walking for weight loss

Walking For Weight Loss [The Ultimate Guide]

Modern life is killing us! That’s a big statement I know, but the truth is perhaps, not so far away?

Developments in modern medicine, surgery, drug interventions, and gene therapy are perhaps, keeping some of us alive far longer than would have been possible just a few short years ago. Life expectancy in the developed world is rising, and continues to rise year on year.

But are we getting healthier? The answer, if statistics are anything to go by is a resounding NO. Obesity levels are higher than ever before. Lifestyle induced diabetes levels continue to climb. Almost everyone knows, or is related to someone who is affected by cancer. Heart attacks continue to plague more people, killing many, but modern medical interventions, such as defibrillators in supermarkets, on emergency medical vehicles, clot busting drugs, stents to open up narrowed arteries to allow blood to flow again. These are the things that are helping us to live longer.

We are not doing it for ourselves. We are outsourcing our lives to others, hoping that popping a pill will keep us from death, taking statins will keep our cholesterol in check, that we will have enough funds to spend the last years of our lives graciously rotting in a nursing home. Lucky us!

Of course people get sick, however healthy and active a lifestyle they lead. Sometimes life just deals us a curve ball, or the grim reaper comes too early. Things happen, but my belief is that we have to take control of our own destinies as far as we can. We must be self reliant. Who wouldn’t want to live into old age being fit, strong, active, vibrant, and to enjoy our older years as free living, independent people?

walking for weight loss


What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals”
Henry David Thoreau
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I know I would. In fact, I’m so terrified of the prospect of being shipped off to a nursing home, that I decided a number of years ago to make EVERY effort I could to prevent that from happening to me.

So, what can you do? How can YOU avoid poor health, senility, spending your last few years vegetating in a care home, almost praying for death to release you from that sorry existence? I don’t have all the answers, no-one does, but this article is a step in the right direction, a step that we all can take to improve our chances in a world where almost no-one is taking responsibility for their own well-being.

Don’t be one of those people. PLEASE! Let’s work together to make some small, but significant changes to our lives, changes that will have a profound affect on your life long into the future. Changes that will affect all those around you who love you, and who you love right back. I know this sounds all emotional and soppy, but we all deserve to be around on this wonderful planet for as long as possible, and to share our lives, our stories, our trials and tribulations, with those we care for, and those we forge long term, and even fleeting connections with.

This article is about walking. More specifically, it is a article about walking for weight loss. An article about utilizing the most primal human movement pattern to improve your body composition and your health. When I talk about weight loss, I’m really talking about fat loss. If you are obese, carrying surplus fat around your mid-section, then when you lose fat, you are almost certainly going to lose ‘scale weight’ too. But it is the fat loss that IS the important focus, the metric that is going to leave you looking awesome, but also being much less susceptible to many of the diseases of modern lifestyle.

WHY WALKING FOR WEIGHT LOSS?

why walk to lose weight?

“Walking? Surely that in itself can’t be a practical way to lose weight?”

“Surely I should run, cycle, hit the gym if I want to lose weight effective?”

“Isn’t proper exercise the best thing for weight loss?”

“Walking just can’t burn enough calories to be a viable way to lose weight!”

These are questions and exclamations I hear all the time. This article is going to address them, and leave you in absolutely no doubt whether walking to lose weight can work for YOU.

Unfortunately, this article is not a quick fix. It’s not going to feed you all manner of ‘feel good’ advice that just plain won’t work. I’m not going to tell you that just walking for 10 minutes every day is going to be the golden bullet that solves your over-eating and ‘under-moving’ (not a real word I hasten to add). If you're not losing weight, there can be many causes. Walking could help, but it's likely not the only thing you need to do.

I’m not going to give you a subtitle that goes something like this:

Walk Your Weight Off In Just 6 Weeks Without Dieting, You Can Even Eat Your Favorite Foods!

Sure, you can lose some weight with walking. Sure, you don’t have to ‘diet’, providing you are eating at body weight maintenance calorie levels all the time (do you know if you are?). Yes, perhaps you can even enjoy ‘some’ of your favorite foods ‘on occasions’

But what this title is trying to tell you is that walking for weight loss is going to be simple, super effective, no need to make any other lifestyle changes to look incredible and recapture your youthful former figure.

Well, that’s how I read it...

And it just isn’t true. Walking as a method of managing your weight definitely CAN work, but it’s still going to be challenging, no WALK IN THE PARK, so to speak.

Well, there’s the negative side of the article, it’s all uphill from here (OMG, the puns are coming in thick and fast, I must cease immediately)

Sorry, I wasn’t trying to put you off the wonderful benefits of walking. There are plenty, and we will be discussing them very soon. Stick around, by the time you’ve finished reading this article, you are going to feel as excited and positive about the benefits of walking as I am.

The Aim Of This Article

My intention when writing this article, as with my other articles, is to be as inclusive as possible, allowing many people to benefit from my ideas, if they choose to do so.

My whole-hearted intention with this article is to help people to get more active, love it rather than loathe it, and to demonstrate in a clear, understandable, step by step way, that improving your body shape, your health, and your life in general, does not need to be that hard.

I am offering THREE walking plans in this article, to take you from a total novice, aiming for 30 minutes walking a day after 12 weeks, through to an intermediate level walker, with a program that takes you to an hour of walking per day.

If you love it, feel incredible, and want to aim higher still, then the 10,000 steps per day training blueprint will serve you well. 10,000 steps a day, or around 5 miles of walking, is the ballpark figure that many health professionals consider the appropriate level of activity for good health. You might like to do some other activities, such as weight lifting, cycling, swimming etc, but getting to 10,000 steps a day is a real milestone, so go for it!

I’m going to be providing the walking plans with a step estimate, so if you want to, you can start immediately with the 10,000 steps a day target in mind.

Oh, one more thing about 10,000 steps. The ethos I am going to be promoting is that your step walking targets are based on a planned, dedicated walking session. Sure, some may suggest you just wear a pedometer or other step counter all day, but to me, racking up steps by walking to the bathroom, or walking from the kitchen table to the sink really doesn’t instill the ideal of increased activity.

Counting things you do every day towards your target just seems a little slack. If you walk to work, walk into town, sure! But wandering aimlessly around your house and saying, “Geez, I am such an active bunny” is not conducive with concerted lifestyle change.

Who This Article Is For?

This is going to be a super short section. This article is for anyone and EVERYONE. We could all benefit from walking more, whether for weight loss, general health and fitness, to maintain our balance as we age, to relieve some stress, to focus on creativity, to share time with others, to set good examples for our children, the list could go on and on.

This articel will explain why walking is GREAT, what its limitations are when walking to lose weight, how to work with those limitations and to get the maximal returns on your time investment.

Walking IS Good And Worthwhile And Effective And Health Promoting.

What Is In This Article?

As usual, I went well over my initial word count estimate for this article. I set out what needs to be included, but as I go, the subject matter seems to expand. I’m always thinking,”What could I add to make this article even more useful and valuable to the reader?” This article is no different. I’ve covered a lot, including:

  • Why choose walking – a stack of good reasons why walking is a winner.
  • Benefits of walking – physical, mental, lifestyle benefits, there are a lot.
  • Where to walk – a discussion on outdoor AND indoor walking.
  • Equipment requirements – from no equipment to clothing, hydration, pedometers and more.
  • Walking technique – how to walk efficiently and reduce injury risk.
  • Walking for weight loss – the why, the how, and the how much. Your weight loss worries answered.
  • Stepping it up a gear – how to increase the intensity of your walks for greater fat loss and improved fitness.
  • Developing a walking habit – any lifestyle change takes time to become ingrained. We’ll discuss how to improve your chances of success.
  • Setting goals – how to maximize your results with some simple, effective, goal setting.
  • THREE walking plans – including how to reach 10,000 steps a day.
  • Onwards and upwards –  walking with others. Joining a walking club, starting your own club. A list of national walking clubs and associations.

That little lot should keep you occupied for 90 minutes or so, I am sure you will be really happy with the content of this article. If there is anything you think is missing, could be expanded on, or would be great in an update, drop me an email, my contact details can be found at the end of the article.

But who the hell am I to tell you what to do?

Who Is This Stephen Reed Character?

That’d be me! And I am not surprised that you want to know who I am, and what credentials I have to be telling you what to do with your life. After all, the bookshelves, both digital and ‘real’ are full of authors who appear to have no real credentials or background to be telling you what they are telling you.

Credentials aren’t everything. There are plenty of well qualified people who are next to useless when it comes to educating, motivating, and empowering their audience. Hopefully I’m not one of them.

Ok, so where to start? I’m a 46 year old personal trainer and nutrition coach, living in a beautiful part of England. I’ve done a few things in my time. Spent 17 years or so in the British fire service, moved to Australia, worked for the Police and the Parks & Wildlife Service (not at the same time), got really interested in fitness, nutrition and health, moved back to the UK in 2010, and set up a training and online coaching business to do my utmost to help people to become fitter, healthier, more in tune with their bodies, and motivated to become more active. I really want to make people smile, wake up with a zest for life rather than a feeling of dread for the day ahead. If I can play some small part in improving lives, I’m ready to go!!!

I’ve had a lot of success, with some really awesome TESTIMONIALS over on this website. I like to keep things simple, I’m not the sort of fitness trainer who has people performing all sorts of strange exercises just to make myself look knowledgeable and cool.

I firmly believe in keeping things simple, doing what works, dropping or modifying what doesn’t, and getting incredible results with the minimum of time investment for my clients. Sounds like a good plan to me, what do you think?

So let us get started, and what better place to begin this bipedal journey to improved health and fitness than at the beginning. With so many options and workout routines offered to us, all promising to improve our health, wellbeing, and waistlines, why on earth would we choose something as simple as walking?

Let’s find out …

SECTION 1: WHY CHOOSE WALKING TO LOSE WEIGHT?

why walk to lose weight?

“Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground” – Theodore Roosevelt

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What a question … Why choose walking? Well, I could certainly turn the question around and ask, “Why Not?” That might not be enough to convince you that walking is a viable option for shedding some weight and improving your health, so I need to flush it out a bit, provide  some real reasons that will help to convince you that you should, at the very least, include walking in your weekly activity program.

This section will provide some background into why walking is a good choice for health. It seems so simple, yet the benefits are vast. If you are someone who is not a gym rat, finds those types of places uncomfortable, or you are just starting to get active again, then walking, as a daily activity, is a great place to start to develop, what I like to call a ‘movement mindset’. Just getting moving more often than you currently do will make you want to move more, I promise.

Walking has some great benefits in terms of health, but to start with, let’s just take a look at some of the more obvious reasons to walk for health and weight loss.

The Evolutionary Perspective

Photo credit: Courtesy of Scientific American

Human beings are designed to walk. We have, through millions of years of evolutionary pressure, a need to adapt to our environment and to allow us to pursue food sources, risen from a quadrupedal movement pattern (walking on all fours) to a knuckle walking mode of movement (like apes and chimps), to a bipedal form of locomotion, as modern humans do (at least most of us). It’s a very natural way for us to move, and it allows us (as it allowed ancient man), to cover long distances effectively, using the minimum amount of energy to do so.

I’ve been walking since I was 11 months old or so, it’s not something I have to think about too much these days. It just sort of comes naturally. And so it should. I’m a fair bit better at it these days than I was back then, but most of us still learned to do it without too much fuss.

With this in mind, it brings me on to the next great reason why walking for health, fitness, and even to lose weight, is a pretty cool and sensible activity to consider.

Reduced Risk Of Injury

walking related injuries

Walking is pretty safe, banana skins considered!

When compared to other forms of physical activity, and by this I mean planned exercise, walking is pretty safe. It’s certainly possible to trip, slip, fall, turn an ankle over, fall over a 300 ft precipice and expire, get hit by a juggernaut or lightning bolt, but for the most part, it’s a safe, moderately risk free way to get about. If it wasn’t, human beings would have died out a long time ago.

