Walking for weight loss? Does that work? Does it even count?
You bet it does! Walking is the easiest, most accessible exercise possible for nearly any person or situation.
You don’t need great walking paths, although those are certainly nice to have.
You don’t need a treadmill, though again, it can be a nice change from walking outside or doing a walking video.
But nope. You just need some decent shoes and a small space to get started.
Small space? How so? Walking in place.
Sound boring? Sure, it can be, but it doesn’t have to be.
I’ve been jogging and strength training for decades. But I’m 64 now and work all day long. I don’t have the time or the hips to continue a running program without pain.
I still strength train and will continue to do so (as should you).
Isn’t Walking For Weight Loss Kind of Lame?
It took me some time to admit that walking wasn’t too sissy. That it could actually be intense enough to keep me fit and losing or maintaining weight.
But once I started using some Youtube videos for fitness walking, I was hooked!
The free ones on Youtube are a great way to get started, but I found over time that investing a small amount of money in some paid downloads or DVDs really made the workouts more fun and varied.
Some of my favorites are:
Yeah, a lot of Jessica Smith, I know! I love her walking workouts, especially because they often add strength training and Hiit, too!
And trust me, these are good no matter your age. Jessica usually has her mom with her as a modifier and you can always follow her if you need to stay lower impact.
Leslie Sansone is also good, but pretty much walking only. You can’t go wrong with either of them, and they both have lots of free Youtube videos you can use as well.
But before you go all gung-ho, let’s get a few things settled first!
Determine Your Goals
Since you’re reading this, you obviously want to lose weight. But what about when you’ve lost the weight you want to lose?
Then your goal might be to maintain your weight, or build some muscle, or more stamina.
Whatever your goal, be sure it’s a S.M.A.R.T. goal. Smart you say? Yes.
S is for Specific
A non-specific goal might be, “I want to lose weight.” Surely you can get more specific than that.
How about, “I would like to lose 15 pounds in 3 months.” Okay, that takes care of the “S” in SMART, and it’s specific, not vague.
A word of warning, however on setting a goal of losing a specific number of pounds.
This can set you up for failure if the magic number never becomes attainable, or can only be attained using drastic, unsustainable methods.
Consequently, I don’t think it’s a wise (or smart!) type of goal.
A better suggestion is something like, “By the end of 3 months, I will be eating 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables daily.“
Or, “I will increase my activity to 30 minutes per day by the end of summer.“
Do you see why these are much better? Even though your overall goal is losing weight, that’s not specific enough.
But the two goals above can get you there without locking you into to a certain number of pounds lost, which you may or may not be able to achieve.
M is for Measurable
Your specific goal needs to be measurable. Meaning you can figure out if you’ve reached your goal or not.
For example: I will walk three times a week for at least 15 minutes.
Did you do it, or didn’t you? Measurable. And don’t forget to track it! Sign up below for a 6-week beginner walking program + a fitness planner/tracker.
A Is For Attainable
Okay, ladies, this is where we have to get real. None of that, “I’ve got to lose 15 pounds in the next two weeks!” nonsense.
Not only this is not attainable unless you cut off your leg or some other drastic thing, it would never be sustainable, either.
So, if you want to use walking for weight loss, an attainable goal might be something like, “I will walk on the treadmill each day after work for 5 minutes.”
Yes, that may be a small goal, but it’s a start, and it’s better than nothing, assuming nothing is what you are doing now.
Not only that, but it’s something you can be successful at, and that, my friend, is key to staying on course.
If you set yourself up for failure right from the start, guess what? You’re almost guaranteed to fail!
But if you are 80% + successful in walking for 5 minutes after work for the first 2 weeks or a month, then and only then can you increase the time, or change the activity in some other way to be more effective.
R Is For Relevant
For your goal to be relevant, it needs to make sense within your overall core values. For example, if one of your core values is lifelong fitness, obviously getting to a healthy weight is relevant.
And if a walking program is what you plan to use to help you get to a healthy weight, then it is relevant!
On the other hand, if you chose a goal of collecting every size of domino available in the world, while eccentric, it doesn’t really fit into the value of lifelong fitness.
T Is For Time-Bound
This one is easy. There needs to be a period of time in which to accomplish this goal. Again, this is one reason using a certain number of pounds lost as your goal is not advisable.
For one, it may be unrealistic (thought it shouldn’t be if you’ve followed the “attainable” part above). But you don’t have as much control over how many pounds you lose as you may think.
So, walking briskly 3 times per week for 20 minutes by the end of summer is a good time-bound goal.
Let’s see if it checks all the boxes:
- Specific? Absolutely.
- Measurable? Sure. You can definitely know if you’ve achieved the goal.
- Attainable? Totally. Given enough time, you can rock this goal.
- Relevant? Yep. It fits into your overall goal of lifelong fitness.
- Time-bound? Yes. You’ve given a specific time-frame for reaching the goal.
Get Some Good Shoes
This doesn’t necessarily mean expensive! You can find good walking shoes in all price ranges.
My go-to walking/workout shoes are Asics Gels and I can almost always find them at a reasonable price on Amazon.
