If you’re striving to lose weight, one of the simplest exercises on the planet, requiring no gym apparatus whatsoever, can help you to achieve results. Human beings are designed to walk and the fact that the weather’s cold, or you have a car, is no excuse not to walk!
Medical experts recommend that we walk at least five miles per day, equating to around 10,000 steps. Unfortunately, according to surveys, many people struggle to manage even half that distance.
Walking is a great way to help you lose weight, plus it improves not only your physical health, but also your mental health too. According to the UK organisation Walking for Health, around 50% of adults don’t walk enough. Yet this can put them at a higher risk of developing serious illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Walking for Health promotes around 400 healthy walking schemes in the UK, encouraging people to adopt a more active lifestyle. This will also improve the mental well-being of participants, as walking enhances self-esteem, improves sleep quality and reduces stress.
Studies have shown physically active people suffer less anxiety and fatigue and are up to 30% less likely to feel depressed. As well as losing weight, walking will also help you emotionally and it can improve cognitive function among older people.
Modern fitness devices can help you keep track of the number of steps you walk every day and it can be easier than you think to hit your target of 10,000. Walking every day will burn calories without leaving you feeling exhausted.
If you walk the recommended five miles per day, you can lose a considerable amount of weight over a period of time. Did you know you can burn an extra 100 calories by walking only one more mile per day than usual? If you did this every day, you would burn an additional 700 calories a week.
For anyone wondering if you can lose weight just from walking, the answer is yes, you certainly can! It’s a simple exercise and one that you can do even if you don’t feel fit enough to go to a gym, or if you’ve suffered an injury that prevents you doing a full workout. You can burn calories and enjoy your surroundings much more than when you’re just rushing past in a car.
There’s a difference between the total calories you burn – known as gross calories – and net calories. Your body burns calories just by existing and carrying out your normal day-to-day functions. The gross calories are the ones burned by your usual activities, plus the additional calories used through walking. The net calories are those extra ones that you burn thanks to exercising.
Unlike running, walking is low impact, so it won’t damage your joints even if you’re overweight, as there are no impact issues as your feet hit the pavement. Anyone, of any weight or build, can walk for exercise because it’s a natural function of the human body.
Walking can still burn fat because it’s low intensity: your body doesn’t need to draw energy from its glucose and glycogen stores to fuel itself, as it does with aerobics or high intensity cardio exercise. If you walk in the morning before eating breakfast, it will burn extra fat.
Walking can actually change your life. If you’re severely overweight and can’t do any other type of training, you can walk.
Different types of walking
There are various types of walking which have different effects on your body. Although plain walking is good for burning calories, it can also be beneficial to incorporate strength training into your routine. Tone your arms and upper body by swinging your arms as you walk, or by using a pair of walking poles.
Carrying light hand weights as you walk will help you to burn more calories, but don’t use weights heavier than 3lb in each hand, or you can risk injuring your shoulders or upper chest muscles.
As your fitness improves, try picking up the pace to burn more calories. You can also try alternating walking with jogging or even sprinting in an interval workout.
Alternatively, for a combination strength and cardio move, try lunge walking: take one long step forward as you lower slowly into a lunge, not letting your knee go over your toes. Then, straighten up slowly and repeat the action with the other foot. Repeat this motion as required.
Even top athletes are advocates for walking, such as tennis icon Martina Navratilova. The nine-times Wimbledon champion suggests, in an article for the American Association of Retired Persons, to stroll three times a week for 20 minutes. Gradually increase the time to 30 minutes per walk and then add extra sessions. The goal is to walk for 45 minutes, five times a week.
Whatever type of walking you choose, set yourself a goal and stick to it. Once you start seeing the results, you will feel more enthused and weight loss won’t feel like a chore.
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