Regularly walking to lose weight seems like a terrific idea, but it’s not.
It will work if you are willing to devote a lot of hours to it each week, but that’s not really efficient.
Why not? Permit me to explain.
It’s useful to divide exercise into cardio and strength training. There are two types of cardio, namely, mild steady state and high intensity.
Walking to lose weight is a mild steady state cardio exercise. It should be done briskly (between 60 and 65% of VO2max). [Click here for how to calculate your numbers.]
At least after the first twenty minutes or so, you’ll burn more fat (up to 55%) walking to lose weight (or doing any similar steady state cardio exercise) than you will doing either high intensity cardio or strength training.
So it would seem that walking to lose weight is better than either high intensity cardio or strength training. That’s what I myself thought for years.
However, it’s not true. Here’s why: if you exercise walking to lose weight regularly, you will burn fat during, and for a short while after, your walks. What your body will do between walks, however, is store fat for the next walk! Of course, that’s the opposite of what you want.
If you are like most of us, you want to engage in the minimum amount of exercise required for good healh. Exercise, like medicine, should be taken in proper doses, neither too much nor too little. So, what’s the minimum?
After decades of reading and self-experimentation, here’s what I suggest each week: 2 brief sessions of high intensity cardio, 2 short strength training sessions, and 1 hour-long brisk walk.
The high intensity cardio sessions involve keeping your heart rate between 80 and 85% of VO2 max for 3 to 10 minutes (plus about a 3 minute warm-up and a 3 minutes cool-down). [Click here for details.]
The strength training sessions will last about 30 or 40 minutes of clock time. I’ve provided lots of detailed information for beginners elsewhere [Click here to get started].
The once-a-week walk should be for the equivalent of 4 miles in just under an hour. If you’d rather do some other mild steady state cardio, that’s fine. Assuming, though, that you are not walking and want to begin, here’s a simple plan that will work.
Walking-to-lose-weight step 1:
Get the approval of your physician or other licensed medical professional.
Walking to lose weight step 2:
Ensure that you have what is required (for example, walking shoes, a place to walk, and so on). [Click here for a complete list.]
Walking to lose weight step 3:
Commit yourself to a plan. Here’s a plan that works well:
Walk once for 15 minutes the first week and 30 minutes the second week. In the following weeks, increase your pace until you are walking 2 miles in just under 30 minutes (or, if using a treadmill, holding your heart rate between 60 and 65% of VO2max for 30 minutes). In the weeks after that, add a third mile and decrease your time until you are able to walk it in just under 45 minutes. In the weeks after that, add a fourth mile and decrease your time until you are able to walk it in just under 60 minutes.
Please don’t fret about your rate of progress. Relax. If it takes you a few months or even a few years to be able to walk four miles in just under an hour, so what? If you make even a slight improvement each week, you’ll get there. The more difficult it is for you, the more you’ll savor your own achievement.
Walking to lose weight step 4:
Once a week, warm-up for your walk, walk, and cool-down. Walk 4 miles in just under an hour until your dotage.
You’ll be using walking to burn fat for an hour each week. Your body won’t hang on to fat to fuel your walks because you’ll also be doing some – intense, hence brief – high intensity cardio as well as strength training.
The high intensity cardio will increase the efficiency of your cardiovascular system. The more fit you are, the better you’ll feel. The strength training will add muscle; since muscle is many times metabolically more active than fat, it will increase your caloric consumption 24 hours a day.
(Incidentally, since muscle is heavier than fat, don’t worry about your body weight. What counts is your percentage of body fat. If you lost 20 pounds of fat and gained 20 pounds of muscle, your weight would be the same but you’d have a much healthier percentage of body fat. You can use inexpensive plastic calipers at home to estimate and record your percentage of body fat.)
Is walking for an hour each week do-able? Why not? Even with warming up and cooling down, each high intensity cardio session won’t exceed 20 minutes twice weekly and each strength training session won’t exceed 40 minutes twice weekly.
That’s a total of only about 3 hours a week exercising. It’s probably more than you do now, but it’s not a lot. Furthermore, if you are not now exercising and begin, you’ll quickly notice how the quality of your life improves.
What if you adopt this plan and find that your percentage of body fat is not decreasing? Please do not conclude that there is anything wrong with this exercise plan. The problem will be with your nutritional plan. If you are eating correctly, this plan will work.
Of course, it’s possible to get more physical exercise than the amount recommended here, but, if you are eating well and following this program, you don’t need more than that to lose fat and become healthier.
If you adopt this plan, I hope you’ll share your results here to encourage others.