You’ve probably heard that walking is one of the best forms of exercise. This comes as a surprise to some people because it doesn’t seem like the most high intensity workout. Of course, you do have to hit a certain level if you want walking to aid in your weight loss journey but in any case, it’s a great way to stay active and healthy.
When you reach between 60% and 70% of your maximum heart rate, you enter into what is known as the endurance zone. This is the optimal zone for burning calories and fat and keeping those muscles in check.
In order to get to this zone, you have to ensure you are walking at the correct speed. Generally speaking, this lies somewhere between 3.11mph and 4.97mph. But how do you know when you’re there and what should you expect from this type of exercise?
In this guide, we’ll be walking you through everything you need to know to start walking your way to fitness!
Why Is Walking So Good For You?
Have you ever watched those documentaries on TV; you know the ones I’m talking about where extremely obese people are challenged to lose weight? What’s one of the first types of exercise the doctor will prescribe for people with any sort of mobility? That’s right, walking!
We’re also encouraged to take at least 10,000 steps a day to remain healthy so there’s got to be something special about this very basic, yet effective form of exercise.
If you have good use of your legs, you’ll spend a lot of your day walking without even thinking about it. But when you turn it into an active pursuit for your daily life, the health benefits come flooding in.
For example, walking has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke. One study showed that, for older men, walking could seriously bring down the chances of having a stroke. Moreover, walking increases your cardiovascular health which can go a long way in reducing problems with things like high cholesterol and hypertension.
Walking is also an excellent way to keep the muscles and bones strong and healthy, as well as improving your endurance. If you’ve ever had problems with balance then walking may also aid in improving that too!
Of course, you’re here because you’re looking to use walking as a way of helping you lose weight. The great news is that walking will burn fat when it’s done correctly and as part of a healthy lifestyle.
If all of that wasn’t enough, walking has been shown time and time again to boost your mental health. It’ll give your brain a surge of energy, improving concentration, lowering stress levels and giving you a mood boost.
With all of this in mind, it’s no wonder that so many people are turning to walking as a way of staying fit.
Why Is It Important To Maintain A Healthy Weight?
Modern culture dictates that we should all be a certain size and look a certain way. This is one of the main reasons that people look to lose weight but your appearance is the last thing you should be worried about when it comes to weight.
While the main focus might not be on it, being overweight can cause some serious health problems and ultimately shorten your life. If you’ve been considering losing weight, here are just some of the ways that it can benefit you:
Your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues will be decreased.
Being at a healthy weight can lower your chance of developing certain types of cancer.
If you’re trying to start a family, your fertility will increase when you maintain a healthy weight.
Problems with conditions such as arthritis are reduced when at a healthy weight.
People suffering with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, will find that their condition eases when they lose weight.
Reaching The Endurance Zone
Earlier, I mentioned the endurance zone; a ‘place’ where walking is at its most effective. In this zone, your body will be able to burn the most fat calories and create the most amount of energy for your muscles.
But if you’ve never heard of this concept before, you might be wondering how on earth you’ll know when you’ve hit the endurance zone. As mentioned earlier, you need to be walking at the right pace which is between 3.11mph and 4.97mph (that’s around 5 - 8 kmph, for reference.)
But since most of us don’t carry a speedometer around with us, the best way to know if you’ve hit the zone is by listening to your body.
Once there, your rate of breathing will increase and you’ll notice it’s much heavier. However, you don’t want to get to the point where you’re struggling to breath or find it difficult to speak. It’s a matter of pushing yourself just enough to cause you to breathe more heavily than normal. If you find yourself completely out of breath, try slowing down the pace a little.
Another sign that you’ve hit the endurance zone is that you’ll work up a sweat. Again, you shouldn’t be dripping, just so that you notice you’ve broken a sweat. You’ll be able to feel your body working but shouldn’t feel uncomfortable or in pain.
We all have different fitness levels so finding the endurance zone for you might involve varying your pace until you hit the right level.