The risk of injury to regular walkers is super low, when compared to running for example. Running carries a lot more risk, not because it is inherently more dangerous, but because most people don’t know how to run with good form. The natural running technique you had as a kid has been replaced by heel striking, cushioned shoes, arch support that acts like a crutch, pronation control, supination control, shortened achilles tendons from years of wearing shoes, chronic endurance training, and all manner of other factors that can make running a potential threat to your health and wellbeing.

Did you know that the chances of physical injury for runners is as high as 70% per year This means 70% of those who run on a regular basis are likely to suffer some form of injury EVERY year. How crazy is that?

This study, although somewhat limited stated the following:

“… it appears that for the average recreational runner, who is steadily training and who participates in a long distance run every now and then, the overall yearly incidence rate for running injuries varies between 37 and 56%”.

Running injuries. A review of the epidemiological literature.

HTTP://WWW.NCBI.NLM.NIH.GOV/PUBMED/1439399

Walking on the other hand, carries far lower risks, certainly of the muscular and skeletal injuries that runners experience. Walking is a relatively safe pastime. Injuries could include sprained ankles, blisters, potential injury from overloading the backpack, but if you follow the guidelines in this article, you will be enjoying one of the safest forms of exercise there is.

Little To No Cost Involved In Walking

If the idea of NOT hurting yourself appeals to you (as it certainly should), how about the low cost of walking. In fact, it can be totally free, unless, like me, you are a gadget geek who likes to record, track, analyze etc. Walking requires nothing more than some appropriate clothing, some suitable footwear, an eye on the weather, a safe route to walk, and a desire to do it.

We’ll be talking about some of the walking accessories you can consider if you really get into it, but for starters, and the premise which this article is based on, is that you don’t NEED much in the way of equipment to get walking.

One thing that hopefully you can find for free, and don’t have to pay for, is a friend or two. Walking is great to do alone, you can daydream, plan your future, enjoy the countryside, the city skyline, or listen to your favorite tunes. But when you have a best buddy or two to walk with, it takes on a whole new dimension.

Walking Can Be A Social Event

friends walking

Friendship, sharing experiences, helping one another, talking through life’s challenges, putting the world to rights. Not easy things to do on your own, but with friends, acquaintances, walking partners, walking becomes even more fun.

I love to walk alone sometimes, time to think, to consider my deepest thoughts. But I LOVE to walk with other people too. To chat, laugh, enjoy playful banter with others is what makes life so rich and enjoyable.

Towards the end of this article, I’ll be discussing joining a walking group, forming your own, or considering one of the many national walking groups and Ramblers Associations that are available around the world. They take walking to a new level, are well organized, often free, and a great way to make new friends.

Enough on the social side of walking for now, but suffice to say, it is one of the true pleasures in life. And don’t forget to take ‘man’s best friend’ if you have one.

There Is No Age Restriction On Walking

old couple walking

Walking is a great form of exercise for any age, well almost. It obviously excludes young children who have not learned to walk yet, and I’ll cover this later in the ‘stroller walking’ section.  Kids can come too!

Whether you are five, fifteen, fifty-five, or ninety seven years old, as long as you are able to walk, then walking will do you good. I remember, as a child, my parents taking me on long walks across the fields and into the countryside. Oh, how I hated it! My feet ached, it seemed so boring, getting home took so long.

I guess I was perhaps a typical child, unappreciative of the wonders of the great outdoors, fresh air, and the flora and fauna of our area. Some kids probably love it, but in the 21st century, getting out for a walk as a family seems like a distant pastime of yesteryear.

As parents, building a walking habit for our children as well as ourselves is a legacy we must try to leave. Making walking and movement fun, and something to be cherished rather than despised, could make a real difference to the health outcomes of future generations.

Choosing walking as a part of your lifestyle, as you transition from childhood, into adulthood, into middle age, and then into your twilight years, is a gift you owe yourself. And by making walking a habit, you may well find you live not only a richer life, but a longer one too.

There are, not surprisingly, some quite incredible benefits to those who develop a walking habit. The next section well take a look at how walking could improve your health, both physically and mentally, and perhaps, even reduce the risk of many of the lifestyle diseases we fear the most.

SECTION 2: BENEFITS OF WALKING

couple walking

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible” – Tony Robbins

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The benefits or walking are plentiful. We all know it deep down, we’ve heard it, or read about it in the media, but it wasn’t until I started to do some pretty deep research for this article, that I realized just how important walking was for health.

This article is an article about walking to lose weight, improve health and fitness, but I am convinced that we should all be taking a holistic approach to our health, as well as our waistlines. Health, longevity and body composition all appear to be inextricably linked, so aiming for improvements in all areas makes sense, and improvements in one area will often provide crossover benefits in other areas of your life.

I’m going to break down the benefits of walking in just a few minutes, but let’s just step back and get a quick overview on why walking is just such a great activity to do.

  • As Inclusive As It Gets – Unless you genuinely have an illness or disability that prevents you from walking, it is one of the most inclusive activities there is. Almost everyone can walk, there really are few good excuses for avoiding it. Time, kids, work, can’t be bothered? These are all excuses that can be overcome, you might even find you enjoy better relationships, and a new found momentum in your working life, just by walking a few miles a week.
  • No Equipment Required – Other than prosthetic legs for those with genuine reasons for not walking, or perhaps a wheelchair, walking is an equipment free activity. It doesn’t get much freer than this.You have legs? Yes? You see the ground beneath you? Just put one foot in front of the other and a walking you shall go.
  • A Foundational Aspect Of Good Health – Walking helps improve and maintain good health. It deserves to be at the center of your activities.

Let’s take a look in more depth at how walking enhances your life.

Health Benefits Of Regular Walking

  • Walking might help you live longer –  Whilst researching for this article, I found an interesting study, which looked at over 30000 women, and around 7000 men, and analyzed their walking habits. The study came to the conclusion that walking intensity was a predictor of overall mortality risk. The faster walkers tended to die the least. The study just looked at the correlation  and relationship between walking speed and the risk of death. There could certainly be all sorts of other things going on here. People who purposely walk fast are perhaps, more health conscious, and eat less poor quality food, which might be a reason for their longevity. If you fancy a look at the study, you can read it HERE.
  • Walking can help reduce body fat – This is one of the main focuses of this article, alongside the health and fitness benefits of walking. As a means of losing weight/fat, walking is at best, a modest method. But it is certainly useful, and, as I will be discussing in more depth soon, it offers some things that more intense forms of exercise don’t. If walking is your ONLY approach to weight loss, you might be waiting an awfully long time to hit your perfect body composition, but even still, it’s better than doing nothing.
  • It can help improve blood sugar control and help lower blood pressure – A study that appeared on the American Diabetes Association website found that 3 x 15 minute bouts of moderate post-meal walking significantly improved 24 hour glycemic control in older people at risk for impaired glucose tolerance. Check out THE STUDY for more information.
  • A great stress reducer –  Walking is a great way to reduce stress. If you can do it in a natural setting, all the better. This study, featured in SCIENCE DAILY, found that walking in a woodland setting helped to reduce stress AND boost the immune system. Pretty cool if you ask me!
  • Walking helps improve balance in the elderly –  There are a lot of pretty poor quality walking programs for the elderly, mostly on treadmills (This one on Amazon is perfect for walking). Although they offer some benefits to health, THIS REPORT showed that walking on the ground, with the natural changes in terrain, was far more useful at preventing falls in the elderly. Starting a walking habit is going to benefit you into old age.
  • Reduction in disease and health risk – Walking has been shown to correlate with a reduction in  the risks of breast and colon cancers. Studies have shown that women who walked between 1 1/4 hours and 2 1/2 hours per week saw an 18% decrease in breast cancer risk compared to that of inactive women. Again, this sounds great, but one could assume that women who walk that much are probably more health aware than totally inactive women, and perhaps eat better diets too. I think these studies often grasp a single variable to attribute results to and run with it, when in reality, it is a wide range of factors that contribute to health and the lowering of disease risk.
  • Walking is good for your brain – More studies, more research! Another study showed that women who walk more than 1 /1/2 hours per week had significantly improved cognitive function than women who walked less than 40 minutes per week. Think about that! Another good reason to add walking, even if it might not be the only factor at work here.

Obesity – A Global Threat To Millions

I have decided to dedicate a standalone section of this chapter to obesity. Why? Because obesity has reached epidemic proportions in many countries around the world, and the threat it poses to individual lives, families, the health services, and to the economy as a whole is dramatic. There is a real concern in many developed countries, including the USA, that, within the next decade or two, obesity related healthcare will swallow up such a huge percentage of the national purse, that healthcare systems, and whole economies, may be crippled.

But the human cost is what interests, and scares me the most. Sure, bankrupt economies have other huge impacts, but it is the lives that are affected by obesity that drives me on to write articles that may help. In my capacity as a trainer and nutrition coach, I work with people around the world to help them overcome obesity and eating issues. Writing articles can help far more people, so please share the AMAZON LINK to this book, or buy it for a friend if you think it could help them.

Obesity Related Diseases and Conditions

The list of illness and disease that are influenced or affected by body fat levels is long. Here are just a few of from the list, I am sure you can think of many more?

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Ulcers
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Insulin resistance
  • Eating disorders
  • Auto immune conditions
  • Poor biomarkers of health and disease

As if that lot wasn’t enough to scare the living daylights out of you, when you realize that just getting out and walking, sometimes with others, sometimes on your own, can add a whole lot to your life, you are going to want to make a start. As an author, I find that some of my best ideas come whilst I am out on my own, just wandering. I also listen to some really useful podcasts whilst I walk, turning walking time into education time too.

Many people think they are too busy to walk, but if you have a smart phone, or an mp3 player, educating yourself whilst you stroll doubles the effectiveness of your time. So, no excuses, get to it. You can get some of your best inspiration when out walking …

Walking Aids Creativity

Whatever is important in your life, taking some time to think, ponder, to ruminate on current and future projects, to plan for an exciting future, or just to take some time to clear your head, walking is an incredible aid to the creative process.

Many an artist, entrepreneur, author, creative thinker, gets many of their best ideas when taking some quiet time for themselves. From this quiet time, some of the best ideas and inspirations emerge.

It’s hardly surprising! We live in a world where we are busy most of the time, bombarded from all sides by television, news, social media, the internet. All this is a modern phenomenon. It feels normal now, but for anyone who is close to middle age, you will certainly remember when most of your life was free from so many distractions.

As a child of the 70’s and 80’s, summer holidays were spent out with family and friends. Fishing, cycling, walking. We were active all the time it seems.

No longer. Most of our lives appears to be spent sitting down, either in front of a desk or at a computer. We get home, we sit in front of the television for the evening, go to bed, and then repeat the whole process the next day. Is it any wonder that we are getting fatter and less healthy?

I truly hope that this section has given you some food for thought, and tempted (ok, persuaded) you that walking is an activity you just can’t do without.

Note

I am always somewhat skeptical of many of the studies that appear in the press, and as I mentioned, walking in isolation is unlikely to be the only thing you need to do to get healthy, and stay healthy. Nutrition is central to wellbeing. But even if walking makes you feel better, more invigorated and healthier, and this leads to better food choices, improved stress management and all those other important requirements for a great life, then it’s surely got to be a choice worth making.

You now, I hope, know that walking is for you, but where to do it? The next section will look at some of the options.

SECTION THREE - WHERE TO WALK

where to walk for weight loss

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time” – Thomas A. Edison

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I enjoy walking outside for the most part, but living in these Northerly climbs (well, England to be precise), year round outdoor walking is not always enjoyable, well, not if you are allergic to rain like I am....

But to be serious, walking outdoors is generally the best way to walk. You get to enjoy and engage with people, wildlife, nature, and all that great stuff. We have spent millions of years as part of nature, interacting with the seasons, the landscape, the plants and animals in it. Even if you have spent years in the city, or away from nature, there is usually somewhere you can find to walk that lets you enjoy greenery, trees, animals, the ocean?.

