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Getting in Step with Weight Loss

As children, one of the first exercises we learned how to do was walking.  While it may seem like an elementary form of exercise, walking can do wonders for the heart, the circulatory system, and our legs.  Walking can also be instrumental in helping individuals to lose weight.

Medical experts say the important thing to keep in mind when starting a walking program is distance rather than time.  In essence, it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to complete a mile—the important thing is to do it.    If you hope to burn off two pounds a week, you will need to walk enough to burn about 3500 calories.   If you weigh 160 pounds and you are walking at a rate of two miles per hour, you can burn as many as 105 calories.

A helpful technique when beginning a walking program is to build up your leg muscles so that you are able to burn additional calories.  If you can, try to race-walk.  Your goal should be to finish a mile in 13 minutes.  Another technique you can use is by adding weights to your walking routine.  For instance, you can pack eight pound weights into a backpack and wear it as you walk.

Ultimately, you might want to work up to the point where you are walking at least six hours a week.  In addition to helping you to shed pounds, this will enable you to combat such diseases as diabetes and cancer.  You should feel healthier—and perhaps happier—as a result of your walking.

At this point, you might be wondering whether to do your walking outdoors or on a treadmill at a gym.  The choice is really up to you.  It depends largely on what makes you more comfortable.  Some people enjoy being out of doors—they like looking at the trees and the flowers as they move along.  Others find that the traffic and animals found outdoors can be too distracting.  Also, many people find it difficult to walk in the rain or snow.   Some individuals like the discipline offered by a treadmill, while others find it boring and confining.    One advantage to a treadmill is that it allows you to keep track of the number of miles you logged, as well as your speed.  That can be valuable information when you’re attempting to chart your progress.

Of course, it’s best if you couple walking with a sound diet plan.  You should attempt to consume at least five servings a day of fruits and vegetables.  Limit your intake of high-fat foods and sweets.  Sensible eating will also enable you to maintain your weight over the long term.

When you set out to walk, make sure that you begin with some stretching exercises.  These can help prepare your muscles for your workout.   In addition, begin your walk with a five or ten-minute warm up period.  The rest of your walk should be brisk—you should be walking at a pace similar to what you would use if you were late getting to work.  You should continue this pace for approximately 30 minutes, then begin a cool-down period where you walk at a more moderate pace.  Following this regimen should ensure that you get the most out of your walking.

One of the best aspects of walking is that it is an activity that nearly any able-bodied person can do.  It does not require special equipment or special training.  It is important, however, that you remain committed to walking.  Doing it for just one or two days a week is probably not enough to make an appreciable difference in your weight.  Rather, you should aim to do a brisk walk at least six days a week.  Once you get into the habit of walking, you should find it relatively easy to continue.  It’s something that can quickly become part of your morning routine.  In fact, some experts recommend that you do your walking in the morning to ensure that your metabolism is elevated throughout your day.  Walking late at night will not have the same effect; it will do little to raise your daily metabolism.

So – get walking!


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