When you think of an intense cardio workout, do you imagine someone pushing their body to the limit in a sweaty, agonizing activity? If so, you might wonder how you fit that situation. You know you want to lose weight and change your lifestyle, but the intimidation you feel at beach-body classes and high-intensity interval trainings can cripple you.
For an easier and simpler start to your weight-loss journey, consider walking. While it may seem basic, walking packs a powerful punch. Before you assume walking won’t help you, learn a bit more about this cardio underdog.
Make Walking Work for You
Intensity represents an important part of weight loss. Walking offers a simple yet effective way to get that intensity. In fact, a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that women who walked four or more hours a week had a 44% greater chance of losing weight than women who didn’t walk, regardless of other activity.
To maximize your walking efforts, learn about how progress, speed, and diet can alter your results.
Simply walk at comfortable pace when you first start. Avoid feeling too overwhelmed or intimidated as you try to meet a certain standard. This intimidation can deter you from walking at all.
A good starting point is a 20-minute walk, three days a week. As you grow more comfortable and confident, work up to walking for 30 minutes, five days a week.
Increase Your Intensity
Once you’ve mastered a schedule and routine that works for you, focus on increasing the intensity. You want to balance distance and time with your heart rate. This balance plays a vital role in weight loss—increased intensity encourages greater fat-burning hormones.
To see the benefits of higher-intensity walking, look to a University of Virginia study. Research showed that when two people walk at different paces but burn the same number of calories, the person with the faster pace loses more fat and inches. Three fast walks and two moderate walks can help you lose five times as much belly fat as people who simply walk moderately five times a week.
Additionally, more aggressive walking removes more visceral fat, which is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. The increased intensity nearly doubles after-burn as well. So even when you finish your workout, your body will go on burning calories during recovery at a higher rate.
With all these benefits, it makes sense that you want to avoid a leisurely stroll. Instead, opt for a 30-minute power walk, three times a week. However, don’t push yourself so hard you gasp for air.
You should feel comfortable enough to say simple and short sentences during your power walk, but you might opt to concentrate on your breathing instead. If necessary, take breaks—but strive to hit 30 minutes of intense walking despite these breaks.
You can also increase intensity by trying different terrains and elevations. Walking outside offers hills and a variety of walking surfaces. You can find dirt, gravel, snow, and grass to alter your walk’s difficulty. If you prefer the gym, switch up the incline. But avoid clinging to the machine as you do this. Pumping your arms helps increase speed and burns more calories.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Even with daily exercise, most people need to combine increased activity with improved eating. An average 30-minute stroll burns around 150 to 240 calories. To lose around a pound a week, an individual should eliminate about 500 calories per day.
Read through our previous articles to learn about diet myths, Whole30, superfoods, and more. You can choose from variety of approaches to a healthy diet, so find one that works for your lifestyle.
Commit with Helpful Tips
Sometimes the hardest part of a life change is getting started, but other times it’s staying on track. If you often struggle to stay committed, read through our tips to motivate you to consistently get moving.
Invest in a Pedometer
This handy tool helps you keep track of your steps during your walk and throughout the day. With these stats, you can make a game out of your daily activity. Compete with yourself or with friends to increase your steps each day.
Find a Walking Buddy
A friend or family member can provide company and encourage you to keep your commitments. A mutual goal will motivate you when you want to sleep in instead of getting out of bed for an early morning jaunt.
Walk in a Race
Races offer a sense of community and accomplishment that makes them more fulfilling than your daily walk. In fact, a number of individuals work up to walking half and full marathons. You can also find a race for a cause you care about to make the experience even more meaningful.
Consider walking's flexible approach whether you want to change your classic cardio session or you need a place to start in your fitness journey. Over time and with commitment, you can reach your long- and short-term goals for a healthier you.