Regular walking offers many potential health benefits, including weight loss. It is also one of the easiest and most cost effective forms of exercise a person can do. Many people can walk regularly and reap the benefits of being more active.
For example, a study in the Journal of Exercise Nutrition and Biochemistry showed the positive effects that walking could have on burning fat and reducing waist circumference in obese females. The women walked between 50-70 minutes 3 days per week for a total of 12 weeks. After the study, they found that the study participants lost an average of 1.5% body fat and 1.1 inches around their waists.
Although any increase in activity level will bring benefits, there are some things a person can do to increase the amount of fat they burn while walking. Tips include:
As with running, swimming, and other forms of aerobic exercise, pace makes a difference. A person burns more calories walking at a brisk pace compared to walking more slowly.
A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise showed that when people increased their pace to a run, they burned more calories. This study also showed that the group of runners weighed less overall than the walkers, suggesting that speed directly affects the number of calories a person burns while exercising.
However, increasing the pace does not mean a person has to run. Instead, walking briskly will burn extra calories to help with weight loss.
Adding extra weight to a workout will burn more calories.
Heavier people burn more calories because their bodies require more energy to perform the same task than someone who is not as heavy; wearing a weighted vest while walking encourages a person's body to work harder during a walk.
One study concluded that individuals who walked at 2.5 miles per hour (mph) on a flat surface while wearing a weighted vest that weighed 15% of their weight, burned 12% more calories than a person who did not wear a vest.
A person wearing a weighted vest that represented 10% of their body weight and who walked at the same pace on a 5-10% gradient burned an average of 13% more calories.
Though a weighted vest may help burn extra calories, a person should avoid wearing ankle or wrist weights or carrying weights in their hands. Both practices can lead to muscle imbalance and injury.
However, a person should always use caution when wearing a weighted vest. As with any new exercise, a person should speak to their doctor before using a weighted vest. People with back or neck problems should not use a weighted vest.
People who can safely wear a weighted vest will likely see improvements in the number of calories they burn.
To help increase calorie burn, a person should walk uphill regularly.
For some, this may mean increasing the treadmill gradient, while others may want to incorporate more hills into their outdoor walking routine.
A person should aim to walk up hills, stairs, or inclines two to three times a week.
When it comes to walking, it is important to maintain form and posture.
A person should walk so that they are looking ahead at all times as this helps increase the speed a person can walk as well as lengthen their stride. While walking, a person should also focus on tightening their abdominal muscles and glutes. People can do this during the entire walk or for short intervals.
This technique can help a person build strength and keep them injury free so that they can continue their walking program.
To help burn more calories and increase the growth of new muscle, a person can try adding in resistance training during their walk.
Some exercises to try include:
- burpees, or squat thrusts
- tricep dips
Short exercise intervals can help increase a person's heart rate and build muscle. They can also help make the walking routine more interesting.
Power walking in intervals can be an effective way for a person to increase the number of calories they burn while walking.
To try power walking in intervals, a person should first walk for about 5 to 10 minutes to warm up. Then increase the pace and continue at an uncomfortable but sustainable pace for 10 to 15 seconds before returning to a normal walking pace. A person can repeat this throughout the walk or for as long as they can manage it.
A person may want to start with 5 minutes of interval work per walk and incorporate more power walking intervals into their walks over time.
Though long walks are good, shorter, more frequent walks can also provide benefits.
Some people may find it easier to maintain their daily exercise by doing shorter walks throughout the day instead of taking a much longer walk once a day. Experts believe that taking a walk after each meal also brings benefits.
According to one study on inactive people over 60 years old, walking for 15 minutes three times a day after meals can help control blood sugar levels better than walking once a day for 45 minutes.
Popular fitness trackers and pedometers encourage people to take 10,000 steps per day, and one 2016 study agrees that 10,000 steps are ideal. This works out to roughly 5 miles of walking.
People interested in walking for weight loss should consistently hit at least 10,000 steps each day. Some people may even want to increase their total number of steps beyond this amount. However, any steps that a person takes beyond their normal daily step count can help them lose weight.
Fitness trackers that count steps are an excellent incentive to help people take more steps each day. Even if a person cannot reach 10,000 steps a day, they should set a reasonable step goal and work to achieve that.
People can increase the number of steps they take each day by changing some of their daily movement patterns. Tips for doing this include:
- taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- parking further away from the door at shops, work, or school
- walking to lunch, work, school, or other activities if possible
- taking walking breaks at work instead of sitting in a break room
Before adding weight or increasing intensity either through speed or incline, a person should speak to their doctor or other healthcare professional.
A person should aim to increase the regularity of their walking, as well as the number of miles or steps they take each day. Try adding in some intensity a few days a week with faster walks or increased inclines.