The Best Way To Use Walking To Lose Weight - How Long You Should Walk To Lose Weight
The burning question on everybody’s lips is how much do I need to walk to lose weight? It would be easy to assume that we’d all be super slim given the busy lives that most of us lead, walking from A to B and including thousands of steps each day. But don’t forget that endurance zone.
Anyway, if you want to lose weight you will need to make sure you stay in that endurance zone for anywhere between 30 and 50 minutes. Before you work your way up to the zone, it’s essential to give yourself a warm up period using your normal walking pace for at least ten minutes.
But you have to be committed if you want to lose weight. It’s no good just going for a brisk walk when you have a spare hour; you need to be consistent and set up a schedule. More importantly, you need to stick to this schedule!
Also keep in mind that when you’re walking to lose weight, you are also going to be building muscle. Since muscle is heavier than fat, you might not see the numbers on the scale dropping as radically as you had hoped. But this doesn’t mean you aren’t losing weight. It means that you are burning fat, which is what you want to get rid of but building muscle. By looking at your body, you will see a clear difference as long as you stick to your walking routine.
What’s even better is that healthy muscles burn calories even when you’re at rest. So it’s nothing but a good thing to keep working on that muscle fitness as well as focusing on burning fat.
How Do I Keep Myself Motivated To Walk Every Day?
One of the biggest problems for most people is staying motivated. I’ve had times in the past that I’ve wanted to shift a few pounds and have gone for a walk every day for three days and done a bit of yoga then felt disappointed when I didn’t see instant results.
But it’s not a quick fix; walking your way to fitness is a process which is why it’s an excellent idea to keep a training diary. This can include things like your weight (although as I mentioned, your muscles will factor into this so try not to use this as your main point of reference), your waist size, how far you’ve walked and other things.
Looking back over your training diary will show you how far you’ve come and will give you a confidence boost. In turn, this will make you want to challenge yourself and keep pushing on.
But this isn’t the only way you can keep yourself motivated. Especially on days where you’re feeling a little lethargic or the weather isn’t great and you’ve convinced yourself that you’d rather stay indoors with a cup of tea and a good book. Consider some of the following ways to motivate yourself:
Don’t set yourself unachievable goals. We all have different abilities. If you’ve got a friend that can walk 10 miles a day without breaking a sweat but you’ve never walked for fitness before, don’t try to use their achievements as your goal. Set smaller, more achievable goals and gradually increase the intensity as your body allows.
Consider signing up for a walking event. There are plenty about and many are for charity which is even more of a motivational boost. There’s not typically any pressure to perform to a certain standard so you can go at your own pace but in the run up to the event, you’ll be motivated to train so you can do your best.
Holding yourself accountable is a great way to boost your own motivation but when you also have someone else to consider, you’re much less likely to flake on your daily walk. That’s why finding a walking partner is a great idea. You won’t want to let them down by not going on the walk and you’ll have someone to share your journey with.
Don’t always walk the same route. This can get very boring, very quickly. If you’re keen to stay motivated, explore different areas and find new routes so you’ve always got something new to discover. If you’re a nature lover, there are thousands of trails all over the country so you’ll never run out of options.
If you are walking alone then try listening to some music or your favourite podcast. A lot of people get bored when out walking alone and this can eventually stop them from wanting to go but if you’ve got some form of entertainment, you’ll find yourself eager to get out there.
Reward yourself! There’s nothing self indulgent about giving yourself a pat on the back for your achievements so once you reach your goals, have a treat in store for yourself. This could be anything at all like a spa day, a new pair of walking shoes, dinner out with a friend or whatever makes you happy. You’ll want to earn your reward and so you’ll be much more likely to stay on track.
Walking is one of the best ways to stay fit and healthy and it’s something that’s available to almost everyone. If you’re going to lose weight through walking then you’ll need to make sure you go at the right pace which is enough to break a sweat and cause you to breathe more heavily.
Once you reach this ‘endurance zone’, you should walk for between 30 and 50 minutes each day to start noticing a difference. While it can be difficult to stay motivated, there are plenty of things you can do to give yourself a boost and get on the road to a fitter, healthier lifestyle without carrying any excess weight.