There are many other options as well, some a lot more expensive than the Asics and some less so. You almost assuredly can find something in your price range.
Once you have the good shoes, you can literally do this for zero more dollars if you like.
Assuming you have a computer or some sort of device that can access Youtube, that is. And, of course, a place to walk outside or inside.
Build Up Your Time and Speed Gradually
If you are brand new to walking (for weight loss…you probably walk all the time!), you should definitely plan to build up both your time and speed gradually.
Going all-out is usually a recipe for disaster (and burnout).
Start with 10 minutes or even 5 if you’re an absolute beginner to walking for exercise and fitness.
Do this daily for a week and then add a couple of minutes; 5 or fewer each week. Even if you just add 2 minutes, that’s a good thing.
They key is to not overdo it and just stop.
As for speed, start out at a normal pace that you can keep up for the length of time, and where you can talk normally and not get out of breath.
I’m telling you here, don’t push yourself so hard that you give up and quit.
You want to build up gradually to walking 30 minutes at a brisk pace.
What’s a brisk pace, you ask? It’s one where you can speak in full sentences, but you have to breath through your mouth.
Because this all depends on your fitness level, there’s no exact benchmark to shoot for. You have to do you. But somewhere around 3.5 to 4 miles per hour would be considered brisk.
Translating this into steps depends on your height, stride length and many other factors. But a good rule of thumb for our purposes is around 2000 steps per mile.
This is one reason I enjoy Jessica Smith’s walking DVDs so much. They’re super fun and they’re designed for a set number of miles. Normally each mile takes 13-15 minutes.
I always wear my step counter, which I adore. I wear it all day long to record my steps and doing the DVDs really adds a lot to the total.
Plan Your Schedule
Okay, you’ve decided you’re going to use walking for weight loss as your main way to get and keep the weight off.
You have your shoes, your goal(s), and you understand what brisk walk is.
Now you need a plan and a schedule.
I don’t know about you, but if I don’t schedule my workouts they don’t happen. Partly this is because I’m rather naturally unorganized, so I need help to keep myself on track.
When I first started exercising, I did actually write the time into a schedule so I would accidentally “forget.” Now that I’ve been doing it so long it’s become a habit.
I exercise when I get home from work during the week, and on Saturday and Sunday around 5PM before fixing dinner, etc.
If you’re wondering about a rest day, for me that’s Friday date night!
If your normal day is crammed with activities from morning to night, you’re going to have to move some stuff around and prioritize time for your health. It’s too important to skip.
I believe anyone can find 30-45 minutes each day to invest in their health. And it doesn’t all have to be one solid chunk of time.
You can do this in 3 separate 15-minute sessions.
Add Some Interval Walking
Interval walking is a good way to make your workout more intense and calorie-burning.
But it’s not good just for burning more calories, it’s also a great fitness tool.
Interval workouts are more effective than steady state workouts, as they give you the benefits of longer exercise sessions by utilizing short bursts of intensity, followed by a more leisurely or normal pace.
Here’s a sample 25 minute interval workout:
- 3 minutes: warm up
- 1 minute: fast walk
- 1 minute: regular walk
- 10 minutes: Alternate between fast and regular pace
- 1 minute: fast walk
- 30 seconds: regular walk
- 6 minutes: Alternate between fast and regular pace
- 3 minute cool down
How can you keep going when you don’t always feel like continuing? The first thing is getting clear on your why. This is where knowing your core values is key.
If you are always working toward your values, you can keep going even when you don’t feel like it, even when you think healthy habits suck, even when you want to eat a donut instead of some apple slices!
You can also make this part of your life non-negotiable. Meaning, don’t allow you to negotiate with you!
Like this: You come home and it’s time to go for your walk. But it’s a little late, you’re tired, and you have no idea what you’re making for dinner tonight.
So, you go all, “I’ve walked twice this week already and it won’t hurt me to miss this ONE day!
As I’ve said elsewhere, this is the kiss of death. Because when you let yourself get away with it this one time, trust me on this, you’ll do it again.
You’ll do it until the doing of it becomes the habit!
Next you need to focus on the process and not the results. This means you don’t beat yourself up for not looking like Cindy Crawford after one week of walking, or stepping on the scale and seeing no movement.
It’s the progress, not the perfection you’re going for.
Keep a journal! Sure, you can track your walks and all that, but keeping a journal is even better.
Yeah, I know you barely have time just to walk, but trust me on this one. I resisted the heck out of this, and now I’m so glad I have a few journals to look back on and see progress.
Don’t underestimate the power of writing stuff down!
I can almost guarantee that if you track your progress, and even your setbacks, you will move forward. There’s something about seeing where you’ve been and how you’ve grown that is almost intoxicating.
It can really keep you going, especially when your resolve is wavering!
To wrap this up, let’s recap. To use walking for weight loss, you need to determine your goals, making sure they’re SMART.
You need some good shoes, then gradually build up your time and speed.
Next you need a plan, and a place to write it down (or keep it in a digital planner or calendar).
Finally, you need to find ways to stay motivated.
You CAN do this. I know you can.
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