Walking for Weight Loss

You already have all the complex, high-tech machinery you need to get into shape: your two legs. Walking works the major muscle groups of the body, raises your heart rate, burns calories, and lowers your blood pressure with a third of the impact running has on your joints. "Plus, walking makes you feel more in control of your life and gives you the energy to get things done," says Therese Iknoian, author of "Fitness Walking."

For optimum health, Iknoian advises walking a minimum of 30 minutes a day, four or five times a week, at a moderate pace. Here, she outlines a progressive walking plan that'll get you on your feet and out the door.

Phase 1: Get Started
Goal: Walk 20 to 30 minutes, at least 3 times a week or more

Duration: About 4 weeks, or until you can walk 30 minutes at a time

Benefits: Lowered stress levels; better sleep; improved mood

How to Do It: Walk only as far as you comfortably can, even if that means walking in one direction for a few minutes and then turning around. Iknoian recommends increasing each walk by about 2 to 3 minutes, until you're walking the full 30 minutes.

Tip: Walk with purpose -- as if you're late for an appointment.

Phase 2: Ramp Up
Goal: Increase the frequency and length of your walks; find your rhythm; refine your technique

Duration: 4 to 8 weeks

Benefits: Noticeable improvement in overall fitness; increased energy

How to do it: Add one to two walks to your weekly regimen. In addition, go for one longer walk each week. If you're walking 3 times a week for 30 minutes, make one of those walks 45 to 60 minutes long.

Tip: Bend your arms at the elbows and take shorter, quicker steps.

Phase 3: Intensify and Maintain
Goal: Stick to a regular practice

Duration: Ongoing

Benefits: Weight loss and weight management; improved cardiovascular fitness; reduced risk of life-threatening diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer

How to Do It: Walk 30 minutes a day, 5 to 6 times a week, including an additional longer walk when you can. For an added challenge, try for higher-intensity intervals once a week: Choose a landmark, such as the end of the block, and walk at top speed until you reach it. Repeat 4 to 8 times on your walk.

Tip: Boost the intensity of your workout by walking up hills or on grass, sand, or trails. And to quicken your pace, bend your arms to 90 degrees and swing them alongside your torso.Take shorter, quicker steps rather than long strides.

More Walking Strategies For:
Stress Relief
Better Posture

Text by Kate Hanley; photography by John-Francis Bourke

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Comments (9)

  • JagoHolmes 19 Apr, 2011

    Very good post.

    You raise some very important points. Exercise doesn't have to be painful or a chore to be effective and walking as part of an overall weight loss strategy certainly does work.

    Warmest regards


  • coachsue 8 Sep, 2010

    The success for walking was quite evident when we visited Europe this year. The city dwellers who walked everywhere were slender and those who drove in the country were much heavier. There's evidence right there!

  • 2373TM 2 Mar, 2010

    I think you make several good points in your story. I am a firm believer that gradually building up your endurance and workout times is key to the long-term success of the program. In addition to exercise, choosing the right foods that promote weight loss is also key. I read an article at http://www.shiftingyourweight.com about protein and its impact on weight loss. It was pretty interesting.

  • sanmax12 27 Oct, 2009

    Good Morning,
    I have read article its good and informative which is very useful for everyone, I believe we don?

  • LoseBellyFat 24 May, 2009

    Great article. <a href=" <a href="http://www.bellyfatanswers.com/walking-and-weight-loss.html">Walking and weight loss</a>....it does work! I have lost lots of weight by talking long walks on a daily basis and watching what I eat.

  • ms_dolores 3 Mar, 2009

    My friend and I try walking every night in the area for atlest a hour and it does make all the difference, and you really do sleep better.

  • kittens 8 Sep, 2008

    I recently gave birth and I have been looking for a way to keep fit. Walking as I push the baby in her stroller has already had a great effect on my energy levels not to mention I am drinking alot more fluids and eating alot less.

  • madamflex 3 Jun, 2008

    I just recently started walking on a daily basis. Luckily for me there is a beautiful park about one mile from my home. I take my dog with me most days, and just enjoy a peaceful stroll. Since I have started doing this, I have noticed that my stress has gone down, and that I have much more energy during the day. I have lost a few pounds, and my dog has as well!

  • emmakrazy 2 Jun, 2008

    I have started walking again. my husband and I live in the country on a 7 acre lot that is on a hill. I have worked out a walk trail that I walk on a daily basis about a mile everyday. I have found I have slept better and my chronic asthma has been better in the last few weeks since I started. I find much more energy to get more done in a day. Some days I walk a second time. It helps with the days stresses too.

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