Walking can help you to control your waistline, blood pressure and the risk of type 2 diabetes. Aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of brisk walking every week, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You can do this exercise anywhere, and it won't cost you a dime to get started.
Even if you're not walking to lose weight, you will see benefits. Most people put on weight as they age, but a program of regular walking can help to prevent that. A 150-pound person who walks at a steady 3-mph clip will burn approximately 240 calories per hour. The same person can burn 270 calories per hour walking at the brisker pace of 4 mph.
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Walking can be a critical part to a weight loss plan. It is especially beneficial to individuals who are just beginning an exercise program, as the risk of injury from walking is very low. The National Weight Control Registry, which consists of individuals who have lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off for over five years, notes that 90 percent of its members exercise for at least an hour an day. Walking is an easy way to fit this into your life. Walk for an hour every day, and you can burn off a half-pound every week without dieting.
If you are just starting out with a walking program, begin by walking a 17- to 20-minute mile. Increase your time until you can walk for 30 minutes at a time. Slowly increase your pace until you are walking 3.5 to 4.5 mph for 45 minutes three to four times a week. If you are not feeling sore, you can walk every day, although you may want to vary your routine so that your muscles do not become accustomed to only one workout.
Increasing the Difficulty
Once you are accustomed to walking briskly every day, increase the difficulty to give yourself the most benefits. Add hand weights to pump as you walk, which will burn additional calories while working your biceps. Strap on a backpack and go on a day hike -- you can burn as many as 475 calories an hour. Head for the hills now and then. Walking uphill at a pace of 3.5 mph can burn more than 400 calories an hour.
Regular brisk walking spurs weight loss, according to "Controlling Cholesterol." The book, by well-known heart surgeon Dr. Kenneth Cooper, defines brisk walking as 3.2 mph. "The Well Adult" book defines 3.75 mph as the brisk-walking speed, and the State of Wisconsin's "Calories Burned Per Hour" standards define walking 4 mph as a "very brisk pace." Regardless of the definition, you can lose more weight by walking briskly than by walking slowly.
Long-Term Weight Loss
Losing weight quickly is very difficult because you must burn 3,500 calories to lose one pound, and you need to eat between 1,600 and 2,400 calories daily to have the energy to exercise, The Merck Manual of Medical Information reports. Nevertheless, walking is an excellent weight-loss exercise because people who walk regularly for several years weigh an average of 18 pounds less than non-walkers, according to a Dec. 3, 2008, article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Short-Term Weight Loss
The average person loses 300 calories per hour walking briskly and 210 calories per hour walking slowly, according to "The Well Adult," a book that defines "brisk" as 3.75 mph and "slow" as 2.5 mph. Walking indoors or outdoors helps you lose weight because "Controlling Cholesterol" reports that young men walking briskly 3.2 mph for 90 minutes per day, five days a week on a treadmill for "just a few months" lost more than 12 pounds each.
You will lose more weight if you improve your walking technique so you "boost your walking speed," according to the book "The Complete Guide to Walking." "Faster walking starts with sound posture," writes author Mark Fenton. Your posture should be as upright as possible as long as you're comfortable because "you'll keep your rib cage open for easier breathing." An arch in your lower back, a forward lean in your hips and a slouch in your shoulders all cause you to walk slower, Fenton writes.
You will lose more weight and walk faster if your steps are faster, "The Complete Guide to Walking" reports. Fenton writes that you should focus on quick steps rather than longer steps because your stride will "naturally get longer" as your steps become faster. You should also count your steps--try to walk 135 to 150 steps per minute and try to have your feet hit the ground "practically beneath you, not out in front."
You maximize your speed and weight loss when you move your arms fast, according to "The Complete Guide to Walking." "The arms and legs will always move in synchrony, and faster arms will make faster legs," writes Fenton. The author's tips for moving your arms rapidly include bending your arms at, but not more than, a right angle; not bending your elbows; and moving your hands from waist level when your arms are behind you to chest level as your arms are in front of you.