It seems like every other magazine at the supermarket checkout has some sort of walking weight loss program.
You open up the magazine, and here's somebody who lost 50 pounds, or 150 pounds, just by walking. Not only that, but on one of the pages, there's a box of their walking schedule. A lot of times, a glance at the box shows that their schedule just won't work for you. Either you don't have the time they seem to have, or you KNOW you can't walk that far, that fast without creating more business for the local coroner or heart surgeon.
You also ask yourself: "I hear so much about exercise AND nutrition being the key to weight loss, can I really lose that kind of weight just by walking?"
Let's start with that question and move on to how to start your own walking weight loss program...if you still think it's worth it, that is.
Alright, the first thing you are wondering about is whether you can really lose a bundle of weight just by walking.
There's a short answer and a long answer. "Yes" and "Yes, but...."!
Walking is a wonderful exercise for health in general and weight loss in particular. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
A couple of great things about walking are that you have been doing it all your life, hence, little or no training is required, it requires little in the way of equipment, and you can work it into almost any schedule.
Walking for health, fitness, and/or weight loss in any combination is easy to get into. You put on your shoes, head out the door and then you...walk! Oh sure, there are some more complicated instructions if you really want to get into walking as a big deal, but most people just want to know how to get started and what it will do for them.
Well, walking regularly, in addition to helping you lose weight, will help improve your posture, strengthen your cardiovascular system, tune up your immune system, elevate your mood, and, as any good exercise program will, help decrease your risk for various cancers, high blood pressure, strokes, type II diabetes, and help ward off many of the events and changes associated with aging.
Now, that "walking for weight loss" program you read in the magazine might or might not work for you for several reasons. The good news, however, is that you can easily come up with your own tailor-made walking program which should work just as well.
Many times, the program, as you read about it in the magazine, is essentially the finished product. Whoever the article is about arrived at that program after some personal trial and error. It is also a program that fits into their schedule, and probably also fits into their personal state of fitness and fitness training choices. It's not that this is bad, but it may make the program misleading or counterproductive for you.
The basic rule to begin tailoring any exercise program to your own needs is to start small or easy and build up. The magazine may be showing you a walking program that is too advanced for you. If this is so, it is not a problem. All you have to do is walk the distance and pace that is comfortable for you. As you reach levels where you are sure that you are comfortable with what you are doing, increase the distance slightly. You will also notice over time that your walks, while the same distance, are taking less time to complete. If this is happening regularly over a few days, increase the distance.
There is no set starting distance or duration of exercise that you should worry about if you are starting or building up. I know of many people who began their walking programs by only going a few feet. That was all they could do, but they did it. Eventually, walking for weight loss should last about 45 minutes, and you should do it between three and five days a week, although obviously five days would be best.
While the walking will produce the most benefits if done in one 45 minute session, you can do 15 minutes on your morning and afternoon break and 15 minutes at lunch (or 10, 10, and 25 - be creative) if you cannot find time to work it in any other way. At any level, you can make your walking more interesting by walking in different places, taking different routes, or walking with a group.
Once you are regularly walking 45 minutes a day, five days a week, you will want to challenge yourself a little more and try to cut your time. Don't worry if you can't bring it down much...or at all. The very effort will repay you. At this time, you may find yourself becoming interested in other walking related activities such as hiking or even other fitness activities.
This is good, because not only can you make your walking for weight loss program more interesting by substituting other activities such as swimming, rowing, biking or kayaking for the walking itself, but you will begin to feel capable of adding other fitness activities to your repertoire.
This is a valuable step because walking will only take you so far, and adding a strength and muscle training activity such as weight lifting could be an important addition to your exercise program. Walking, as great an overall exercise as it is for health, fitness, and weight loss, does not help much with upper body strength (what you use to carry the grandkids or a sack of groceries). Weight lifting, or other resistance training, will also help build lean muscle mass which will help boost your resting metabolic rate, allowing your body to burn more calories even when at rest.
A quick note on the term "weight lifting". Many people will be worried about becoming "muscle bound" or "bulky", and ladies especially may be concerned about becoming in some way less feminine if they train with weights. If the training is done properly, most people, ladies and gentlemen should mainly notice better health and increased strength and stamina as well as weight loss. The body builders, both male and female, seen in the magazines have chosen specific training routines and dedicated themselves to rigorous dietary practices and supplementation to achieve those particular results.
Finally, any exercise as part of a weight loss program is less about what exercise is chosen or how well it is performed and more about how regularly it is performed.
As always, regular moderate exercise, be it walking for weight loss or some other program, coupled with healthy eating practices will produce a trimmer, healthier body and open new doors to the enjoyment of life.