Why Is Walking So Good For Weight Loss?Posted on Aug 19th 2009 1:00PM by Liz Neporent
Liz Neporent is a diet and fitness expert and author of 12 fitness bestsellers. She regularly appears on national TV programs and is the president of Wellness 360, a New-York based wellness provider. You can also follow her on Twitter @lizzyfit.
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Researchers have also found that walking an additional 6,000 steps a day (or about 3 miles) is the point at which the pounds really start coming off, as long as it is done in conjunction with sensible eating habits like fat, calorie and portion control.
A report from the National Institutes of Medicine makes similar recommendations, advising one hour of daily walking or other moderate exercise for weight loss. What's more, the majority of participants in the National Weight Control Registry, an ongoing survey of more than 3,000 people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for more than a year, report walking as one of their major-weight loss strategies. You may notice that I reference the registry frequently. That's because it is the only "living laboratory" to examine weight loss in the real world.
So if walking doesn't exactly melt calories like hot butter on toast, why is it such a successful weight loss strategy? For one thing, walking has a major advantage over most other fitness activities: It doesn't require a lot of stuff. No helmets, gloves, wrenches, pumps, kneepads, wrist guards, caps, goggles, pools or poles. Just lace up your shoes, open the front door, and off you go. (For women, I also recommend a decent bra. If you're not doing power walking, it doesn't even have to be a sports bra, just something sturdy with lots of support to minimize the bounce.) Plus, unless you're a toddler, walking has virtually no learning curve.
Of course, running is equally accessible and convenient, but it also has a much higher injury rate. Walking is considerably easier on your joints, tendons and ligaments -- although a small percentage of walkers do get injured from overdoing it or wearing the wrong shoes. Walking is also less exhausting, so you may be more likely to stick to your program. Running may burn twice the calories per minute as walking (running burns an average of 8 to 12 calories per minute compared to walking which only burns 4 to 8 calories per minute at a moderate pace), but if you quit after 5 minutes because your knees feel like they're about to explode, what's the point? Even most beginners can walk for at least 10 minutes straight without feeling winded and from there, it's fairly easy to build up stamina.
Walking is also an especially good weight-loss activity because it's so easily adaptable to your fitness level. As you become more fit, you can walk faster, walk more often, walk up steeper hills or walk for longer periods.
If you don't find walking especially motivating, find a way to make it more entertaining. You can bop along to your ipod mix so long as you stay on the treadmill or keep the volume low enough to stay aware of your surroundings. You can walk with a friend or join a group. I even found one way to get paid for walking: Check out fitness pro Leslie Sansone's Walk Leader program.
My 2 cents: Even if you do other types of exercise, walking should be the foundation of your activity plan. National Weight Control Registry participants cited walking as their top weight-loss strategy; they walk off an average of 1,000 calories a week. Even though I am an avid exercise and exhibit OCD running behavior myself, I still walk 20 minutes to 2 hours a day between appointments, with my daughter or just strolling along thinking. Trust me, regular walking has many benefits. Click here for more information on AOL Health about how it attacks deep abdominal fat.
Now for your 2 cents: Has walking successfully helped you lose weight? Or do you stroll along eating a cupcake, taking one bite per step so they cancel each other out? Share please.