Please don’t let an apparent lack of open spaces or green parkland deter you from making walking a part of your life though. When the weather is shocking, or if your neighborhood is not the safest place to walk, you must never give up on the idea of walking for health, weight loss, and general fitness.

There are alternatives, and if walking outdoors is not possible, or easy for you, don’t give up on the idea. This section of the article is going to take into account walking in the open air, as well as the very viable alternative, walking inside on a TREADMILL. If it sounds ghastly to you, hold up, treadmill walking has some real benefits for many people, and having added treadmill walking into my daily working life, I feel a hell of a lot better for it.

Walking Outside

Barring inclement weather, getting outside is one of the best things you can do to improve your health and fitness. It’s not just about the physical act of walking, but there has been plenty of research, as well as anecdotal evidence to show that being outside, particularly if you have access to nature, is extremely good for your state of mind, as well as your physical being.

Experiments have shown that when people are introduced to, for example, a woodland environment, they get an immediate feeling of ease, feel comfortable and content within the environment, even if they have lived in a city all their lives. Could it be that deep within us, our ancestral heritage sits waiting to come to the fore? We are creatures who have lived within nature for millions of years, don’t we deserve to immerse ourselves in our natural environment from time to time?

Of course, not everyone is willing, or able to walk in the countryside on a regular basis. But don’t let this stop you walking.

Walking In Towns And Cities

city walking

Many of the world’s larger cities are extremely walker friendly, offering safe, well lit walking paths, and green open spaces for the walker to enjoy. I LOVE walking in cities, although I currently live in an area with incredible countryside.

I spent a number of years living in Australia, and couldn’t wait to visit Sydney. Walking through the parks, enjoying some of the most iconic buildings and landmarks in the world was an incredible experience.

Likewise, when I visit London, walking is one of the best ways to get to know the city. So even if you are on holiday or business, there is no excuse to put your new walking program on the back burner.

I live in a part of England with rolling hills and wonderful countryside, I am grateful for these things. But, having spent quite a lot of time in Sydney, I yearn for some city walking from time to time. It’s really nice to mix things up where you can, and experience a little bit of everything the planet has to offer.

Hiking

Hiking is generally considered to be the term for long and vigorous walks in the countryside. The USA and Canada have an incredible network of hiking trails, the UK has an extensive network of footpaths which allow walkers access over almost all the private land in the United Kingdom. The UK uses the term rambling for countryside walks, and hill-walking and fell-walking for those who like to get a little more vertical with their walking.

I’m going to be discussing equipment in the next section, but it goes without saying, that the further you walk, and the more challenging the terrain, the more attention you need to pay to equipment. For off road walking, more durable footwear is preferable, perhaps some maps if you are going through unfamiliar territory, a basic first aid kit, a cell phone (worth checking on reception and service if you are going into the wilderness), perhaps some additional pre-planning, waterproof clothing, some food, a good backpack. These are not essential for shorter walks, but will make your hiking a lot more enjoyable, and safer too.

If you are walking in potential wilderness areas, it will also pay to learn about the native plants and animals you may come across. Getting bitten or stung can be potentially life-threatening in certain circumstances. That is not the best time to be trying to work out what to do. Pre-plan, let someone know where you are going, and when you are returning. Be prepared!

Stroller Walking

stroller walking

One section of the population who often struggle to get adequate exercise, usually due to the pressures of becoming a new parent, are mums. Sure, there are some stay-at-home dads too, but mothers tend to make up the vast majority of stay-at-home carers. There is absolutely no excuse for not getting out, and aiming for at least 30-60 minutes a day of low intensity exercise like walking.

Mums appear to walk a fair bit anyway, with babies in prams and toddlers in strollers. But many parents will drive into town, and then push the kids around the shops. This is great, but I am advocating something a little more than this. Stroller walking groups do exist, where parents get together, and go for long, brisk walks with their children. It is a great way to spend some time in that all important adult company, and to get some fresh air and socialization for the children.

Your stroller design will dictate the type of terrain you are able to walk on, but there are many really great all-terrain strollers out there, that certainly perform well on rougher ground. As a new parent, getting some exercise and meeting or making friends is really important. Many parents end up with a fairly isolated life for a few years, when it does not need to be that way.

Walking Indoors

walking on treadmill

I have certainly implied that walking outside should be our preferred choice, but it is not the only choice. Walking indoors on a treadmill can provide most of the same amazing benefits that walking outdoors provides, but is not weather dependent. You can also walk in the evenings, when perhaps, walking outside may be unsafe. You can walk whilst watching the television or listening to the radio. You can even set up a treadmill with a desk, so you can walk and work at the same time.

I recently bought a used treadmill very cheaply, and constructed a low cost TREADMILL DESK. The purpose built treadmill desks can be expensive, but I was able to buy this treadmill for under $100, and adding a desktop to the front of it was simple.

If you're looking for a new treadmill, this one on Amazon looks like really good value.

The real bonus of making your own treadmill desk is that the treadmill you buy, preferably pre-loved, to save some cash, does not need to have a wide walking surface. Many modern, mid-priced treadmills are not ideal for running, as the rotating belt is just so narrow. But they are perfect for walking on.

The Treadmill Desk

Under Desk Treadmill

Sounds crazy doesn’t it? But more and more people are using treadmill desks these days, to keep their activity levels up. Physical movement of the non-exercise kind is something that has taken a dive in recent times, and by standing and moving, rather than sitting, we can actually burn quite a few calories over a day.

I’ll show you a couple of pictures of treadmill desks. Firstly, the super expensive custom made ones, and then, a DIY model, using an ordinary treadmill adapted to suit the purpose. You can build one of these really cheaply.

EXERPEUTIC 2000 WORKFIT HIGH CAPACITY DESK STATION TREADMILL

TREADMILL DESK IMAGES ON PINTEREST

Even if you don’t use it as a desk for your home business, or at work, you could use a small treadmill whilst watching television, listening to music or podcasts, or whatever else you like to do in your free time.

If you fancy making a treadmill desk of your own, THIS INSTRUCTABLES ARTICLE shows you how.

Benefits Of Treadmill Walking

Walking indoors on a treadmill provides most of the benefits of walking outdoors. But it offers something which I consider really powerful. You can walk on it A LOT. If you are a home worker, or someone who watches too much television, or a person who suffers from a social phobia, or you worry about walking in unsafe areas, home walking could be right up your street (not intended as a pun, but with hindsight, quite funny?).

As you will see in a later section, the section we get down and dirty with some actual calculations for walking to lose weight, you will realize that, combining exercise with diet is going to offer the best results. But, the more walking you can do, the more body fat you can potentially lose.

As an example, since getting my treadmill, I tend to get up in the morning, grab a coffee, and listen to a 45 minute podcast whilst walking on the treadmill. I will then get down to my work, work that saw me sitting for hours a day, but now I walk whilst I work. Not fast, but continuously.

I am now moving for several hours per day more than I was before, and I feel a whole lot better for it. I’m burning 600-800 calories per day that I wasn’t burning before. I have measured a good reduction in body fat over the last couple of months, and with no negatives that I can report. As you’ll see when we talk a little more about walking for weight loss, any low intensity activity that you can perform for several hours a day, has the ability to make a profound difference to your body composition.

Dealing With Darkness / Safety Issues

dealing with darkness when walking

Common sense is something that often appears to be none too prevalent these days, but I am sure that you are capable of making appropriate safety decisions. However, it is probably important to make the point that walking does have potential risks, not just from mad, homicidal maniacs jumping out of bushes as you walk down an unlit alleyway at 3 am. This shouldn’t be an issue at home on your treadmill, but for those walking outside, it’s a genuine concern

Vehicles are probably the greatest risk to walkers, especially if you walk in the dark. Of course, don’t walk in unlit places where you are likely to get mugged. Walk with a friend, tell someone where you are going, but always consider some form of reflective clothing, a flashlight, and a mobile phone to call for assistance if needed.

Your personal safety is of the utmost importance, don’t take chances.

SECTION 4: EQUIPMENT REQUIREMENTS

walking equipment

Walking is, at its very heart, a cheap, often free way of getting active, improving your health and losing some weight. In a few minutes, I’ll be getting into the nitty-gritty of walking for weight loss. The how to, the how much, the results you can expect. This article is for novice to intermediate level walkers, with a third plan for those looking to hit the 10,000 steps a day goal, so it makes a lot of sense to provide a comprehensive article, covering many of the questions I am asked as a trainer and nutrition coach.

As discussed, walking is a low cost activity. One could even do it naked if decency laws were not in force, but for our Lean Walking program, we are going to be clothed and shod with footwear.

I’ve read a number of other walking articles giving advice on clothing, footwear, nutrition for walkers and more. Many of them come from a ‘conventional wisdom’ perspective, and the advice is not really based on any knowledge of human motion, biomechanics, or sport and exercise nutrition.

I’m going to offer you the benefit of my qualifications and experience in these areas to see if we can’t come up with a more realistic, and valid approach to the equipment requirements.

At the most basic level, you can take a walk in your normal clothing and footwear, unless of course you wear 4 inch high heels (I do, but only on a Tuesday). But, of course, as we are looking to create a regular walking habit, with some fat loss and health improvements in mind, it makes sense to have some ‘walking kit’, that will allow you to walk further, perhaps faster, and over varied terrains.

Let us take a look at the minimal equipment you should consider. This doesn’t need to cost much at all, but will make things more comfortable as you walk your way to weight loss and health.

Footwear

hiking shoes

What a great place to start. Now, I’m not going to (in one of my other roles as a natural running form coach) give you a detailed exposé on expensive walking and running shoes, but suffice to say, they offer little to no reduction in injury risk.

Ok, you twisted my arm. Research was carried out by Dr Craig Richards from the University of Newcastle in Australia a few years back, and featured in the incredible article, Born To Run. Essentially, Richards analyzed many runners and their footwear, and came to the conclusion that the apparent risk reduction from wearing speciality running shoes was not evidence-based. He even sent an open letter to the top running shoe manufacturers, asking them to provide their evidence that their shoes reduced injury risk.

Surprisingly, none were able to do so.

If you are interested in learning more about the work of Dr Richards, this is a good place to start.

HTTP://WWW.HUNTERGAIT.COM.AU/PAGES/ABOUT-US

And a a useful article regarding the study.

AUSSIE STUDY CHALLENGES CLAIMS FOR HI-TECH RUNNING SHOES.

Now, of course, this is a article about walking, not running. But I think the discussion above highlights the fact that we most likely, unless we are one of the tiny proportion of the population (perhaps under 1%) who suffer from some structural damage to their feet, don’t need to pay out $100 or more for highly cushioned and supportive shoes to walk in.

Wearing shoes that are comfortable IS important. Wearing shoes that allow your feet to move as nature intended IS important. Wearing shoes that allow your feet to interact with the ground, to have enough grip for your chosen terrain, to prevent you hobbling home with blisters after a 2 mile walk. These are all important issues to consider when making a shoe selection.

So, my advice as a natural running coach, and someone who spends a lot of time digging around in the research relating to biomechanics, is this:

Running shoes are not suitable for walking, and perhaps not even for running. Wear shoes that are comfortable, don’t rub and cause blisters, are generally thin soled and flexible, to allow for correct foot mechanics whilst walking.

There are surely going to be some people that are going to say you need specialist shoes to provide ankle and arch support, and there are likely some people who DO need that. But if you have some lifelong structural defect in your lower extremities, you probably know about it already. YOU can select the appropriate shoes or shoe inserts for your condition.

Everyone else – modern shoes, in fact just wearing shoes as much as we do, causes all sorts of weaknesses in the foot structure, and shortening of the achilles tendon over time. If you decide to invest in some ‘barefoot’ shoes or the like, take it easy, the achilles can take quite a bashing in the first few weeks, so take things easy.

