Welcome to April….. I hope no one was caught out on Saturday what with April fools jokes and pranks. Thankfully, this year was a pretty quiet start into April for me!
Today I wanted to touch on the topic in the news about us generally being a nation of couch potatoes. It has been in the newspapers and I’ve just heard it mentioned again on the radio, with evidence showing that the majority of us walk less than 1/2 mile in a day! That is quite shocking because I for one am focused on making sure that I get out and about and walk at least my goal of minimum 10,000 steps daily.
With this in mind, today I wanted to focus on the benefits of walking and how we can all take benefit from this FREE & SIMPLE activity.
Continuing the theme of ‘Healthy Body, Healthy Mind’, and my mission to achieve optimum health through my journey over the coming months, I came across a wonderful article that gave me many ideas on how to use walking for weight-loss.
The reason I walk (and occasionally swim, do yoga and Tai-chi) as opposed to other intensive forms of ‘working out’ is because I have a lower back disc/spine issue hence opting for the less intrusive form of exercise = walking. My journey for better health, all round, is so that I can start to address the physical difficulties I currently face so I can be in the best physical shape of my life (except through childhood) before I reach my 50’s (a few years off yet)!
Contrary to popular belief…You can lose weight from just walking. I know from experience that walking not only helps you lose weight it helps tone up the body, increases the heart rate and generally improves my mood and mental health.
The trick to walking for weight loss is to understand two simple rules:
1. Know how many steps you need to take every day
2. Commit to this step count on a daily basis, monitor it (write it down) so over time you can gradually increase the steps, day by day, week by week and so on.
Sounds simple, right?
The Health Benefits of Walking
If you’re planning on starting a walking regimen to boost your overall health and to lose weight, ensure that you first check with you GP/medical practitioner to check that any activity you want to start is safe for you and your health.
Get the Right Walking Equipment
To start with, walkers should have comfortable, loose-fitting workout clothes.
Women should also have a properly fitted sports bra.
If you’re going to walk when it’s cold, remember:
- Keep it Clean
- Keep it Open to avoid overheating
- Keep it Layered
- Keep it Dry
If you’re going to walk when it’s hot, be sure to put on sunscreen to exposed skin, have enough water and/or electrolyte drinks to stay hydrated.
Know How Many Steps You Take Walking a Mile
You can use a step-tracking device like a pedometer or an app on your phone to track the number of steps you take. Most of us have Apple IPhone and on here is a free ‘HEALTH’ app which you can use to track steps as well as monitor your weight, blood pressure and other areas. This app is fantastic as it also offers information on nutrition, sleep and mindfulness which is the perfect combination for achieving great overall health.
Find Your Baseline
To figure out the point from which you’re beginning your walking regimen, measure the number of steps you take for 2 to 3 days using your pedometer.
Don’t do anything differently from what you normally do. This average number of steps is your baseline. Using your baseline as a starting point, you will develop your regimen by gradually increasing the number of steps you take daily.
They key here is to come up with average for your baseline. So if you walk 1,000 steps on day 1, then 3,000 on day 2, and finally 2,000 on day 3, then your baseline would be 2,000 average steps.
Pick the “Right” Walking Plan
Obviously, if you haven’t done exercise of any kind for a long time, you can’t just go out and tear up the streets for multiple hours a day without hurting yourself.
At the other end of the spectrum, if you’re a seasoned walker, you don’t want to take it easy unnecessarily because you’ll backslide.
There are two plans to follow:
- Complete Couch Potato
- Regular Exerciser
And here’s how each plan works:
The Complete Couch Potato Plan
To get off the couch and into fitness and to lose weight, check out this handy chart provided by MyFitnessPal.
Remember to stretch before and after your walking workout.
The Regular Exerciser Plan
If you’ve been at the exercise thing for a while, even if all you’ve done is complete the 30-day “don’t-be-a-couch-potato-anymore” plan, then you can begin to use 10,000 steps daily as your baseline.
Once again, we have a handy guide courtesy of MyFitnessPal to get you started:
It’s still essential to rest occasionally as part of your routine, so don’t neglect resting once a week.
