Some of us just want a simple way to a fitter & healthier body. If you’re tired of fancy workout programmes, long runs and painful weight training sessions, walking might just be what you need.
Walking is a surprisingly effective way of losing weight. In fact, losing upwards of 20lbs in less than six months is very possible, and it does not require much effort at all. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Walking for Weightloss – Science behind it
I’m sure most of us are aware that in order to lose weight, we must first have a calorific deficit, and in order to have a calorific deficit, we must either eat less, or burn more, or do both. It ultimately boils down to subtracting the total energy utilized from the total energy consumed.
Our body utilizes some energy for any movements we make. That includes waving to greet a friend you randomly spotted on the street or even typing an article on how walking can help you lose weight. Hence, in order to increase the calories burned, you need to move around or in this case, walk.
But casual walking is not enough in most cases. The effectiveness of your walk depends on the following variables:
- Pace: how fast you walk. It’s typically measured in minutes taken to complete one mile or kilometre, depending on where you’re from.
- Distance: the longer you walk for, the better your results. But don’t forget to keep the pace up. There’s a sweet spot where you maximize the duration and still follow a brisk, steady pace.
- Duration: how long you walk for.
- Body weight: believe it or not, but the heavier you are the more weight you can lose (other factors remaining constant). What do I mean by this? Well, if you weigh 220lbs and walk for 4 miles you will burn more calories than someone who weighs 180lbs and walks 4 miles, even if your pace was the same.
As discussed above, the intensity of your walk depends on pace and distance and the ‘sweet spot’ between the two. Your aim is to keep a steady, brisk pace (more on this later) and maintain it for a reasonable distance.
Now, if you’ve done a bit of research on cardio you might be aware that there are two broad categories – HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) and LISS (Low-Intensity Steady State) training. Many prefer HIIT, but it can be quite exhausting and while it is effective, LISS can provide similar results. Let’s look at a few relevant differences between the two –
In HIIT you perform intense exercises for 20 seconds to 2 minutes and take a short break of 20-30 seconds. And repeat. This can be very effective but it is very tiring, too. You could incorporate it with your walking routine (brisk walk for a minute, slow walk for 30 seconds, and repeat). From a fat loss perspective, since most of the high-intensity portion is done in 2 minutes our body utilizes the anaerobic system for energy utilization. This helps in preserving lean muscle mass, burning fat and improving stamina. However, due to the sheer intensity, it is inadvisable to follow such a routine every day. Hence, 2-3x a week is sufficient. One must keep in mind that it is very important to push yourself. If you are struggling to speak more than a word at a time after performing one “burst” of intense exercise then you’re doing it right. But this also makes it very challenging.
That said if you’re looking for something slightly less exhausting you should consider LISS. In this, you maintain a steady pace for a pre-determined duration or distance. Since you perform the activity at a stretch for more than 2 minutes, your body uses the aerobic system i.e. uses oxygen. This is great because our body continues to remain active even after the glycogen stores are depleted. LISS is great for improving cardiovascular health, stamina building and, of course, fat loss.
You should ideally incorporate both styles of cardio into your training programme.
Heart rate is another important yet overlooked aspect of any sort of training. It’s directly proportional to the calories you burn. Advanced athletes generally train at what is known as the VO2 max for a few minutes and maintain about 95% of their VO2 max for 15 minutes. This is essentially the maximum oxygen uptake of your body and is the absolute limit of what your body can handle in terms of heart rate. While it is not advisable (especially for beginners) to train at VO2 max for prolonged periods, it is important to keep your heart rate up, close to the VO2 max, for as much time as possible. This will give you tremendous results and help build stamina.
If all this does not make sense then do not worry. We’ve done the science and research. All you need to do is follow the steps talked about below.
Walking for Weightloss – Steps
While walking by itself is quite easy, periodization is important to achieve your weight loss goals without unwanted effort. For beginners, 1-2x of HIIT per week and 4-5x LISS per week. This will help you lose weight significantly faster. Alternatively, you could opt for a LISS-only routine.
While it’s hard to say exactly how much you need to walk in order to lose weight, you could refer to the table below which should give you a rough idea. If you’re opting for a LISS-only routine then aim to walk for at least that long. Similarly, if you’re incorporating HIIT in the routine divide the duration into chunks of 1-2 minutes and take a breather of a maximum 30 secs in between.
Once you get used to walking and achieve a reasonable pace we recommend checking out the table below to get an idea of the approximate number of calories you would be burning in your walking sessions. In the case of HIIT, it’s a bit more complicated to calculate the calories burned, but you could use fitness trackers which could give a slightly more accurate reading.
In fact, fitness trackers are a great way of monitoring your workouts and since you can find a few good ones for around $30 (such as the Xiaomi Mi Band 3) they’re a great investment for your health. They generally help track the number of steps you take, calories burned, heart rate, pace, stride, etc. This information can be useful to improve and track your performance.
It is also important to keep your nutrition in check. We have several guides on the various diets and nutrition plans that help you lose weight. While many are very specialised, some of them such as the Dukan Diet are quite versatile. You could use some concepts of this diet while sticking to a walking routine for superb results.
Now for the most important (and often, the most difficult) part of this routine.
A study in 2012 found that 73% of all people with fitness-related New Years Resolutions give up. Clearly, then, the challenge here isn’t losing weight, but it is being able to patiently stick to your walking routine. Given the beginner-friendly nature of this programme, it should not be difficult to follow it until your weight loss target.
Losing a significant amount of weight is easily doable if you start with the right mindset.
We recommend consulting with your doctor and proceeding with this programme once they give you a go-ahead. For healthy adults walking 6-7 days a week should not be a problem. We’ve seen great results with alternate days HIIT and LISS and feel that unless your doctor finds issues that is a good split to follow.
But what’s more important than HIIT & LISS splits, tracking heart rate and counting steps is actually starting. So start now. You do not need any equipment which means that you could literally go out, complete your walk, and resume what you were doing without losing much time. Walking helps clear & declutter your mind, too!