Distance walking for any reason sounds like a solitary and boring activity, but hundreds of walking clubs around the United States can put you in touch with like-minded people. A distance-walking program requires a lot of training, but it can lead to a big payoff in weight loss as well as health and fitness. Walking even short distances daily for many years spurs considerable weight loss, and distance walking can be even more beneficial.
There is no specific definition for distance walking, but "The Complete Guide to Walking" divides walks into three categories -- fast, moderate and longer. Longer walks are 45 to 60 minutes. "Typical speeds" for longer walks are 3.5 to 4.5 mph. Author Mark Fenton writes there are five categories of walking events. The three with the longest distances require considerable training -- "endurance tests" that last 10 to 13.1 miles, which is a half-marathon; "long haul" events that last from 20 miles to 50 kilometers, which is 31 miles; and "ultraevents" that are at least 50 miles.
A 160-lb. person who walks only 35 minutes daily for 15 years weighs 18 fewer lbs. than a nonwalker, according to Harvard Men's Health Watch. Distance walking can help you lose more weight in less time. Walking 4 mph for an hour burns 334 calories, or slightly less than one-tenth of a pound if you weigh 155 lbs. Consequently, you can lose almost 18 lbs. in one year if you walked 4 miles almost every other day, or 180 times, during a year. Walking 4 mph for two hours every other day would result in a loss of almost 36 lbs.
Walking faster burns more calories. Racewalking, which Fenton defines as walking at least 5.5 mph, burns 484 calories per hour in a 155-lb. person, while walking 3.5 mph burns 298. Consequently, training so you can walk faster is a crucial factor in weight loss. Fenton recommends training for at least two months before attempting to walk in a 10-mile event. The training should include one two-hour workout each week and five shorter walks. Fenton notes that there are long-distance races and charity events all over the United States.
Maximizing your weight loss entails specific routines to improve your speed, strength and endurance. Fenton recommends an 18-week program that will enable you to walk in a 26.2-mile marathon. The program includes easy 45-minute walks twice weekly, walking as fast as you can for up to 45 minutes once weekly, a 60-minute walk that alternates easy walking with fast uphill walks or very fast walks once weekly, an endurance walk once weekly and a 40-minute recovery walk the day after the endurance walk. Most of the endurance walks on Fenton's schedule are between 90 minutes and four hours.