Here are a couple of shoes that I think are great for normal everyday walking. When you get into the rough stuff, you’ll need something else.

Some variation on the VIBRAM FIVEFINGERS are a good choice.

I prefer the MERRELL TRAIL GLOVE – they look a little less odd if you are walking through town.

If these aren’t your bag, then any shoe with a level sole, zero heel to toe drop is a good choice. AMAZON stock a wide range of ‘BAREFOOT SHOES’, you might find something you fancy. Otherwise, walk in what you like, and be mindful of any niggles or injuries that could be footwear related.

Clothing

Clothing is always important as you start to get further away from home. Protection from sun or rain is essential to allow you to enjoy your walking, and also protect yourself from injury/sunburn etc

I’m not going to lecture you on what to wear and not to wear. Suffice to say, a waterproof jacket that folds up small, some suncream, a hat of some description, sunglasses, comfortable fitting tops and pants, perhaps with a built in sweat wicking material, are all good choices.

If you are starting from scratch, then you are only going to be a few minutes from home. Wear something comfortable and don’t panic about it too much.

Hydration

Hydration is a topic that is well worth making a point about under this section. Far too few people are mindful of staying adequately hydrated when exercising. And then there is the rest of the do-gooders, including health bodies, government, nutritionists (well some of them) who try to prescribe how much we should be drinking every day.

Here is a well known buzz phrase that makes me laugh …

When you feel thirsty, it’s already too late, you are dehydrated

If you are old, infirm, have dementia, are unable to look after yourself, then of course, a concerted hydration plan is super important. But what about the rest of us?

Unless you are a serious athlete, where hydration and nutrient intake is absolutely vital to performance etc, then my advice is this … DRINK WHEN YOU START TO FEEL THIRSTY.

Shock horror, I must be the anti-christ or something. But wait! What is thirst? Well, I was under the impression that it was a natural mechanism, developed through evolutionary pressure over millions of years, to ensure we don’t get too dehydrated and die.

A natural mechanism? Well, it seems to work for dogs, cats, bison, birds, kangaroos, horses, insects, in fact, unless I am mistaken, thirst seems to work for ALL mammals, birds and insects, but obviously NOT  humans!!

Sorry, I was a little sarcastic there, not cool! But it kind of makes sense don’t you think? In the context of walking, make sure you have access to adequate fluids for your walk, drink 100-200 ml before you head out the door, and drink when you feel like you need to drink.

For all but the oddest situations, ones I can’t even think of right now, your mild thirst will serve you well in your quest for adequate hydration.

For short walks, a bottle will do fine, for longer ones, a WAIST BELT WITH BOTTLES OR A HYDRATION BACKPACK are good. You can even fit that waterproof coat, phone, a snack, and a small first aid kit in the pockets.

Walking Sticks

I’m talking about the NORDIC WALKING STICKS that are commonly used for hiking, and have seen a rise in popularity for all forms of walking.

Walking sticks offer some great benefits to walkers who are covering more challenging terrains, not just in terms of the extra balance they provide, but for another, rather cool reason.

When we walk, it is predominantly a lower body exercise. Our core is working, the hips rotate a little, the arms pump, but it certainly wouldn’t be considered an upper body workout. Nordic walking sticks change that.

With these types of sticks, you use your upper body strength to drive yourself forward, pushing back against the stick as you move through the terrain. When committing to steep uphill ascents of stepping over obstacles, sticks allow you to utilize your arm, shoulder, back, and chest muscles effectively.

If you are interested in improving upper body strength (which you should be) then a set of walking sticks might be ideal. I found an excellent resource for walkers interested in walking with nordic sticks in an urban setting. There are a couple of good videos and some great instruction on setting up and using walking poles. Hope you enjoy it.

HTTP://BIT.LY/URBAN-POLING  – Click the link, or type it into your browser.

I am sure there are a number of other cool items of equipment we could take along the way, but I am guessing that you are perfectly able to think of some of those for yourself, no need for me to be condescending.

You’ve got the gear, how about a lesson in walking! (No, really!)

Section Five - Walking Technique

proper walking technique

What!! Teaching me how to walk, you’ve got to be kidding?

Well, sort of. I am not going to instruct you how to place one foot in front of the other, how to move forward, with one foot always remaining in contact with the ground. I am assuming you already know how to do this. If not, and you are an 8 month old reading this article, power to you, you’re obviously very gifted, and recognize a good article when you chew see one.

There are some tried and tested techniques that can definitely help you to walk more efficiently. Although the main thrust of this article is not going to be power walking, or race walking (which has some clearly defined rules), there are some useful tips to learn from these disciplines.

If you can implement the techniques described in this chapter, you will see a raft of benefits, which include:

  • Improvements in walking efficiency.
  • Reduced risk of injury.
  • Faster times over measured distances.
  • Improved comfort during your walk.

The techniques can also help with improving your fitness in the following ways:

  • Increased calorie burn with ability to walk faster.
  • Better utilization of muscular system.

As you practice your walking technique, I recommend that you break the ‘whole’ thing down into smaller component parts. As with any new skill, focusing on a single component at a time, of the overall skill, generally yields the best results for improved movement patterns.

When practicing myself, or when coaching clients in any type of movement-based skill acquisition, I tend to get the best results by doing little more than mentally focusing on one aspect of the whole movement pattern at a time.

As an example. Proper walking technique involves keeping the body tall, not slumping, and imagining you have a long string attached to the top of your head, holding your head up, and keeping the body tall. When out walking, try to just ponder on that component part, correct if required, and then enjoy your walking. A focus of 20-30 seconds every few minutes will allow that skill component to improve over time.

It is impossible to create perfect form in all aspects of any skill all at once. Don’t try. Train smart, expect small improvements in form which will eventually add up. In the end, your walking technique and efficiency will be transformed.

So, let’s talk about technique. These are the foundational components I would like you to work on improving.

Starting from the top and working down …

Stand Tall, Straight Back, Neutral Alignment

Posture is important in all aspects of life, and unfortunately, posture is suffering more and more with our increasingly sedentary lifestyle, and the amount of sitting we do.

A good basic stride relies on good posture. A tall, elongated spine, imagining a string attached to the top of your head, and that string attached to a balloon, keeping your spine long, and your head tall.

A neutral spine involves you being able to draw a straight line between the ears, shoulders, hips, knee, and ankle.

Try this: Stand with your feet hips width apart. Place your hands on your hips, and tilt your pelvis back so that your bottom sticks out. Now go to the opposite extreme, with your pelvis pushed right forward. Now move your pelvis backwards and forwards until you find that middle position. You should feel that your buttocks are slightly tucked underneath you. This is a neutral pelvic alignment. Get used to how that neutral alignment feels.

posture corrections

Photo: www.loudio.com

Head Up

Head position is important when walking, running, and for almost all forms of exercise. This is not to say that when walking you have to keep your head level at all times, looking around is definitely allowed. But we want to avoid any overly pronounced, chronic head positions that could put unnecessary strain on the neck muscles.

Again, just spend 20 seconds here and there checking on your head position. Is the head level? Are the eyes looking ahead, or at a spot on the ground 20 feet in front of you? Is your chin roughly parallel to the ground? When walking steep inclines, as we’ll discuss later, there will need to be some small modifications to your alignment and head position, nothing to worry about for now.

Relax Them Shoulders

So many people are stressed, tight, unable to relax properly. But for walking, relaxation is essential. Relaxing the shoulders, allowing them to drop rather than being pulled up, is going to make a lot of difference to your ability to walk far, and fast. If your shoulders are tight, you’re going to find it hard to get a nice …

Arm Swing

Arm swing becomes more important as your fitness levels increase, as you try to walk faster, or when you are walking up hills or steeper inclines. If you are sauntering along enjoying the sun, then just let the arms swing naturally.

On long walks, when breaking into a power walk, or moving uphill, make sure the arms are bent and you use them to power yourself forwards. It is important to ensure the hands do not cross the center line of the body.

Interestingly, the arms dictate the leg speed, or cadence. When you want to increase your stride speed, it is really difficult to do by focusing on the legs. If you forget your legs, and focus on pumping your arms faster, leg speed will increase to match arm speed.

This is a much more effective way of increasing pace, try it, you’ll be surprised how simple, yet effective it is.

If you are new to walking at pace, then your arms are very likely to feel a little tired after a time. Either take a break, swing your arms or do some arm circling, or just slow up and allow your arms to drop a little. Shoulder rotations are also great when the upper arm and shoulder muscles start to ache a little.

This type of mild muscular fatigue is totally normal when you start any new activity. You may even experience some delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) 24-26 hours after your first few sessions. This quickly diminishes as your body becomes accustomed to the new movement patterns.

As always, if you do feel any pain during or after exercise, or feel unwell, always consider consulting your doctor for some advice.

If you haven’t exercised for some time, or have any ongoing health concerns, get a checkup first. It is highly unlikely that any doctor will tell you not to walk for health and fitness.

Back to walking technique, we’ve covered everything above the waist, now we are going to go ‘below the belt” (ooh err Missus) and consider the best walking techniques for the hips, legs and feet.

Everything Below The Belt (Well Almost)

It may seem odd for me to describe something as apparently simple and natural as hip and leg movement to walk effectively. Walking is natural, but as we are walking with some sort of performance goals in mind (and body composition ones too), we need to learn how to maximize our efficiency.

Describing the movement, the flow of energy from the hips down to the feet is not easy. I’m going to offer you a link to a Youtube video at the end of this section, a video that I think you will find helpful.

For walking to become efficient, we need to have good mobility in the hips. You may have seen people just walking around your town who look super awkward with their walking style. Butts stuck out, shuffling along, feet turned out like a duck putting additional pressure on their knees as they walk.

Almost every movement we do as humans is initiated from the core, and weakness in the core area is also a major concern as lifestyle habits  change. Everyone thinks the core is just the abdominal muscles, but in reality, your core can be defined as everything other than the arms and legs.

In reality, the muscles of the abdominal area, the lower back, the hips, and peripherally, the shoulders and neck, constitute your core.

The major core muscles should lead every movement, every turn, twist, step, leap, you get the picture?

So it’s important to work on improving core strength over time. Planks can work well for this, as can kettle-bell swings.

If you have a little extra time in the evening, do a Google search for ‘core exercises’ and try to build some into your day.

Back to the the hips and legs. When walking, we allow the hips to initialize the forward movement of the leg. As the leg swings forward, we land on the underside of the heel. This is the normal landing position when walking, not recommended when running, where a mid-foot strike is more natural and reduces injury.

As the other leg swings forward and the weight passes over your leading leg, your foot rolls smoothly from heel to toes. You can use a push off to add momentum to your stride. It all becomes very natural, but taking a few seconds to focus on this aspect every few minutes is super helpful.

Stride Length

Stride length is important to walkers and runners alike. Keeping stride length relatively short, but increasing leg speed it generally a better way to increase speed and efficiency, it is certainly more natural and comfortable.

Stride length varies depending on terrain. In relation to walking on the flat, it tends to decrease as we walk up inclines, and increase as we move down declines.

A Quick Note On Uphill Walking.

We’ll talk about this a little more later, but I think this is worth highlighting now. Although I have discussed keeping an upright position when walking, maintaining that neutral spine. If you are ascending a hill or a slope, your body will naturally need to lean forward a little at the waist. Using running as a comparison again.

When you run, a forward lean at the ANKLE is the best way to increase speed over run uphill, as running is little more than a controlled forward fall. Walking, being a lot slower, relies  more upon the waist to initiate the forward lean, although the ankles play a part too.

Walking Technique Videos

These short videos are really worth taking a look at if you are planning to begin the walking programs I’ll be detailing a little later in this article. A few minutes spent considering technique will pay huge dividends later.

