonable distance to walk daily. Although for beginners, brisk walking for 30 minutes should be a start. There are different ways of effective walking, such as climbing stairs, brisk walking, stepping up and down on a stool, adding weight to ankles or wrists while walking, and targeting objects at a distance, ultimately increasing the walking speed.
Q. Can walking reduce belly fat?
A. There is no particular way of walking that helps in spot-fat reduction. While walking is not a high-intensity and strenuous workout, it does help in weight management and staying fit. Walking helps to reduce overall body fat. In a study, obese women walked for 50-70 minutes three times per week for 12 weeks. There was a significant reduction in their waist circumference and belly fat.
Q. Is it better to walk in the morning or at night?
A. Walking in the morning helps improve lung capacity and resting heart rate. Morning walks help in burning more calories which helps in weight loss. It helps reduce stress, clear away negative thoughts and improve one’s productivity during the day. While walks at night help to control blood sugar levels and aid digestion. It is an excellent way to relieve stress after a long day and improves sleep quality at night. Walking in the morning or at night both have their benefits.
Q. How long does it take to see results from walking?
A. On average, it takes eight weeks to see significant results from walking. The outcome of walking depends on how fast the pace is, the distance, and the weight of an individual. People with a sedentary lifestyle will see the results more quickly because they spend more calories than they usually do. While walking has several benefits, it is essential to maintain a healthy diet along with 30-45 minutes of brisk walking to notice the positive changes in the body.
Q. Can I get in shape by walking?
A. Yes, walking can help in getting in shape. The key to getting in shape is consistency. It prevents the progression of diseases, improves stamina and endurance, and reduces stress. It improves mood, physical and mental fitness along with weight management. Walking is an easy and accessible exercise to improve the overall body’s wellness.