Walk into weight loss

February 1, 2017 Providence Health Team

Walking is such an elemental feature of our daily lives that it’s easy to forget that it counts as exercise. “I’m going to walk more” is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions, and it’s also one of the easiest resolutions to keep. What could be simpler putting one foot in front of the other?

There are multiple health benefits to walking. Some people walk to stay limber. Others walk to oxygenate their cells and pump up their heart muscles. But it’s fair to say that many people who take up recreational walking do so in the hope of seeing some extra calories fall by the wayside.

Walking is one of the most accessible forms of physical activity for people of every age and athletic ability. It doesn’t require any special equipment other than shoes, and you can do it even if you rarely get far from your desk or your car. As such, it’s an ideal calorie burner.

If you’re one of those folks who want to walk into weight loss, here are five quick tips to make your walks more enjoyable and effective.

  1. Brisk is better. One of the basic rules of weight loss is that calories “out” need to offset the calories “in.” Any amount of walking burns calories, but if you go quicker you’ll burn more. Brisk walking has other benefits as well: A study done at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkley, Calif., found that walking briskly can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as running can. If low-intensity walking is your primary source of exercise, you may have to devote more attention to eating fewer calories to lose weight than you would if your walks were vigorous.
  2. Walking is exploring. Walks around your block might get a little boring after a while if you follow the same sidewalk every day. You’ll maintain greater motivation if you mix up your route. Treat your daily steps like a safari. If you head left on Monday, head right on Tuesday. You’ll have a greater appreciation for how interesting your neighborhood is once you see more of it at eye-level instead of through the windshield. For optimal people-watching, try taking laps inside your local mall.
  3. Make walking the way you do your to-do list. Running errands – or walking them – on foot is a fantastic way to take a significant number of steps. Figure out which of your regular stops can be reached in a 30-minute to 45-minute round trip from your home or office. Walk your mail to a public mailbox. If the grocery store is too far away from your home, see if there’s a shopping center within range after you leave work. Bring reusable bags or a backpack, and buy just the amount you can comfortably carry.
  4. Walking off stress burns calories as a bonus. Walking is a great stress reliever, and the less stress you’re under, the easier it is to lose weight. You likely have several opportunities throughout the day to make a quick walk an antidote to stressful situations. After heading off a crisis, or if a last-minute project gets dropped on your desk, put your adrenaline to good use by stepping out to climb some stairs with a coworker. If something comes up that’s going to keep you from your scheduled walk during lunch hour, substitute two or three 10-15 minute walks during the day instead.
  5. Good form maximizes the burn. Every step counts, but you’ll burn more calories when you use proper power-walking technique. Keep your chin up, and focus your gaze on the terrain about 10 feet in front of you. It’s easier to take long strides that way, and it keeps your neck and back in alignment. Clench your abs to help bring your lower back into proper position. Tighten your buttocks and swing your arms to bring added momentum to each stride.

Your weight-loss goals are within walking distance. Put your feet on the path to a slimmer, fitter you.

If you’d like to make more healthy changes to improve your health, talk to your health care provider. You can find a Providence provider in our multistate directory.

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