You’ve got the walking part figured out, but what if losing some weight is one of your central goals? Let’s consider walking for weight loss …

Section Six - Walking For Weight Loss

walking for weight loss on a sunny day

Right then, we are now into the nitty gritty part of what you probably bought this article for. I hope you have found the first half useful and relevant. My aim is to provide you with far more value than you expected when you started reading this article, I hope you feel that I am delivering? If so, don’t forget to leave an ego-massaging review once you finish it 🙂

I am sure that you have perhaps, tried a number of weight loss strategies in the past, maybe you bought this article looking for something new, something that might actually work. Because, let’s be honest, most diets and most exercise plans just don’t work when it comes to losing weight do they? They might work for the short term term, but become unsustainable, and you end up putting all the weight back on, and more.

So, to start with, I’ll address the question that many people ask, and one that many fitness gurus and authors fail to address honestly …

Is walking for weight loss effective?

There it is, the BIG question. And it’s a question that is rather open, it does not really allow for a YES or NO answer. I guess the best answer I can offer is, “It can be”.

As an answer, that sounds pretty shitty I think you’ll agree? But I am going to expand on it. For any weight loss program, whether by diet alone, exercise alone, or ideally a combination of the two, to be effective, it needs to meet the following requirements:

  • Allow for an energy deficit to be attained on a daily, or weekly basis.
  • Be a sustainable plan that you can live with for the long term.
  • Be easily modified as results dictate over time.
  • Be something that you can do with little skill or equipment.
  • Be something you can enjoy doing.

If any of these facets are not in place, you are likely to fall off the wagon in a relatively short time. As I continually harp on about, the best diet or weight loss plan in the world (if such a thing could be proven) is next to useless if you can’t stick with it for more than a few days or weeks.

Another key concept I really want to bring to your attention is that weight loss is essentially a numbers game. Even if you are not calorie counting or monitoring food intake in detail, to lose weight you need to burn more calories than you take in.

Let’s just take a quick look at a couple of key concepts. Don’t worry, I’ll be able to fill in the blanks for the question ’is walking for weight loss effective?’ as we go.

The Energy Equation

Energy Intake = Energy (calories) that enter your body via dietary intake, food and drink.

Energy Expenditure = Energy (those pesky calories again), that are utilized by the body (generally considered on a daily basis)

If energy intake exceeds energy expenditure, the result over time will be WEIGHT GAIN

If energy expenditure exceeds energy intake, the result over time will be WEIGHT LOSS

IF energy intake is EQUAL to energy expenditure, the result is WEIGHT STABILITY.

Total Daily Energy Expenditure

This concept which we will call TDEE is basically the total daily calories (energy) utilized by your body  during a day. It can be broken down into the following areas:

  • Basal Metabolic Rate – The energy (calories) required for all the cells of your body to perform all its life-preserving functions, organ function, respiration, cellular functioning, and all that other groovy stuff.
  • NEAT – Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (heat production) – includes moving about, tapping your toes, fidgeting, twitching, walking, housework, gardening , etc.
  • Thermic Effect Of Activity (TEA) - the energy utilized during planned exercise – This is not just the everyday low intensity movement such as walking and shopping, this is when you are carrying out constructive, planned exercise.
  • Thermic Effect Of Feeding (TEF) – The energy that is utilized to breakdown your food into its constituent parts for circulation around the body.

So, we can now express Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) as BMR + TEA +TEF + NEAT

Note that your BMR makes up a huge proportion of your TDEE, so the effects of NEAT, TEA and TEF, are actually quite small in the scheme of things. Taking myself as an example. My TDEE is around 2400 calories per day, including my activities, training 3 times a week etc. My BMR accounts for just over 1800 of those calories, over 75% in fact. If you are totally sedentary, your BMR will account for an even higher percentage.

Running, walking, swimming, and just about every other exercise mode you could think of, offer a pretty low calorie utilization in the daily scheme of things. That is not to say that you should just throw out the ‘exercise baby’ with the bathwater, but I’d be lying to you if I promised you that JUST walking for 30 minutes a day was going to change your world … and your body in the most dramatic way.

Having said that, walking offers some really useful benefits, not just for health, but for weight loss, so, after we look at the realities of exercise induced calorie burn, I’ll get you all excited again, and raring to get out for a stroll.

The Reality Of Calories Burned During Exercise

Unfortunately, we are all led to believe that exercising burns a stack of calories, when the reality is that this isn’t the case for most people. Sure, do a whole day in the saddle on the Tour De France, or run a marathon, and you are going to burn a lot of calories. But most of us don’t do that type of activity on a daily basis, if EVER.

When you consider the previous section, and look at the calories burned in a normal day for our example person, you’ll see that the vast majority of their energy usage is just staying alive, oh, and perhaps moving around a bit doing everyday activities, some energy usage digesting their meals, that sort of thing.

You utilize a stack of calories doing everything other than planned exercise. When you decide to add some exercise in, to try to shed that little extra fat so you don’t need to change your diet, you would expect the numbers to be far more significant than the measly numbers in the table below wouldn’t you? Ponder on them for a moment if you will.

calories burned from exercise


If you’d like to examine some more ‘energy expenditure’ comparison tables for a variety of exercise modes, I’ve included these links for you.

Harvard Medical School - Calories Burned In 30 Minutes Of Exercise

An interesting article on the LiveStrong site. If you can run 8 minute miles, you could even burn 930 calories per hour. But let’s get realistic, few people can run a single 8 minute mile, let alone let alone 7.5 of them in a week.

But if you can, you only need to run that hard for 3.5 hours a week, congrats, you’ll lose a single pound 🙂

Livestrong - What Cardio Burns The Most Calories?

Let us assume, just for now, that you are actually managing your food intake with some form of calorie counter, or some other method that ensures you eat somewhere close to the amount of food required to maintain your current body weight, and you opt to perform some ‘meaningful exercise’ to shed those few pounds you have to lose (Doctor’s orders!!)

You are the 155 lb. person in the middle column of the table above, and for variety, you decide that you are going to try out a few of these fun looking activities. Let us consider how many hours (yes, it’s going to be hours not minutes) it will take you to lose a pound of fat from your midriff. 

For want of a better method, we’ll use the age old adage that 1 pound of fat contains 3500 calories of energy, so to shed a pound, we need to eat, or in this case, exercise to create a 3500 calorie deficit below our maintenance calorie requirements.

Hours Of Exercise Required To Shed ONE Pound

Golf (using cart … Lazy!) = 260 cals/hr - around 13.5 hours to shed a single pound of fat.

Walking = 300 cals/hr - 11.6 hours to shed that elusive pound of lard.

Kayaking = 370 cals/hr - A mere 9.5 hours to lose 1 pound of fat.

You skip softball and baseball, not your thing, but the calorie burn is the same as kayaking, so nothing exciting there.

Swimming, this must surely be a great way to shed some weight?

Em … no. Swimming = 440 cals/hr - Well, things are looking better, ONLY 8 hours or so to lose 1 lb. Remember, that is 8 hours of CONSTANT swimming. Hell, I can only swim for 15 minutes without drowning.

Tennis - 6.73 hours to lose a pound

Running  - Looking good, just under SIX hours of activity and you’ll be able to mark another pound down.

Same goes for basketball or soccer, just under six hours, great!

Well, not exactly enticing is it. If you are able to run for an hour without stopping, and choose to take just a single day off per week for recovery, you are going to be able to rave to your friends about the SINGLE pound you have lost for all your efforts.

And, let us not forget. That is only if you have managed to keep your daily food intake at levels to maintain your weight without the exercise. I am sure that six hours of running your heart out isn’t going to make you any hungrier than normal, no desire to scoff a packet of biscuits? If that is the case, you are definitely a better man than I Gunga Din!

Oh, and let’s not forget, although you burned 600 calories during that hard run, you’d have still burned some of those if you had sat on your arse for an hour, or did a little housework.

Don’t forget the energy expenditure from BMR and NEAT, that would happen anyway.

To put that into a little context, if you are an average sized female, your total daily energy expenditure without exercise is likely to be around 1800 calories or so.

If we use another example, of a sedentary 95kg male, his TDEE with no exercise was 1900 or so. If we divide that by 24 hours in a day, we end up with an hourly expenditure of …

Almost 80 calories per hour. (190024)

Depending on size, weight, sex etc, most people burn 60-80 calories per hour without doing anything other than living and doing everyday tasks. So all that running only accounts for a net calorie use of around 520-550 cals per hour. Not a lot is it?

When you consider, that with a little careful planning, some improved food choices perhaps, and a modicum of tenacity, you can build most of the deficit you would get from running or whatever your mode of exercise is, into an eating plan that is free from hunger and is satisfying to boot. If you want to add in a little walking or even some strength training or cycling, just to burn a few extra calories, then go for it, but make the diet the 80% effort, and keep the exercise as the other 20% of the plan.

So Is Walking A Waste Of Time?

If you have just pondered on the numbers above, you might be starting to feel less than optimistic about walking as a weight loss plan. It is true, that if you only walk a little, make no dietary changes at all (either consciously or sub-consciously) then walking is probably not going to get that lard off your butt or belly.

However, if you consider how relatively easy it would be to build up to a 60 minute walk, and burn off 200-300 calories, compared to the effort to run for 30 minutes or so to burn the same, walking comes into it’s own as a quite a useful tool. I mean, could you run for 30 minutes 7 days a week to burn 3500 calories or so, resulting in a pound of fat loss? Possibly not, and even if you can, you might well end up feeling overtrained, overwhelmed, or a none too helpful combination of the two.

I bet you could see your way to walking for an hour each day. Remove the idea of time limitations for a moment. Even if you can’t walk far at present, I am sure you can envisage a 60 minute walk?

If we take a mid point number of 250-ish calories per hour for a moderate paced walk, you are looking at a pound of fat loss every couple of weeks, providing you are eating at that body weight maintenance calorie level each day.

How Much Walking Should You Do?

So, to lose a pound of fat we need to be in a deficit of 500 calories per day, resulting in a 3500 calorie per week deficit. This daily deficit can come from exercise alone, diet alone, or preferably a combination of the two. I always tell clients that 80% of a persons body shape is a factor of their eating plan, with 20% coming from exercise. This doesn’t sound good for walkers, but the reality is, anything is better than nothing. If you are happy to make some small lifestyle changes, both in the kitchen, and with your activity levels, a pound a week of weight loss is simple.

As we’ve seen, for an average person of 155 lbs, an hour of walking could result in 300 calories burned, perhaps even more if you increase the intensity by walking faster, or uphill. The numbers are quite subjective as your fitness levels, current bodyweight, and intensity all factor in.

There are plenty of people out there who have lost huge amounts of weight, with walking as their only form of exercise. The reality is that they will have modified their eating habits along the way, perhaps without even realizing it.

Walking, even brisk walking, does not put a lot of stress on your body, which allows you to walk every day. Unless you are using diet as the cornerstone of your weight loss effort, you are going to have to do a lot of walking. Do you have time for that? 

If you were to walk intensely, perhaps with the odd hill or two, for 1 1/2 hours per day, and did not eat more than the food required to maintain your current body weight, you may well be able to incur a 1 lb reduction in body fat per week. Around 500 calories per day from walking, multiplied by 7 days in the week = 3500 calorie deficit.

My advice would be to change the diet up just a little, eat whole, unprocessed foods, consider having some protein for breakfast to keep the hunger away till lunchtime, and aim for a 60 minute walk per day. This should allow for some good results, and you can modify food intake/walking times as you start to gather some data. I will add a food choices list in the bonus resources section of the article

THE 10000 STEPS A DAY PROGRAM

What gets measured gets managed - Peter Drucker

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You may well have heard of the 10,000 steps a day walking program recently. Many governmental bodies, health organizations, and disease charities are espousing 10,000 steps a day as the ideal amount of activity for good health, and although much of the research this is based on is precarious at best, I have no doubt that, if you are relatively sedentary, have not exercised for a long time, or have body weight issues, then walking is a fab way to get started on your way to improved activity levels.

