When most people think about exercise for weight loss, they probably think of grueling push-ups and jumping-jacks, or vigorous jogs that leave you exhausted and sore. It’s often assumed that you can’t exercise for weight loss unless you pay for an expensive gym membership and hire a personal trainer. Walking for weight loss is an exercise simply not on the radar. Yet walking can be tremendously effective, not just for weight loss but for overall health.
According to the Department of Human Health and Services, everyone should try to take at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per day. “Moderate” exercise includes lots of activities that most people can enjoy. These include things like a leisurely bicycle ride, swimming, stretching and flexibility exercises, and, of course, walking.
A regular walk, even one of just 20 minutes, has many health benefits. Walking helps burn fat, boosts your metabolism, improves your circulation, and supports your lung function. As long as you are sensible and don’t overdo things, the more you walk, the more significant the effects will be.
Can you lose weight by taking a gentle stroll for just one hour a day? You certainly can, although perhaps not as quickly as you’d like. The amount of energy you expend will depend on your speed — faster walking will burn more calories. Even so, a walk at a slower pace will still burn a lot of calories and support your weight loss in many ways. You can start at a more sedate pace and try to build up to a more rapid one as your fitness levels improve. Walking helps weight loss in a number of different ways. It builds lean muscle, which burns more calories than fatty tissue. Walking, like other forms of exercise, can help promote better quality sleep; poor is known to be correlated with obesity, and so better sleep may help with weight loss. First and foremost, though, walking burns calories. This can help to create the kind of calorie deficit required in order to lose weight. If you want to use walking for weight loss, keep in mind that it needs to be part of a broad strategy involving other diet and lifestyle changes. If you come home from your walk and go straight to the cookie jar, you won’t make any progress with your weight loss.
To lose a pound in weight, you need to burn off an additional 3,500 calories. Most medical experts agree that you should aim to lose no more than one pound per week; this is generally regarded as a safe and healthy rate of weight loss. Thus, someone planning to lose weight should aim to create a calorie deficit of around 500 calories per day — that is, they should try to consume 500 calories less than they burn off. (While it might be tempting to try and create a more significant deficit, this can backfire by lowering your metabolism). Just how many calories can you burn in an hour simply by walking? A brisk walk at around 4 mph can burn a tidy 300-400 calories, depending on your weight. Even at a slow pace of two miles per hour, the average person can burn around 200 calories. This might not seem like a great deal, but it’s almost half of your desired calorie deficit. If you’re significantly overweight, a more gentle pace is probably your best option. You’ll still burn plenty of calories and enjoy all the other health benefits of walking while avoiding unnecessary stress on your joints. With walking for weight loss, as with any exercise program, check in with your doctor or another medical professional before you add an hour’s walk to your daily routine.
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