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“Walking is a man’s best medicine.” –Hippocrates
What if I told you that losing weight could be as easy as lacing up your sneakers and walking out the front door?
No running. No cardio. Just good ole fashion walking.
I imagine you would be skeptical at the very least. After all, most people have bought into the “No Pain. No Gain.” philosophy.
That you have to suffer to “earn” your weight loss. That you need to do long cardio sessions. That you have to sweat it out, get sore, and be miserable while doing it. That you need to make drastic changes all at once, otherwise it just won’t work.”
Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not the case.
But first let me say if running, biking, or kick boxing is your thing, then by all means continue to do it. However, you shouldn’t overlook the benefits of walking for weight loss. You might be surprised at how quickly the weight starts to fall off.
My walking for weight loss story.
I suppose everyone has their own “how I got out of shape” story to tell. Some are about overindulgence, while others may be about self-destruction or deflection, or maybe just getting caught up in the busy-ness of life. My story falls somewhere in the middle of all of those.
The week before I was starting my freshman year of college I experienced a personal tragedy. My cousin, who was like a brother and best friend rolled into one, was killed in a car wreck. We buried him on Saturday and I moved into my freshman dorm on Sunday. Needless to say, college isn’t a place where you can grieve properly or really at all.
By the time I graduated, I had put on 30 pounds or so and my weight was at an all time high of 150 pounds–which was a lot for my small 5’3″ frame.
I moved back in with my parents after graduation and worked as a campaign secretary for our local State Representative.
In my spare time I started walking. Most days I would do a 3 mile loop and some days I would fit in a walk before and after work for a total of 6 miles.
During this time I was still eating my mama’s Southern style cooking, yet the weight was falling off. I was dropping weight so quickly and so easily that I started thinking I had a thyroid problem. I had it checked a couple of times over the next year only to find out my thyroid was fine and dandy. Apparently my metabolism had picked up and was back to where it had been prior to starting college.
20+ Years and 2 kids Later…
It’s been over 20 years now since I lost 50 pounds and I’ve been able to keep the weight off even after having two kids in my mid 30s. I eat healthy 80-90% of the time, lift weights 2-3 days per week, and walk my dog several times each week.
Even Strength & Conditioning Coaches Tout the Benefits of Walking Over Cardio.
While I was doing the Get Glutes weightlifting program a couple of years ago, Coach Bret Contreras suggested I walk instead of do other forms of cardio. He firmly believes that higher intensity cardio derails a good diet plan by substantially increasing hunger.
And I happen to agree. Whenever I have tried adding cardio back into my workout routine, I stayed ravenously hungry and lacked all self-control when it came to curbing my cravings and the amount of food I ate.
The facts to back up the anecdotal evidence of walking for weight loss.
Health Benefits of Walking
According to studies done by the Mayo clinic walking can lower your risk of:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Heart Disease
- Promotes weight loss
- Improves back pain related to sitting
- Improves balance and coordination
- Strengthens bones and muscles
- Improves alertness and creativity
- Improves mood
- Is easy on your joints
- Doesn’t take any special equipment
- Has less risk of injury compared to other types of cardio
- Doesn’t cause extreme hunger like other types of cardio
- Can be done anywhere
- Can be broken down into small segments while getting the same results as a longer walk
Heart Benefits from walking are equivalent to running.
According to a study done by the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory in Berkley, California, “walking briskly can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as running.”
According to Harvard Medical School walking helps protect against:
- Peripheral artery disease
- Colon cancer
- Erectile dysfunction
- Vascular stiffness and inflammation
How to incorporate more walking into your day to make it a life long habit:
- Take your dog for a walk
- Make your walk part of your social hour by including family and friends
- Walk during your child’s after school activities
- Park farther away from the store
- Take the stairs
- Buy a raincoat or find an indoor area to walk on inclement days
- Use an iPod or iPhone app to listen to music or books
- When feeling tired or drained at work, go for a quick walk to get the blood flowing instead of reaching for caffeine
- On the days you’re tired, promise yourself you’ll walk for at least 15 minutes before calling it quits
- Schedule trips to venues like open air markets and festivals where walking is a must
- Get groups together for urban hikes during the week and longer mountain hikes on the weekends
Are you a couch potato who hasn’t worked out in years?
No problem. Walking is the best activity to getting back to a more active lifestyle.
- Start out with short distances that you know you can handle.
- Keep an eye on the clock and note how long you are gone along with the approximate distance.
- Each day try to add in extra steps or try to walk the same distance but at a faster rate than the day before.
Either method will ensure you are constantly making progress toward your weight loss goal and also having a healthier heart.
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