Walking is not a holy grail, you have to look at your diet, find a way of managing your food intake, and to create an enjoyable, sustainable lifestyle you can stick with. The best diet, or the best exercise program is next to useless if you can’t keep it up for the required timeframe.

The ‘step walking’ craze actually started in Japan back in the 1960’s when the first pedometers arrived in shops. People loved the idea of monitoring there steps, and it still has a lot of advocates. As per Peter Drucker’s well known phrase, ‘what gets measured gets managed’, the very act of counting/monitoring/recording your daily steps appears to have a profound affect on us human beings.

Something intrinsic appears to resonate with us when we can monitor and record, and measure progress. The 10,000 steps a day program is something that YOU can embrace, enjoy, and even get a little geeky about if you so desire? My walking programs offer planned progressions towards 10000 steps a day, so even as a total novice, you can plan towards a 10,000 step goal.

You’re Going To Need Some Gear

Unless you are planning to count your daily steps in your head and record it in a notebook, I would strongly advise you to purchase a step counting device that will do all the hard work for you. Seriously, you DO NOT need to buy any of this gear if you are new to walking, or ever in fact. You can just enjoy walking for free and be done with it.

But, if you are like me, you may enjoy a gadget or two to help track things, here are a couple of not-too-pricey items that you could buy, or add to your Amazon wish-list.

Prices of pedometers do vary a lot. You often get what you pay for, but if you are considering making walking an important part of your life, then paying a little more for something that is going to last is generally worthwhile.

There are also a heap of phone-based apps that will allow you to measure and record progress in a variety of areas of your life, from exercise, sleep, to habits etc. You could just use a spreadsheet to record your walking results, but one item does almost everything for you.

The Fitbit

fitbit

This is my item of choice for people looking to improve their activity levels. It does a stack of different things, but is quite intuitive too. If you are a technophobe, fear not.

The Fitbit is a tool that counts daily steps, but it does a lot more than that. The Fitbit One, pictured on the left, attaches to your belt or shorts, and counts your steps, distance walked, calories burned (be careful, these are often inaccurate), and stairs climbed.

It also measures your sleep cycle, and will even wake you up in the morning without waking your partner. Wirelessly upload your activities and sleep information to your computer, or even to an iPhone. You can set all sorts of goals with a Fitbit, set challenges, earn badges, connect with friends for support or for some fun competitions. Geez, you can even log food with the thing, how cool is that?

The Fitbit range also integrates with a number of phone apps like MyFitnessPal, Sparkpeople, MapMyFitness and Lose It!

Some people find that the Fitbit One is not idea for them, they keep leaving it at home, so the Fitbit Flex, a bracelet style monitor is a better option. You can wear it all the time, in conjunction with the Fitbit app for iPhone or Android phones too.

I use a Fitbit, and have found it a really useful motivator. Consider it, but if you want a cheaper option, then a pedometer will definitely do the job.

Check out the Fitbit on Amazon.

Pedometers

pedometer

Generally a cheaper option than a Fitbit (the Omron one above retails at $17 USD), pedometers count steps. You generally need to do a test walk over a measured distance to find the length of your stride, but this is usually well explained in the instructions. Many devices will provide you with a ballpark calorie burn for your walk, but I would focus more on just increasing your walking volume over time, towards 10,000 steps ….and beyond.

Pedometers on Amazon

That pretty much covers some of the equipment you may need if you decide to pursue a step walking program, but for now, let us move on and take a look at ways to increase the intensity of your walking workouts.

Section Seven - Stepping It Up A Gear

gears

“Never, never, never give up” - Winston Churchill

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Winston had it about right. The natural ‘barrier to entry’ for almost anything you can think of is not money, but willpower and determination. Whether it is an entrepreneurial venture, becoming a competitive athlete, making a lot of money, having the body of a Greek god or goddess, or just being one of the few people who takes their health and fitness seriously, motivation and determination is what is going to make you, or sadly, break you.

The next section will take a look at some of the motivational and habit-forming steps you can take to ingrain walking into your daily rituals, but for now, just to progress on from our last section, let us consider how you could increase the intensity of your walks to burn a few more calories, and to increase your fitness. 

I wouldn’t try to do this every day at first, just start to add in a session or two a week, and build things up as you get stronger, fitter, and more confident.

Power Walking

Everything has a definition these days, so here is a Wikipedia definition of Power Walking.

Power walking or speed walking is the act of walking with a speed at the upper end of the natural range for walking gait, typically 7 to 9 km/h (4.5 to 5.5 mph). To qualify as power walking as opposed to jogging or running, at least one foot must be in contact with the ground at all times.

Sounds fun? Power walking has been recommended as a lower impact alternative to jogging, and with a little practice, it is certainly possible to walk at speeds that are similar to jogging speed. This type of walking has significantly less impact on the joints. Running doesn’t need to damage you, but unless you get some advice and feedback from a running form coach, power walking might be ideal for you.

Obviously, walking at faster speed will require much more muscular effort, and a corresponding requirement for more oxygen. Your muscles, heart, and lungs will adapt over time, and you will become fitter and stronger. Gradually, you can transition from slow walking > brisk walking > power walking, and get pretty fit. The additional calorie burn of higher intensity walking may also aid you in shedding some surplus fat.

Hill Walking

I enjoy hill walking, it is definitely something for the intermediate rather than the novice walker, it can really take it out of you! I definitely recommend you start to build some gradual hills into the intermediate walking plan in this article, and then aim to increase the gradient you are able to walk, as you get fitter. I never really find that hills get easier for me, because I just walk them harder as I get fitter. Walking definitely should not be about pushing your limits all the time, but you should test yourself on a semi-regular basis.

As I mentioned in the walking technique section, your technique needs to be modified on inclines and declines. You should do most of this naturally enough, but pop back to that section for a look if you are unsure.

Intervals

One type of exercise that is really growing in popularity these days is high intensity interval training, otherwise know as HIIT. HIIT is a style of training that involves, short, all out effort, followed by a longer period of recovery. As an example, a HIIT sprint interval session may involve 6-8 30 second sprints, with a 1 minute walking recovery period between each one. One can gain a lot of speed and fitness using this type of training, and in a short timescale.

Of course, you are not going to be able to perform all out efforts with walking, but as your fitness, and hopefully, love of walking increases, you can certainly incorporate the principles of interval training into your walking schedule.

Intervals could be done of the flat, or you could utilize a hill to increase your intensity of effort. Here is a quick example to show you what I mean.

Power Walking Interval Session For Flat Ground

  • Warm Up - 10 mins brisk walking
  • 2 minutes power walking, pushing yourself, but with good technique
  • 5 minutes moderate recovery walking
  • 5 minutes brisk walking
  • 2 minutes power walking, pushing yourself, but with good technique
  • 5 minutes moderate recovery walking
  • Repeat for duration of session
  • Cool Down - 10 minutes slow walking

You could determine the session length either on time, or on cycles of the intervals. So, you might decide that the session will involve 5 complete cycles, or less if you are new to intervals.

This type of training will massively increase your fitness, your walking speed, and burn significantly more calories than a normal session would.

Hill Intervals

I ‘love’ hill work. Well, when I say LOVE, it’s sort of a love/hate relationship. I do hill sprints, and always approach them with some anticipation, but once I’m into it, it’s pretty good fun.

Walking hill intervals are ideal as you progress from beginner to intermediate, and onwards to an advanced walker. The principles are similar to those described for power walking intervals, you just utilize a hill as the length of your interval, and also the duration of your recovery. Let me explain.

Find a hill that is relatively steep, but not too long. Make it appropriate your your level of fitness and ability. Take 10 minutes of so to walk on the flat, increasing speed to allow for a good warmup. When you hit the bottom of the hill, you walk straight up it as briskly as you can. You may find yourself breathing heavily, leg muscles getting achey, but keep going.

When you get to the top, tun round, and slowly walk to the bottom. This is your recovery phase. If you are still puffing and exhausted when you get to the bottom, walk around until you feel ready to go again.

Walk up the hill, working on good technique, keeping your breathing controlled. Take a moment at the top to take in the view (if there is one), and walk back down.

You can do this as many times as you like, finishing the session with a slow, relaxing walk home.

How Often?

Spend your first 12 weeks of the beginners program just getting into walking. Don’t put pressure on yourself to perform. From then on, start with one quicker paced, or interval style session per week, or, if you want to, break one day of walking into two sessions, one a normal walk, the other an interval session.

Increase the frequency of the sessions as you get fitter, but always allow for 2-3 normal, brisk walking sessions a week. This is about enjoyment too, not hard core physical exercise.

This all sounds well and good, but what  if you are worried about whether you are going to be able to stick at this. Forming habits is important, let’s move forward and see if we can’t find some habit forming actions to help us succeed.

Section Eight -  Developing A Walking Habit

developing a walking habit

“The Secret Of Getting Ahead Is Getting Started” - Mark Twain

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The above quote is one that I really love, and although it may appear simplistic, it really is true. What other way is there to find success in any venture. For every person who has ever existed who found huge success in their lives, they had to ‘get started’ at some point.

All these people, whether financially successful, world class athletes, media celebrities, famed authors, they all began at a place where they did not know how to reach their goal. The just got started and kept going, finding a way to overcome obstacles and move towards success.

Getting started is the most important thing you can do in your quest to lose some weight, improve your health, and to enjoy an active lifestyle.

Remember, there are going to be days when you don’t want to go for a walk, where you’d rather lay on the sofa watching television, where everything just seems too hard. These are the days when successful people kept going.

Let’s briefly discuss how to develop the necessary habits and motivations to make walking for weight loss a certainty.

Developing A Walking Habit

Developing any habit takes time, and starting small is the surest way of building a sustainable habit. It’s a well known fact that building successful and useful habits in one area of your life definitely impacts positively on other aspects too. So, what better than starting with one of the simplest, and most beneficial habits you could choose.

Walking every day.

There really is no need to look to running endurance events, marathons, triathlons etc, to get significant health benefits. A small amount of walking a day can get you to a level of activity that will have profound health, fitness, and emotional benefits for you.

This section is going to look at some useful strategies you can put in place RIGHT NOW to help you build your walking habit, and making it fun, motivating, and not some mundane task that you just have to live with.

10 Steps To Developing A Daily Walking Habit

I don’t expect you to implement all of these at once, just pick one at a time, and focus on it for a week or two before adding a couple more into the mix. This way, adding a habit is easy, and you won’t feel overwhelmed with too much information and expectation.

Habit #1 - Schedule your walk at least a day before the session. This is important. You need to set a time to start the walk, get it in your diary or on your phone calendar. Set an alert, make sure you don’t miss it. Treat it as if you were going for an interview, but without the feeling of dread and impending doom of course. Trying to fit a walk in on the day, without having planned for it, is more likely to result in a ‘no show’ as you are just too busy.

Habit #2 - Keep a daily log in a spreadsheet, diary, or notepad. I’ve also including a PDF you can print out which gives you a set of weekly log sheets to record your walking progress. Check out the BONUS RESOURCES section at the end of this book. Keeping a log is a great motivator. The act of looking at it, and filling it in, will motivate you hugely. Don’t under-estimate the value of writing stuff down.

Habit #3 - Get some appropriate clothing and footwear. You will have read in the ‘equipment’ section that there is no need for fancy-schmancy clothing and sneakers. But, there is also a strong psychological benefit to changing from your day to day clothing, into something that you specifically associate with your exercise program. If you don’t feel like walking one day, just commit to getting changed into your ‘walking attire’ and you’ll likely find that once you’re dressed, you’ll end up going for a walk. Creating associations between items and actions is really powerful.

Habit #4 - Consider multi-tasking. I definitely think that walking in the fresh air, listening to the birds, watching the world go by, is something we should enjoy, at least some of the time. A lot of people, when they start a new walking program, think that they are somehow wasting precious time if they dedicate 30-60 minutes to themselves each day.