Look for “Extra Steps” Opportunities
You’d be amazed at how many steps you can rack up just by doing a few little things each day. There are so many things you can do that you can vary them every day and never get bored.
Here are some ways to increase your steps……..
- Whenever you have a meeting, pace while you wait for it to start. This also applies to doctor’s appointments, waiting in line, or even after school when picking up your kids. Even if all you do is pace for two- to three-minutes that adds up to 240 to 360 steps at 120 steps per minute.
- When you go shopping and aren’t in a hurry, do a lap or two around the furthest aisles. Or, if you prefer, just walk up and down every aisle again, which has the added benefit of letting you check for specials you may have missed the first time around.
- At work, instead of using the closest toilet, travel one floor up or one floor down, by using the stairs.
- If you’re responsible for driving the kids around to various activities, take a walk or two around the block while the activity is going on. You can still watch the football game while walking around the field, for example.
- If you take public transport to work, get off a stop or two early. If you’re particularly brave, set out even earlier and walk all the way to work.
- Start doing some gardening work yourself instead of hiring someone to do it.
- If all you need are a couple of items, walk to the store and back instead of driving.
- Make walking a family outing after dinner. Not only will this create quality bonding time with your family, but it’ll also serve as an example to them of the benefits of walking. This also helps you to digest the food you have just enjoyed.
- Instead of sitting down to talk on the phone, wander around the house, especially up and down stairs.
- Avoid escalators and elevators if doing so won’t make you unduly late.
- If you’re stuck at a desk for work, set your computer’s alarm to go off every two hours. Get up each time it beeps and walk down the hall or around the office. Chances are, you’ll have to talk to someone on these trips anyway, so you’ll not only increase your number of steps but also your productivity.
- If you’re an animal lover, go to your local animal shelter and volunteer to walk dogs. This is great especially if you have children.
- If you want to meet a friend for coffee, walk to your favorite place. Invite your friend to go walking with you.
I’m sure you can think up many of your own methods of boosting your steps. Even if you can’t, walking with someone is always better. Maybe your friend can think up something creative that’ll be a healthy way to get more steps!
Harness Your Inner-Competitor
While it may be fun pushing yourself, after a time it might get stale. When this happens, challenge a buddy to a “walk-off.” See if you can “out step” your buddy.
FitBit also runs its own challenges like:
- Goal Day
- Weekend Warrior
- Daily Showdown
- Workweek Hustle
Moreover, FitBit often runs special fitness day promotion where you can earn special badges by competing with your friends and getting more steps. My advice is to add all your friends (and anyone else you come across) in FitBit, then take part on the above challenges on a weekly basis.
Add Intensity to Your Walking Workout
Until now, aside from stairs, we’ve only talked about walking on fairly level ground. Hills add a whole new perspective to your calorie burning during your walking workouts so look for areas that can challenge you in this area.
Supercharge Your Weight Loss with Tweaking Your Diet
No one likes to talk about this part. I know that I didn’t, especially when I saw that I shouldn’t have certain foods.
While “everything in moderation” is a good strategy in theory, too many people still eat too much bad stuff and not enough good stuff on a regular basis.
This is why that if you follow my blogs and my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, you will always see delicious and nutritious foods that you can try at home with simply recipes to follow.
We are lucky that in this age of the ‘World Wide Web’, finding nutritious and delicious recipes is only a tap away so utilise this resource, utilise me and other nutritionists and healthy chefs to boost your eating regimes in a positive way.
Getting Started with YOUR Walking for Weight Loss Plan
I know I was scared at first, but when I broke it down and considered each part separately, I found that it was much easier to do each of these things than I first thought. I wanted to get healthier and live longer.
If you have found this story interesting, share it with family, friends and colleagues. Share your own story with me and others. At the end of the day we all learn from sharing with each other. I might think of one thing, you might think of something else and by sharing we will both benefit so please share your own stories, helpful hints and tips, recipes etc.
Who knows……You might wind up being someone else’s inspiration.