Walking is something almost anyone can do at any time, with very little expense or preparation. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, walking is the most popular form of exercise, and about 67 million American men and women walk regularly. Walking is a great starting point for anyone looking to begin an exercise program and is a staple for many who exercise frequently. Aside from the many cardiovascular benefits, walking is also effective in tightening your stomach and legs.
Walking Burns Calories
Like all cardiovascular exercise, walking burns calories. Using up those extra calories to get your legs moving can lead to weight loss and a more toned and tightened physique. Vigorous walking burns about four calories each minute, so walking for a half-hour for five days a week equates to a 600-calorie deficit. To burn 1 lb. of body fat, you need a caloric deficit of 3,500 calories. In addition to walking, you can cut down the calories you consume and add additional activity into your daily routine to create more of a caloric deficit without much added effort.
Walking Builds Muscle
Walking helps build muscular strength and endurance in your legs and torso, contributing to the toning and tightening of your lower body and midsection. Several muscles are involved in every step. Your quadriceps contract at the point of heel-strike to prevent the rest of your foot from hitting the ground too quickly. Once your foot is on the ground, your gluteus medius and minimus and hamstrings contract to keep your pelvis stable. The paraspinals and lateral trunk muscles in your midsection also contract to keep your pelvis stable on the opposite side as your other leg swings forward. Your abdominals and lower back muscles remain contracted to maintain your posture.
To Benefit From Walking
To gain the benefits of toning and tightening your legs and midsection from walking, you must walk regularly at a certain duration and intensity. If you are just beginning, the American Podiatric Medical Association recommends walking for 20 minutes at least three times per week. Stay at a moderate intensity that makes your heart beat faster without causing you to gasp for breath. As you improve your fitness level, you can walk for longer periods at a faster pace. A great way to add more intensity and toning benefit to your walk is adding hills into your route.
Seeing a Difference
After starting a walking program, you'll desire quick results, but the reward for your hard work depends on what type of shape you are in when you begin your routine. If you have more weight to lose, it will take you longer to see the desired tone in your legs than if you have ideal body weight and want to gain some muscle tone. Just remember that walking is not only helping you look the way you want, it is also making you healthy from the inside by reducing your risk for many diseases.