Of course, this is folly. ‘You time’ is super important, but if you like the idea of combining your walking with some other activity, to get more bang for your buck, there are some options. Listen to music, audiobooks, educational podcasts, or, if you have a treadmill at home of even in the office, then you can read books, hard copy or kindle books, or even work with a laptop whilst treadmill walking. Today, I have gone out for a short walk with the dogs, then walked for 30 minutes on my treadmill whilst reading a book on my Kindle. Time well spent, I learned something and walked at the same time.

Habit #5 - Give yourself a reward. You might not need, or want to reward yourself for every success you have, but buying yourself an item of clothing, a gadget, a music CD or something you enjoy, is a great way to reward yourself for your efforts. I would definitely recommend a reward after each of the 12 week walking programs in this book, and something special when you hit the 10000 steps a day target. Why not, you will have changed your lifestyle, become a glowing example to others, and got fitter and healthier along the way. That is something worth rewarding.

Habit #6 - Add in a fun challenge. Keep your walking fun. If you walk with others, or even on your own, setting fun challenges is a good way to keep the walking interesting. Challenge yourself and your friends to ‘walk up that hill’ or ‘stride up those steps’. When a little competition shows its head, motivation usually goes through the roof. Friendly competition only 🙂

Habit #7 - Get a pedometer or Fitbit. I discussed these in the equipment section and there is no doubt that having a step walking gadget that shows you your walking progress will really improve your motivation and compliance to your program. This is SO important that I genuinely believe that a pedometer and a walking log will take your new habit further than you could imagine.

Habit #8 - Get a buddy (or two). A human or furry friend will keep you walking, day after day. Don’t just buy a dog though, walk with the one you have already (you could even start a dog walking business) or with a friend. Walking with buddies , or even supporting a more distant buddy online can keep you both going when times are getting tough, and your motivation is waning.

Habit #9 - One habit at a time. I mentioned this earlier, and adding small habits on an incremental basis is one of the best chances to succeed. Once you have seen success in one small habit area, you’ll build a success mentality, and from that, great things can happen.

Habit #10 - Keep it SMALL. You might have thought this should have been Habit #1, but I saved it for last because this is the one that I really want to instill in you. In the next section we will look at goal setting, and setting too small a goal can be counter productive, but with habits, especially if you have struggled to keep up new habits in the past, then keeping them small, realistic, and manageable, will help you build real success. Small habits are powerful, many small things lead to big things.

Cool! I hope these habit ideas have been super useful? Take things slowly, enjoy the journey. Let’s take a look at goal setting. Panic not, it’s super simple.

Section Nine - Setting Goals

goal setting

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream” - C. S. Lewis

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Goal setting has become really trendy over the last 10-20 years or so, in the fitness industry, in business, in success planning.

Almost every how-to book you read talks about goals, and the importance of setting them, to help you pursue your dreams and aspirations.

To be honest with you, I personally find a lot of goal setting a waste of time. I’d like to qualify that if I may. Focusing too far into the future with rigid goals never seems to work for me. I love the concept, I’ve tried it, I’ve written detailed goal plans, and after a short time, they are filed in the bin.

I set goals with my fitness and nutrition clients too, but these tend to be small, short and medium term goals, and these are the type I believe you should focus on. Why? Because goals set too far into the future seem so unreal and distant, it’s hard to imagine them coming to fruition.

Sure, you CAN set a 5 year goal, and then break that down into smaller, yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals, but I find much more success making my ‘long term’ goals 3 months ahead, medium term goals at the 4 and 8 week marks, and then setting daily goals to help me reach the medium term ones.

I also find that mapping your entire day out is never a good idea, and at the beginning, when you are trying to form new habits, choosing just a couple of things to focus on each day usually brings the best results. Even if you set a goal for tomorrow to eat poached eggs for breakfast rather than your usual bowl of cereal, and to put your walking gear on at 2pm, you are MUCH more likely to make those small changes.

Establishing Goals

If you’ve ever done business at school or college, you may well have heard of the S.M.A.R.T goals acronym. Sounds like a load of modern, buzzword mumbo-jumbo doesn’t it? Yeah, you’re probably right, but you’ve got to hope that some clever university researcher in a white lab coat has spent some serious time mulling over what makes goals more, or less likely to be achieved.

Anyway, benefit of the doubt time. Let’s look at the S.M.A.R.T acronym, and break down goal setting into bite sized chunks.

S.M.A.R.T is an acronym for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely

Let’s look at each area in a little more detail.

Specific: It makes sense that setting a specific goal will generally have a much better chance of being accomplished than a generalized goal. To set a specific goal you need to be able to answer the six “W” questions:

  • Who:Who is involved in the goal? Will you be alone, walking with others?
  • What:What do I want to accomplish from it? Lose weight, walk for 30 minutes a day, improve your fitness?
  • Where:Decide on a location or locations to perform your walks.
  • When:Establish a time frame (e.g, you will walk tomorrow morning at 10 a.m).
  • Which:Identify requirements and constraints.
  • Why:Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.

EXAMPLE:  A general goal would be, “lose some weight.” But a specific goal could be, “lose 6 lbs within 8 weeks”

Measurable - Establishing an outcome that can be measured is important to goal setting. If you set a goal to walk 30 minutes tomorrow, but you only walk for 28 minutes, you haven’t met that goal target. 

Committing to measuring your outcomes drives huge amounts of motivation, and you know exactly what is required of you, there is no debate.

To determine if the goal you have set is measurable, ask yourself the following questions:

How many? How much? How will I be able to determine if I have been successful with this goal?

To put it into context. Lose weight, as mentioned in the previous section, is not a measurable outcome really. You could lose 1 ounce over 3 months, or 20 pounds, both would be a success in terms of the goal. But to say, “I will be able to walk 10000 steps a day 3 months from now, OR, “I will commit to being 8 pounds lighter than I am today, 6 weeks from now, is also a distinctly measurable goal.

Get ultra specific with your goals, keep them small and achievable, and make sure you can measure them. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Each goal needs to be …

Attainable - What do you think it does for your motivation when you set a goal that you couldn’t possibly attain in the given timescale? I tried it, long ago, when I wanted to run a marathon (luckily I have moved away from such foolhardy objectives). Rather than choosing a running program that would just allow me to finish the race, I got all ahead of myself and chose one that would set me up for a sub 4 hour finish.

Needless to say, the volume of training was too much, and I quit pretty quickly. This was one of many lessons I have learned in setting attainable goals. Setting goals that you can achieve realistically can be a dent on the ego, but the alternative is far less productive. As you progress, you can increase the challenge that each goal represents.

I promise you, that even if you set a goal that seems just a little too easy, and you succeed, the mental reprogramming that starts to begin is truly wonderful. With every small success, you become more conditioned to success, and success becomes easier to achieve. You come to KNOW that you will succeed, rather than being riddled with self doubt all the time.

Only you can decide what goals to choose, but I always advise aiming a little lower than you think you are truly capable of, start to build success, and watch yourself flourish.

In the context of our walking programs, if you think that 30 minutes a day is easy, but you have trouble managing your time, and are unsure as to your levels of commitment and fitness, aim for 15 minutes a day, and indulge in copious amounts of self-congratulation when you succeed. So, what makes an attainable goal?

Well, if you are honest with yourself, free yourself of ego, you will find that the goals you set are.

Realistic -  A realistic goal needs to be one which you are both able and willing to work towards. This sounds obvious, but it is surprising how many people set goals that don’t comply to these rules, and fail miserably. Setting goals too low, makes achieving them appear worthless to some, setting it high makes it more difficult, but also provides more motivation and drive than setting your goal so low that you can achieve it with virtually no effort.

As a crazy example, if I decide I want to improve my fitness and set a goal of ‘walking 10 steps a day’, I can obviously achieve it, but it provides so little reward that it doesn’t allow me to grow mentally, or indeed, physically. If however, I aim for 15 minutes a day, and it is closer to my limit of motivation or ability, then succeeding sows mental seeds that move me forward in life, rather than stagnating.

Whatever goal I set, it is pointless if it is just an open ended possibility. Saying I want to lose weight, but having no measurable target in place, and no timeframe to complete the goal makes it next to worthless.

Timely - Every goal should be grounded within some sort of timeframe. There needs to be at the very least, some sense of urgency to the goals you set. ‘Someday’ is just not a good enough target. “I will be able to walk for 60 minutes by 3 months from today” is far more measurable, and of course, time bound.

The ’T’ can also stand for tangible. Being able to experience your goal through your senses makes it much more real, more specific, more measurable, and ultimately, more attainable.

Luckily enough, we are going to be using some walking plans that easily allow us to set properly structured goals. Whatever your starting point, find a plan in the next section, commit to it, and get started. Let’s get into the walking plans.

Section Ten - 12 Week Walking Plans

This book offers TWO primary 12 week walking plans, and a THIRD 10 week plan which takes you to 10,000 steps a day. The first, 12 week program is for the novice, or someone just starting to get back into exercise. Even if you feel that the first few weeks seems a bit to easy for you, I urge you to just start at the beginning. From a psychological perspective, sticking with a concrete plan, enjoying the ease at the start, and progressing gradually is likely to help you stick with it for the long term.

After completing the beginner plan, you should be ready to move towards 60 minutes of walking a day. Don’t forget, if you like the idea of completing a 10,000 steps a day walking program eventually, you can certainly start using your Fitbit or pedometer right from the start, and keep a tally of the progress you are making towards that very achievable, 10,000 step goal.


To give you some idea of how many steps you are likely to be walking throughout each program, this handy estimated steps-to-distance conversion chart might help. I’ve highlighted the mile markers for you. By the way, this chart is based on an average stride length of 32” per stride. You’ll need to check your stride length when you set up your pedometer.

Step To Distance Conversion Chart

Of course, you can just ignore the steps and walk for time and enjoyment, but if you would like to walk towards the 10,000 steps a day milestone, a pedometer or Fitbit will get you off to a flying start.

Here are the pedometer guidelines, showing your approximate ‘activity level’ using steps per day as a proxy. Of course, if you NEVER walk, but do a variety of other activities, you can still be super fit and inherently healthy, but as you are reading a book about walking, I’m guessing these numbers might be useful to you.

Lean 30 Walking For Weight Loss Program - Novice

This 12 week walking plan is designed to take you from totally sedentary, to walking briskly for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Even if you decide to walk on the other two days, make these ‘different’. Not so regimented, a country walk with family, de-emphasize the ‘program’ part.

Step Estimate - If you walked at a moderate speed of around 4 miles per hour (1 mile in 15 minutes), your 30 minute walking target per day would result in around 4000 completed steps in 30 minutes, or 2 miles distance covered.

Week 1-2

For the first couple of weeks, I’d like you to do no more than adding some walking into your daily routine. Get off the bus a stop or two earlier than usual. Park the car a few streets away from the office. Walk to the local shops rather than getting in the car. Avoid escalators, take the stairs. If the weather is good, take a walk in the park, take your mp3 player, a camera, or just enjoy the sights and sounds of the world.

Week 3-4

Weeks 3-4 is a small step up in walking volume. You are going to aim for a brisk 10 minute walk for 5 days, and if you get the chance, a slower, but longer (maybe 20-30 minutes) walk on the weekend. For each walk, take 5 minutes to slowly warm up, then walk briskly for the prescribed time without stopping, then a 5 minute cool down as you get closer to home or to your car. Aim to walk in pleasant surroundings, trudging around the roughest neighborhood in town is not always the most inspiring.

Week 5-6

As any exercise program needs to be progressive, so weeks 5-6 see a small increase in volume again. This time, we are going to aim for at least 2 x 20 minute walks per week, and then the other 3 days at 15 minutes. Brisk walking, don’t stop, keep those arms moving, and don’t forget that neutral body alignment.

On Saturday OR Sunday, aim for a non-stop 30 minute walk. Don’t worry too much on the speed, but walk with intent rather than just a meander.

