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Walking for Weight Loss – Effective or a Waste of Time?

Many people consider walking for weight loss as an ineffective form of low-impact exercise for out of shape folks. I was one of those people. I was wrong. In this article I will share my experience using walking to get in shape in the spring of 2011 during a high stress period in my life when all other forms of higher intensity exercise were out of the question.

The reason most think that walking for weight loss isn’t really a good way to get in shpe is that it seems too easy to give results. The activity in itself doesn’t burn a lot of calories if you do it for 10 or 15 minutes 3 times per week.

Why Walking for Weight Loss Works


The reason this activity does work for getting in shape is that it is very easy to stick to. For me, the daily walks are a form of relaxation, a sort of meditating cool down. I would just tie my shoes, take my mp3 player, leash my dog and head out for an hour of listening to music, audio books or just quietly enjoying the nice weather and the occasional bird song.

Spring and early summer are perfect for this. So is autumn when the weather is nice walking in Winter in my experience has to be done before sun down, otherwise it’s not really enjoyable. In contrast, Spring and Summer nights are perfect for this.

Finally, walking for weight loss is low stress. As a form of exercise it’s easy on the joints and muscles. As a mental challenge it’s easy, because you don’t have to flinch at the thought of the tough workout planned for the day. As a bonus, walking acts anti-inflammatory on the whole body.

Walking for Weight Loss: An in-depth Look

Ina a couple of months I was able to lose 10-12 Holiday pounds I had gained after Christmas, New Years and a series of family holidays There are many online calculators claiming walking for an hour burns between 100 and 300 calories depending on the terrain, your speed and your weight.

I think that trying to calculate the exact calorie burn is a fools errand. The focus instead should be on watching what you eat and also getting in as many walking sessions as possible. Some days I managed to walk twice, but most often I’d walk once per day, 6-7 times per week.

The cool thing about walking as a tool to lose weight is that the more weight you need to lose, the more effective walking is. The reason for this is that all your extra pounds act as resistance and make the exercise harder. It’s like using a weighted vest.

How to Walk for Weight Loss

  • Walk 6-7 days per week. A single session burns a small amount of calories, but is very easy to do. When you do it every day, the calories burnt start to compound after just 3 or 4 weeks and you start seeing rapid results.
  • Once or twice a day. If possible, try to walk twice on the weekends.
  • Walk for 30 to 60 minutes. Start small and gradually increase time.
  • Walk on flat or incline surfaces. Incline walking is a trick I learned from the Hollywood Physique. It increases calorie burn significantly but at the same time keeps the joint stress super low.
  • Listen to music or audio books. Provided it is safe, walking and listening to an audio book (I went through a bunch of books while walking in the park. I also listened to some language tapes which was also lots of fun.
  • Take your dog. I love my lab Lucky and he enjoys those walks with me too.
  • Safety first. Be careful– don’t listen to loud music if walking in the evenings or in a questionable area.
  • Walking in the rain. It’s actually fine to walk in the rain. Just get a nice waterproof hooded jacket and you are set.

Walking for Weight Loss Resources

  • Diet is king. Walking for weight loss only works if your calories are in check. Personally I had great success in the past by skipping meals as described here ==> Easy Diet Plan
  • Intense exercise before walking. Do a 15-25 minute intense workout, such as these body weight circuits. In this way walking serves to both cool you down from the workout and actually burn off the fat that has been released from the fat storage during the high intensity exercise.
  • Walking for weight loss and your health. Here’s a great article on the anti inflammatory effect of walking ==> Why Walking is Necessary for Good Health – Even If You Are Extremely Fit and Lean
  • The lovely photo courtesy of jenny downing

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20 Comments - Share Are Your Thoughts

  1. Steven

    Nice article Yavor, it’s good to see you writing again!

    I have a question for you:
    For the last 4 months or so, I’ve trained only upper body. My goal was to build upper body mass/strength, and lose lower body excess mass (trying to achieve gymnast-like body proportions).

    Using your beginner strength routine + Visual Impact, I’ve made some great strides. However, my inner thighs/butt are starting to sag, I’m guessing due to atrophy. My question is what methods does one use (whether it be cardio, eating strategies etc) to tone the lower body without gaining size?

  2. Yavor

    Steven, the muscles might have shrunk a bit but my guess it that you are also losing fat. The skin will catch up and shrink too, just needs time.

    As for methods – there are 2:

    1. Heavy low rep strength training with barbells. 3-5 reps per set, 2-3 sets per workout around 25-50 total reps per week. Squats or Deadlifts work great. Example routines:

    – 3-5 times per week, 2 sets of 5;
    – 3-5 times per week 3 sets of 3

    2. The same as above but with single leg exercises like the pistol or the airborne lunge.

  3. lol I have a very similar walking post in my vault lol. Done a load of writing on my month off from university, so I wouldn’t have to write much when I am studying.

    Walking as you said isn’t the greatest tool for fat loss, but it helps and is part of your NEAT, I wrote a post on why it is so important what you do outside the gym. http://www.somebodylied.com/why-structured-exercise-is-not-enough-introducing-non-exercise-activity-thermogenesis-neat .

