Sure, running, HIIT classes and extra-sweaty cycling sessions are pretty much known for helping you scorch kilojoules and drop kilos…but honestly, can a girl ever just slow down and still lose weight?
Yup – turns out, walking can definitely help you with your weight-loss goals. “It is important to have a mix of high-intensity and low-intensity workouts – like walking – for optimal and sustainable weight loss,” says Lindsey Corak, personal trainer.
Walking can also drastically slash your stress levels, says Hannah Davis, personal trainer – and having less stress in your life absolutely makes it easier for you to successfully drop kilos.
That said, there are some guidelines that will make walking for weight loss a lot more effective:
1. Aim for at least 15 000 steps a day.
No matter your current step count, increasing it is totally possible. Davis recommends racking up 15 000 steps per day, seven days a week, to lose weight.
“Don’t worry about slowly increasing your step count. Just go for it,” she says. While you shouldn’t kick up your intense workouts overnight, you can double up your step count quickly and it won’t stress your body and make you more prone to injury, she says.
Another thing to keep in mind: Consistency is key. You’re not going to get much benefit out of upping your step count one day and then letting it fall the next – instead, make it a constant routine (it’ll only get easier the more you do it, too).
2. Track those stats with a walking app.
FYI: Your phone has a built-in step counter (just remember to keep it with you). But if you do want an app to help you track, try Under Armour’s Map My Walk (free; available on iTunes and Google Play). This walking app provides feedback and stats (like average pace) for every kilometre you log.
3. Try to go on three 20-minute walks each day.
How much do you have to walk a day to lose weight? Well, at least three 20-minute-long walks should help you reach your step goal so you can start shedding kilos, says Davis. In fact, research from George Washington University, found that people who walked for 15 minutes after each meal had better blood-sugar control (which can crush cravings for more food after you just ate) than those who walked for 45 minutes at any point in the day. That means a lunchtime walk can prevent your normal 3pm slump and the sugar cravings that go with it, she says.
4. Opt for a 45-minute, faster stroll three times a week
Walking at an easy pace doesn’t necessarily get your heart rate up – which is essential for fat burning, says Corak. Prime fat-burning takes place when your heart rate is at 60 to 70% of your max heart rate. (Nail down your max heart rate by subtracting your age from 220 – so a 30-year-old woman would have a max heart rate of 190 beats per minute.)
If you don’t have a heart-rate monitor, think of your effort level on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being all-out like a sprint. You should aim for that six or seven and spend about 45 minutes at this intensity to burn fat, Corak says.
5. Walk uphill a few times a week.
Upping the incline on the treadmill, walking uphill or climbing a staircase will help you build more muscle, which increases your metabolic rate, says Davis. That will help you burn more kilojoules even when you’re in your desk chair. Davis suggests adding incline intervals to your walks three days per week and steadily increase from there.
Klein agrees that hills are the perfect way to turn up the intensity on your walk. “As the terrain goes up and down, you naturally adjust intensity, and the body naturally emphasises different muscle groups,” she says. It’s also an easy way to keep your body guessing, so you’ll step right over a weight-loss plateau.
6. Add power-walking intervals to your routine.
To start increasing your kilojoule burn, add in some intervals, Klein says – and start short at first. After a 10-minute warmup, push your body to walk at an uncomfortable (but still sustainable) pace for 15 to 20 seconds at the start of every minute. Do that for 10 minutes, and then finish off with a 10-minute cool down.
Once you’re comfortable with those short intervals, pick up the pace for one-minute intervals to get your heart rate up and burn more kilojoules, says Davis. After you start incorporating one-minute intervals into your regular walking routine, you can increase the pace and duration from there.
Another tip: While walking faster, focus on swinging your arms, says Davis. The extra arm movement will help you burn more calories and build strength in your shoulders and core.
Read more: What is LISS cardio and should you try it?
7. Add in bodyweight exercises when you can.
Walking to lose weight shouldn’t be all about walking, says Davis. “Stop every block and do 15 to 20 squats, perform incline pushups or triceps dips on a park bench, and do walking lunges down the sidewalk.” All of these exercises increase your heart rate, help you build muscle, and keep your walking workouts from going stale, she says.
You can also start or end your workout with strength exercises, especially bodyweight moves. Klein recommends moves like planks, wall-sits or calf raises in addition to squats and pushups.
8. Keep an eye on your kilojoule count.
While your exact nutritional needs depend on a lot of factors outside of your steps per day, most women who are walking to lose weight follow a 1 200- to 1 600-calorie diet that’s rich in protein, says Davis.
“If the main focus of your workout routine is low-intensity walking, your nutrition will have to be on-point for you to lose weight,” she says. “Even though you’re increasing your activity levels, you’ll have to decrease your calorie intake,” she says – that’s because you’re probably still not burning enough calories to add tons more to your diet.
If you’ve been walking consistently and still aren’t seeing the scale budge (or are seeing it go up), take the time to write down what you eat for a week to see if there are any ways to cut back.
9. Always take the longer route.
Yep, you’ve heard this one before. But all structured walking workouts aside, integrating more steps into your daily tasks (like parking farther from the door, taking the stairs, etc.) can help you hit your daily step goals and lose more weight, she says. “Over time, the little bursts of movement here and there really do make a difference,” says Davis.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com
Image credit: iStock