Week 7-8

This week, we are going to change things up a little, by doing TWO shortish walks a day. It won’t always be like this, but adding another session allows us to up the volume, but keep things comfortable for you. You’ll be walking 30 minutes a day, which is awesome. You’ll just be breaking it up into two sessions. 30 minutes of walking a day is the general minimum amount that is recommended for good health, and you’re there!! For the weekend, aim to walk for 30 minutes non-stop at a brisk pace on just one of the days.

Week 9-10

We’re really rockin’ along now, and I sincerely hope you are loving your new found activity levels. You should be feeling better, more optimistic, and keen to keep things going. This week, we are going to stick with the 15 minute sessions TWICE a day, but aim to make one of those sessions a brisker walk than you have been used to. No need to go bonkers, but just push things out a little, get those arms and legs driving a little harder, and if you can, even look for some gradual inclines to attempt.

On Saturday or Sunday, keep it gentle, but aim for a 45 -60 minute walk. Take a friend, your dog, the kids, a partner, and make it an enjoyable adventure. Try to immerse yourself in some pleasurable surroundings and enjoy the experience!

Week 11-12

You’re on the home run, well walk at least. All that running is best avoided 🙂 This week, your aim is to complete 30 minutes of brisk, non-stop walking on 5 consecutive days. Try to do it in a single, 30 minute session a day, but if you have to break it into two sessions, that is ok too. At 30 minutes a day, you are now getting the ideal minimum level of exercise per day, you should be so proud of yourself. Aim for 45 minutes on one Saturday, and a 60 minute + walk on Sunday. Blimey, I’m proud of you and I don’t even know you personally. Enjoy your weekends, see them as a chance to really dive head long into some hikes and adventures in your area. Walking is probably the best way to be close to nature, and to really feel a part of the landscape. Enjoy it, you’ve earned it!

You can download the 12 week walking program record sheet PDF here, and print it out. Fill it in at the start of the week, and each day to monitor your progress and to be more accountable.

Here is the breakdown of your daily walking targets.

12 week walking plan to lose weight

Moving Forwards From Beginner To Intermediate Walker

I would suggest that once you have completed the novice program, you start the Lean 60 walking plan, which keeps you at the same volume of walking as week 12 of the Lean 30 plan. This will help to get you into the swing of 30 minutes of consistent walking each day. You might feel that this is as far as you want to go, and 30 minutes will be your daily target.

Many others, especially those looking to shed some weight through a walking habit, will want to extend their walking to take advantage of some extra calorie burn, and even better health benefits.

What follows is a 12 week intermediate program, The Lean 60 Program. To start this, I would suggest that you have been walking for 30 minutes a day for a month or more, or have just completed the novice program.

Lean 60 Walking Program - Intermediate

The Lean 60 walking program builds on the fantastic work you did during the Lean 30 program. You should now be well into your walking routine, enjoying it, feeling fitter and healthier than when you started, and motivated to progress things along a little. You are going to be spending the first couple of weeks consolidating your Lean 30 gains, and then move into the next plan with the intention of hitting 60 minutes a day of walking after 12 weeks.

Don’t worry if you get half way through the plan and find the volume too much. I’ve carefully planned it so the program is progressive. But if needed, go back a couple of weeks and repeat that week a couple of times before moving forward again. There is definitely no shame in taking things at a sensible pace.

Without any more hesitation, here is your LEAN 60 walking plan.

lean 60 day walking program

Step Estimate - If you walked at a moderate speed of around 4 miles per hour (1 mile in 15 minutes), your 60 minute walking target per day for the Lean 60 walking program would be around 8000 completed steps, or 4 miles a day.

If you’ve just finished LEAN 60, then super huge and emphatic CONGRATULATIONS!! You are now far fitter and more active than you were at the start. What have you learned? Is walking better than you anticipated? Have you met new friends, or enjoyed more time with old ones? Do you have a spouse, partner, or children who are walking with you? What a great legacy to leave to your children and grandchildren.

Well, you have most likely come close to 8000 steps of planned activity per day. I am sure you will have smashed the 10,000 steps a day target with your other daily chores and activities, but we want to go one better don’t we? 10,000 steps of REAL, planned walking per day. Let’s GET IT DONE!

Progressing Towards 10,000 Steps A Day

The first two plans are the building blocks to 10,000 steps a day. Walking 10,000 steps generally equates to around 5 miles distance covered, depending on stride length. By the time you are walking for 60 minutes, you will be well on your way towards 10,000 steps. At 4 miles per hour, you would complete 10,000 steps in around 1 hour and 15 minutes.

So, the reality is, that to reach 10000 steps a day, you are not going to need another 12 week plan. You should be able to add that extra 15 minutes or so of walking (assuming a walking speed of 4 mph) in a few short weeks. Let’s aim to hit it at least 3 times a week, and then gradually increase the volume on the other days.

To be honest, I would be really happy with 10,000 steps for 5 days a week, a rest day on the weekend, and then some fun activity on the remaining day. If that is a long walk, so be it, but it could be swimming, cycling, a game of frisbee, whatever you like. Time to look at the plan …

Lean 10,000 Program - From Intermediate To Advanced Walker

10000 steps a day walking program

Once these programs are completed, you will be a very able, confident, and efficient walker. If you have suffered health problems, it might well be worth visiting you doctor beforehand, just to check that it is ok for you to start a regular exercise plan, but also to take some readings of blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and perhaps even some other markers of health and disease.

Combining this walking program with a some dietary modifications, could see you looking and feeling better than you have for years. As mentioned earlier, I have a food choices list in the back of this book, but my bestselling book, The Lean Fast Diet, covers eating for health and weight loss in a lot more detail. You can pick a copy up on Amazon here if it interests you. More of my books are listed in the resources section. No pressure, no hard sell, just letting you know 🙂

Where To Go From Here?

You might think that completing the 10,000 daily steps plan is the end of it? You might not have even gone that far? 30 minutes a day is better than no minutes a day. Something is always better than nothing. Be proud of your achievements.

You may like the idea of walking more competitively, and there are plenty of distance walks and walking races you can get involved in. You might have discovered that you have a natural affinity with speed walking, perhaps you are destined to become a champion walker? The sky is the limit for you, whatever direction (no pun intended) you choose to take your awesome walking habit.

But if you are interested in keeping up this excellent habit (you really must), the next section offers some useful ideas for your walking adventure.

Section Eleven - Onwards And Upwards

“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best” - Epictetus

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Well, how did you get on? I really hope that you have managed to make a start on one of the walking plans, and are now succeeding in adding rewarding and health promoting activity to your life?

This book, has, I hope, provided you with the impetus to get started on your walking adventure. But it doesn’t end there. Walking offers so much more than just exercise. It offers a chance to meet new friends, spend more time with your existing ones, to improve family bonds, and to enhance the lives of the people around you.

Here are just a few ways that you can improve your social life, and your walking ability, by walking with others. If you love walking alone, keep at it, it is a great way to have some ‘you time’ and think or ponder on things that are happening in your life. But don’t keep all that motivation to yourself, share it with others.

Walking with Friends

Relationships are EVERYTHING in my opinion. Without them, we would be lonely, and unable to share our lives with others. Being with friends, whether life long friends, or just walking buddies, is a great way to develop your walking habit, but without so much thought of the walking part.

Have you ever wandered with a friend, chatting along the way, and realized that you had been walking for far longer than you expected? The conversation, the laughter, the sharing of anecdotes, what could be better?

Another great motivator is to start one of these walking programs with a friend. You can encourage and motivate one another to keep at it. You are far less likely to give up if someone else is depending on you.

If you are a social leper like me, and you have no friends, then you still have options.

Join A Walking Club

Walking clubs are a great way to meet people, people who are also looking for walking partners. It can often seem a little daunting joining a new group where you don’t know anyone, but it’s worth remembering that everyone in the group was the new person once. Most groups of any value will make you feel welcome from the start. You will probably develop some long lasting friendships over time.

One of the best ways to find a local walking club is to look in the events section in the back of one of your local newspapers, ask at your local tourist information office, check Facebook for local events, or check your national walking association’s website. I’ll provide some links to some national organizations at the bottom of this section.

You may find that your area does not currently have a walking club. You could be doing a great service to yourself, and to others, by starting one. Informal at first, but if it gains some traction, you might be able to expand it.

Start A Walking Club

Starting a walking club is straightforward. And walking with others will provide some great benefits, including:

  • Keeping you and the other members accountable.
  • Increasing motivation to succeed.
  • Increased socialization, many older people have little contact with others on a day to day basis.
  • Increased safety in numbers, particularly if walking in the evenings or in more remote locations.

The first thing a walking club needs is members, so you’re going to need to recruit some friends, acquaintances, and other like-minded people. You can use the local press, free community notice boards, online community sites, even your local church notice board may be a good place to put an ad.

Asking friends, work colleagues, neighbors, sticking a poster in your local sports center, library, in fact, any place that has a lot of footfall will likely get you some new members.

Plan a get together or meeting to organize things, choose a few great routes to get started on, bearing in mind that you will have members of all abilities, and get started. Who knows, once things get off the ground, you might even get a call from the local press, looking to run a story.

I strongly recommend joining, or starting a walking group. But there are plenty of walking, hiking, or rambling associations you could join too. Here is a small list to get you started, but using ‘The Mighty Google’ will help you find something local to you. If I’ve missed your country out, apologies, but send me a list and I’ll add it to the next version of this book.

National Walking Associations By Country

United States

American Nordic Walking Association (ANWA)

American Hiking Society

PBS - Some great walking links

American Heart Association - Start A Walking Club

United Kingdom

The Ramblers Association

Canada

Hike Canada

Alberta Hiking Association

Hike Ontario

Hike Nova Scotia

Australia

Walking Australia

Bushwalking Australia

Bushwalking NSW

Walking South Australia

Bushwalking WA

Bushwalking Victoria

Racewalking Resources

Racewalk.com - Racewalking techniques, training, resources and tips.

North American Racewalk Foundation

Dave McGovern’s Racewalking

To Conclude

This conclusion is going to be short. I hope that all the information that I have provided you with in this article has led you to your own conclusion, and you don’t need me to spell it out for you.

But, I’ll have a go anyway, and attempt to condense everything I have learned about walking for health, fitness, and weight loss, into a paragraph or two.

We are living in an ever more sedentary society, where our requirement to move a lot, is being eroded. Our great grandparents (assuming you are middle-aged or older) moved a lot. Manual work was typical, farming, laboring, sitting at a desk was far less common. Our forefathers probably spent many hours a day on the move. Not at a high pace, and certainly not exercising for fitness or weight loss, just going about their daily business.

Some people live for the gym, many don’t. Whichever camp you are in, moving more, at lower intensities can provide many health benefits, but also help improve body composition too. The aim of this book is to put walking for weight loss, health, and fitness into context.

It is very hard to exercise at a high intensity more than a few times a week, even if you are used to it. Moving at a lower intensity many times a week, or even, every day, is much easier. The chances of injury or overtraining greatly diminish. Yes, you may have to walk for twice as long as if you do a high intensity cardio session, but you can walk day after day after day.

I believe that walking for weight loss, as well as health, is a very viable and credible option. Almost anyone can do it, whatever your age or health status. Even if it is 5 minutes a day, and you build up over time… YOU CAN DO THIS!

Walking doesn’t stress your body like intense exercise can. You will not experience high cortisol levels that can impede body fat mobilization. You’ll not dread your next workout. You’ll make friends, see amazing landscapes and cities, you’ll naturally want to improve your diet. The benefits are endless.

Walking can do all this for you. And it is free. If you get into it, then buy a few gadgets, perhaps some suitable attire. But at the point of initial entry, walking is free.

These reasons alone should make you give serious thought to walking, whether it be to lose weight, to improve your health, or to meet new people. It is one of the oldest, most useful, and often forgotten activities you can choose, so choose it.

You won’t regret it!

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