My clients often ask me, 'What is the best exercise to lose weight?'
Here is the simple answer - the one you do consistenly!
But instead, I often ask, 'Are you doing any planned physical activity at the moment?'.
If the answer is 'No', which it often is, my first suggestion is to 'Start a walking program'.
In this post, I will discuss why walking is an excellent exercise and how you can start your program tomorrow today!
Weight loss comes down to simple maths.
You consume energy (eat food) and you expend energy (burn energy). We are all familiar with eating food, but how do we burn energy?
I break down energy expenditure in 3 broad ways:
General physical activity. The energy you burn without thinking about it (e.g. House work, gardening, shopping etc).
Exercise. Bodily movements you perform specifically for the betterment of your health.
Being alive. Even while sleeping, your body will consume a baseline level of energy (aka BMR/RMR).
The not-so-well kept secret to weight loss is: burn more calories than you consume and you will lose weight.
So the question to ask yourself is, 'How can I expend more energy?'
I propose that one of the simplest and easiest ways to do this is to start walking.
Here are a few reasons why I love it.
Free. There is typically zero investment required to start a walking routine.
Simple. Most of us cannot even remember the time when we could not walk. So there is no learning curve when it comes to putting one foot in front of another. Having said that, some people may still benefit from expert supervision and guidance regarding their walking technique to improve their balance or reduce pain.
Safe. An exercise with simple technique means a lot less can go wrong. Hence, walking is usually quite safe.
Easy. Simple is one thing, and easy is another. Fortunately, walking is both simple and easy.
Ideal for fat loss.
Firstly, as mentioned above, increasing the number of calories you burn in general will lead to weight loss. But walking is even better than that.
Research shows that walking is ideal for burning fat. Put simply, fat is one of many sources of energy. The body chooses the source that is most suited to its current needs, which depends on what you are doing. Turns out, while you walk, fat is the body's primary source of fuel.
So, you now know why I love walking! Let's discuss about some practical issues.
How much do I need to walk?
The recommendation is 150 minutes per week at a moderate intensity.
So, 30 minutes. Five days a week.
Moderate intensity means your breathing is slightly heavier but you can still have a conversation.
There may be days when you don't want to walk the 30 minutes. That ok. Just do what you can and record your time.
How to record the time walked?
I recommend writing down the time walked right after your come back. You can track your minutes walked using our walking diary.
You can download the walking diary from holisticep.co/resources.
Some clients prefer to use their smart phones or watches to track their walking. My advice to them is just to make sure you are tracking the time walked during that session (not throughout the day). And you tally up at the end of the week.
How to walk daily?
Place one foot in front of the other. Rinse and repeat :)
There are a number of simple things that you can do to make your walks more consistent and enjoyable.
Schedule it. Decide on a time that works for you and schedule to walk. Ideally, keep it consistent everyday.
Prepare. Particularly if you are busy, it is important to prepare for the walk before its actual time. This might mean finding the shoes and socks the night before.
Track it. As mentioned above, have some way of recording your progress.
Make it fun. Find a way to make your walks more enjoyable. Whether its listening to an audio book, walking with a friend or enjoying your surroundings.
Warm up your ankles and knees before the walk
Hydrate before and during the walk
Cover up if you are walking during daylight hours, make sure to slip, slop, slap
Walk past your house (see figure 1)
Stretch after the walk
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hassan Qureshi is the founder and owner of Holistic Exercise Physiology. He believes educating and communicating good science to the wider public is not only important but is the responsibility of every clinician. For this reason he started the Holistic blog.
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