One of our customers recently asked us: "I go every day but I don't lose – why?"
Like almost anything, walking can be a wonderful weight loss exercise, but only if done correctly. In fact, we're big fans of walking at motivation as we've seen a lot of clients get great results with it – mostly because people enjoy it and research proves that when you enjoy it, keeping it up is key is. In this context, read our “10 reasons to enjoy walking this fall” here.
When does walking not work so well?
However, if someone runs every day and doesn't see results, they are simply not burning enough calories (or they are ingesting too many calories from food). Some of us hear that 30 minutes of walking a day is ideal. This is certainly true of the science of longevity and heart health, but we need to remember that this is the minimum required and that these numbers don't specifically relate to weight loss – they relate to general health.
When it comes to shedding pounds, it's important to know that this amount is only around 3,000 to 5,000 steps a day (depending on how fast you walk, which is also crucial for burning calories – more on that later). If you are motivated, we recommend taking at least 10,000 steps every day (that's roughly eight kilometers or five miles). And some customers seem to do particularly well if they regularly achieve something above this (aiming to take around 12,000 steps a day). Read Diabetes Ireland Advice – Exercise Is So Important.
Walking speed counts
Try borrowing or even buying a heart rate monitor. Unless you get your heart rate to at least 70 percent of its maximum for 30 minutes or more, the scale is unlikely to move much at all. This means that you are walking very briskly, swinging your arms and drifting forward, as opposed to "strolling" when you are trying to send a text on your phone.
What you want to get is roughly three miles or more in an hour (or higher). If you're on a treadmill and your heart rate is still below 70 percent, increase the speed or place the treadmill on an incline. In terms of the time it takes, walking at a speed of five km / h (three km / h) would take approximately 1 hour and 35 minutes to complete the daily number of steps. As you walk more vigorously, this can be reduced to around 1 hour and 15 minutes.
A question of time
Many people do not have this time. Alternatives to this would be to shorten the time but increase the intensity – for example by walking faster or going uphill. Others prefer a jog in half the time, but it's not for everyone. I change things myself, which is a great way to challenge the body too. So I do mountain hikes that last 45 minutes, maybe twice a week, interspersed with two longer walks of over an hour and, if things are going really well, a Pilates or strength training class on the weekend. Turn it on to get your body to build muscle and burn calories.
Look at your food
An hour of brisk walking immerses your body in its fat stores for energy. However, it is very easy to overstuff those calories with a post-workout snack. A typical full size energy bar has 300 calories, or roughly your expected calorie consumption for an hour's walk. Don't use your running training to eat more calories. Remember, in order to lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit. When we first start exercising, we may experience increased hunger or a feeling that we deserve a reward for eating. So try to avoid this. You have to be honest with yourself about how much you really eat. The best way to do this is to record everything you eat in your daily journal and then discuss this with your weight loss motivational advisor so they can help you make positive changes.
To learn more about the reasons you might not lose weight, check out our 6 Reasons You Shouldn't Lose Weight blog here.
To make sure you are running enough to support your weight loss, download our workout log and find more advice on walking for weight loss here.