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Walking for Weight Loss

This ain't no walk in the park

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Updated November 25, 2003

Walking sometimes gets a bad rap when it comes to weight loss since, as many believe, it just isn't a challenging enough exercise. For example, check out a calorie calculator and you'll find that you have to walk twice as long as someone jogging to burn the same amount of calories. Or do you? The truth is, it isn't walking that's the problem...it's you.

Not a Walk in the Park
Walking is easy: you can do it anywhere, anytime with no special equipment. There's no learning curve and it's something you can incorporate all day long. However, The Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Review featured a study about walking for exercise and found that only 26% of the people in the study walked briskly enough to achieve the intensity level recommended by the U.S. surgeon general. So, how do you know when you're going fast enough? Use the checklist below to make your walking workout more effective.

Your walking checklist:

  • Pump your arms. Keep your elbows at 90 degrees and swing your arms back and forth in a natural motion to add intensity.
  • Shorten your stride. In her article "10 Walking Mistakes to Avoid", Wendy Bumgardner says, "All of the power of your walk comes from pushing with the back leg and foot." When you increase your speed, take shorter, quicker steps.
  • Stand up straight. Are you slumping? Good posture helps you breathe easier and you put less stress on your back, shoulders and neck.
  • Walk briskly. What is brisk? It means walking fast enough to cover at least 3.5 miles in an hour. To figure it all out, walk a mile and time it. If you make it in 15 minutes or less, you're on the right track.
  • Monitor your intensity. Pretend as though you're late for an appointment or hurrying to catch a bus. That should be your pace throughout your workout.
  • Walk long enough. Your walk should be between 30-60 minutes.
  • Spice things up. How about adding some hills, speed-walking or even jogging to boost intensity? This is no time to stop and smell the roses (although you can enjoy their lovely color as you whisk by).

Walking is an excellent way to meet your cardio needs as long as you work hard enough. A leisurely stroll certainly has its place but, if you're going for weight loss, save the strolls and pick up the pace.

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