    But ye all in all, walking is crucial, because as you said it is easier on the joints and you don’t have to motivate yourself to do it. Saying that I had a football/soccer match on wednesday for the first time in 5 weeks and couldn’t walk for the next 3 days lol.

  4. Whilst I don’t count walking towards my weekly training sessions, it is something that I do regularly. I find it a great stress relief and an awesome excuse to get some fresh air and sunshine. Keep up the great work Yavor.

  5. Yavor

    Niko, I bet OZ has some great places to walk :)

  6. Yavor,

    Australia has some of the best beaches in the world to enjoy, it always amazes me how so many people here take them for granted and don’t get out and enjoy them.

    Niko

  7. Steven

    Yavor

    1) What’s your take on the gironda neck press? how often do you do it, and is it even worth it considering the amount of stress it places on the rotator cuffs?

    2) what do you think of MMA in regard to body aesthetics? I notice that most world-class fighters have barely noticeable abs, large obliques, not to mention less than desirable adonis proportions. I ask this because I want to learn a discipline- I’m choosing between boxing, muay thai, or JKD…

  8. Yavor

    Steven, the Gironda neck press is great. In fact, I used it when I tested the Hollywood Physique program ==> http://relativestrengthadvantage.com/Hollywood-Physique-Workout

    I used dumbbells and the pectoral growth was noticeable almost immediately.

    However, you should know that you will get injured if you do most of Vince Gironda’s exercises incorrectly. To do them correctly, you use very light weight and very small rest periods.

    Here’s the simplest explanation: imagine stretching and then flexing the targeted muscle. The chest is stretched by flaring the elbows out. You then squeeze the pecs together.

    This is NOT an exercise where you lift a weight. It is simply stretching and flexing. The weight is just an addition.

    IF YOU ARE A BEGINNER, Vince’s methods and the Hollywood Physique are not for you.

    2. MMA – in my opinion many of those guys look great. The ones that don’t care about weight – like Feodor – may have a bit more body fat, but that’s just aesthetics.

    3. obliques – they train them a lot to withstand hits and also because throwing a punch is done with rotation of the hips/waist.

    4. Your discipline – I’d start with boxing if I were you. Then you can move on to MT which has a lot in common with boxing or JKD (Bruce Lee borrowed from boxing, fencing, chinese martial arts etc).

  9. Yavor,

    I like to listen to nonfiction audiobooks while I walk. When doing that, I can knock out a 30-45 minute walk without even realizing it and gain some knowledge in the process. It’s like killing two birds with one stone!

    Alykhan

  10. Yavor

    Great stuff Alykhan! I listen to both – but find non fiction to be easier to follow. Care to share some off your favorites?

  11. Besides weight loss, walking can also benefit you by reducing stress and lowering your inflammation. Both stress and inflammation can be stealthy killers, so you want to make sure to keep them low.

    Walking is highly overlooked by more serious fitness enthusiasts, but it is incredibly useful in helping you live a longer life.

  12. Hey Yavor,

    great stuff as always man! :-)

    Yeah walking, especially cross country walking is fun, interesting, healthy for body and mind AND it burns off that flab: what more can you ask? :-)

    A good friend with you on those trips.

    I’m glad to hear of you and Lucky, because the best things in life? Family and Friends.

    Ziggy said it well:
    “Spend time with those you love, because one day soon you will either say I wish I did, or I’m glad I have.”

    Mark

  13. Good stuff, Yavor. I myself wear a pedomdeter and get in 10,000 steps a day, on average, meaning I may get 5,000 one day and 15,000 the next.

    Agree with you that eating is key. I consider the calories I burn by walking as bonus.

    Also: unlike cardio, walking doesn’t make me ravenously hungry.

  14. Great post, Yavor.

    My wife & I go for a walk every day w/ our dog; it’s a great way to get some quality time w/ each other, enjoy the outdoors, and burn a few extra calories at the end of the day! Thumbs up to walking…

  15. definitely agree that walking is great for helping to clear your mind and a good time for reflection.

    going for a walk in the morning and after work are my 2 favorites times,

  16. Great article Yavor! Keep them coming.

    Walking is totally underrated by fit people. Just because it’s easy doesn’t make it ineffective. If I am relatively inactive all day then I will make sure to get a 45-60 minute brisk walk. When I’m travelling I love exploring the city on feet. It’s easy to rack up 2-3 hours of walking without even realizing it. Makes it easy to eat big meals + desert without dipping into a surplus.

  17. Walking is one of those staples especially when you have little kids, little time, and want to get some exercise plus family time together. The added bonus, the kids end up working like a weight vest…can’t beat unstable load training ;)

  18. I believe that walking is way under-rated. Just because you don’t break out in a major drenching sweat and strain your muscles to the utmost limit of pain doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t doing something good for your body.

  19. Yavor

    Ryan, it has been several years ow that I have been walking an hour or more, almost every day. It is fantastic.

  20. Walking is my main form of exercise. I aim to walk at least once every day for 35-40 minutes, and it usually includes around 15 minutes uphill. I’m lucky to have a park right by where I live but when it’s wet I walk up the road outside the park instead.


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