Can Walking Help You Lose Weight? Follow These Tips To Find Out
I have never been to the gym. And having a qualified dietician for a parent meant I was never allowed to ‘diet’ when I felt I was getting chubby. But then I had a baby and turned into a balloon rather quick.
When ‘88’ looked up at me from the weighing scale, amidst echoes of all the cheesy Tambola announcements of ‘two fat ladies’, ‘maximum curves’ etc etc., I decided enough really was enough. I had to take matters in my own hands.
The challenge of being a gym virgin was a real one. I never could get comfy with ‘working out’. The other challenge was the weight loss that was eating at my self esteem.
If you’ve never exercised before, walking for weight loss is one of the best ways to start.
It can also be the most fun: a fine day, good music in your earphones, an attainable goal (say, a scenic spot) 3-4 kilometres away.
On city streets, in the woods, or even round and round your locality, walking is the best way to workout. But not when you want to see quick results - like I did.
I walked around various parks and walking tracks for a month - only to see miniscule results. That's when I realised I will have to push the envelope. Simple walking was just not working.
Wrench Up The Walk
Walking for weight loss means that you’re doing it purposefully and that you are doing it with exercise in mind. The bottom line is that you’re going to need to change the way you walk if you want your walking to change your weight.
When simple walking isn't working, you need to boost the intensity.
In the same vein, Harry Kalra, a Toronto-based trainer says,
If you challenge yourself with a speed above your usual walking pace or by adding hills, it will force your body’s systems to respond. Your body will have to produce more energy in a shorter amount of time and may have to use some stored fat to do that. Your body will also respond by building new muscle and energy systems so it is ready to meet the challenge again in the future.Harry Kalra, Trainer
Here are some ways in which you can increase the intensity to get better and visible results in a short time.
1. Pick Up the Pace
Walking briskly (usually means about 5 kilometres miles per hour) burns nearly as many calories as running a mile at a moderate pace, and confers similar fitness and health benefits. Longer and more vigorous walking produces better results.
In my case, when I started my walk-the-weight-off-plan, I would warm up by walking at an average speed for about 10 minutes and then pace my steps to convert the walk into a ‘power walk’.
2. Swing Your Arms
I cared two hoots about being the most un-ladylike during my walks. Someone actually commented I could compete with those Cossack soldiers the way I swung my arms. I simply marched past her with a stomp of the foot. But seriously, it did help.
Bend them at 90 degrees and pump from the shoulder, like race walkers do.
Swing them naturally, as if you’re reaching for your wallet in your back pocket. On the swing forward, your wrist should be near the centre of your chest.
3. Choose Varied Terrains
If you have that luxury of location, take the boredom out of your walking workout by choosing different places.
I read of a research that mentioned we burn 60% more calories when walking uphill.
When walking uphill, lean forward slightly - it's easier on your leg muscles. Walking downhill can be harder on your body, especially the knees, than walking uphill, and may cause muscle soreness, so slow your pace, keep your knees slightly bent, and take shorter steps.
4. Squeeze Your Glutes
Cardio - which includes walking - burns many more calories than targeted training and muscle-sculpting work. Walking mostly works your hamstrings and quadriceps; it doesn’t typically contract and engage the three main muscles in the butt: the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius and gluteus maximus.
The added calorie-burning power of walking can also help you lose weight. But do this with caution, advises Harry Kalra, a Toronto-based trainer. He adds,
If you keep your butt clenched throughout the time of your walk, you could alter your gait. This can cause back and hip pain. Tightening your butt cheeks also alters the way you move and changes the way your muscles work together as you walk, which can mean that other areas of your body - particularly your thighs - get a less strenuous workout. Consequently, it’s best to tighten and release your butt cheeks several times for some portion of your walk, but not for your entire workout. Limit this squeezing out of your glutes to not more than 4 reps of a minute each during a 20-min walk.Harry Kalra, Trainer
5. Use Props
I was suggested a lightweight, rubber-tipped trekking poles (available in sporting goods stores, or can be custom-made). You could even wear a weighted vest or t-shirt.
Why this works?
We asked Harry Kalra and this is how he explained:
This is similar to cross-country skiing without the skis. When you step forward with the left foot, the right arm with the pole comes forward and is planted on the ground, about even with the heel of the left foot. This works the muscles of your chest and arms as well as some abdominals, while reducing the stress on your knees.Harry Kalra, Trainer
Hand-weights can also be used to boost your caloric expenditure, but they may alter your arm swing and thus lead to muscle soreness or even injury - I made my own weight bracelets and anklets - simply made a hollow band out of old denims and added nuts and bolts to it.
A strong Velcro patch helped me secure it. I started with 100 grams and am now comfortable with almost a kilo of weights on my arms and feet.
The weights shouldn’t add up to more than 10 percent of your body weight.
6. Don’t Ignore the Diet
Walking for weight loss will be more effective if you couple it with a healthy diet and focus on creating lifestyle changes instead of just focusing on exercise. A banana before your walk will give you better nutritional value than a few cookies.
Also, skip that sports drink.
According to Avni Kaul, “Even 150ml of a high-calorie, sugar-laden sports drink can undo all the good walking you may have done. There’s really nothing good about them. Instead, try adding a low-calorie, hunger-blocking, energy boosting drink, and you’ll see weight loss results come even quicker.”
(Aarti K Singh is an independent writer with close to two decades' experience in various media. Having worked in radio, TV and print media, she is now indulging in her passion to rediscover the world, besides juggling a PhD and raising her son.)
(Have you subscribed to FIT’s newsletter yet? Click here and get health updates directly in your inbox.)