Unless you are physically challenged, walking is an exercise you can do. It is probably the cheapest form of exercise available to the entire human race.
Probably that’s the reason why so many people ignore its immense benefits and do no exercise at all since they are unable to afford the membership fee of a gym.
So let’s answer the question; can walking help you lose weight? How you can burn that stubborn belly fat.
How walking affects the body
Probably the first impact is felt in the mind. Walking improves your mood. If you are upset, take a walk. A stroll will help but a brisk walk will do wonders. You can never return to your starting point in the same mood unless you deliberately decided to hold on to the pain of whatever upset you in the first place.
A brisk walk can bring calm to any volatile situation and clear the mind to deal with the situation more wisely.
Walking exercises the entire body. It is a full body workout.
The main muscles involved in walking are the muscles of the legs and arms. The core muscles (chest and abdominal areas) are also involved though because they help to carry the body.
These muscles are:
- The hamstring – those are the muscles behind the legs
- The quadriceps – those huge muscles to the front of the legs, commonly called the thighs.
- The gluteus maximus – muscles of the bottom and a sure indicator that you are not walking enough. They begin to sag.
- The calf muscles – back of the lower leg
- The stomach muscles – those that when defined with targeted exercise form the six-pack
Other secondary muscles that come into play while walking are:
- The pelvis stabilizing muscles
- The arm and shoulder muscles – especially when the arms are allowed to swing freely while walking. Other are positions give exercise to different muscles
- Symmitrical tibialis stabilizing muscles
With these muscles in action, we can be assured that we have that total workout.
The heart also becomes involved as a brisk walk stimulates the heart to pump more blood through the system. The increased heart rate strengthens the muscles of the heart.
While this is happening, the demand for oxygen increases. The lung expands to receive a greater volume of air thus increasing lung capacity. All this activity requires energy which can be gained first from the stored glucose but as that runs out, the body turns to the stored fat, which it breaks down to provide the needed energy.
Here are some over all benefits of exercise to the body as found in the book – “The Natural Remedies Encyclopedia” by Ferrell & Cherne.
- It improves the tone of your muscles and blood vessels, changing them from weak and flabby tissue to strong and firm tissue, often reducing blood pressure in the process.
- It will increase the efficiency of your heart in several ways. Gradually it will grow stronger and pump more blood with each stroke, thus reducing the number of strokes needed to supply your body with life-giving blood.
- It will improve your digestion by quickening the circulation and helping to lift the blood back to the heart from the digestive organs and thus normalizing your bowel action.
- It will increase the efficiency of your lungs, conditioning them to process more air with less effort.
- It will increase your maximum oxygen consumption by increasing the amount available and the efficiency of its delivery to body cells.
- It will improve the overall condition of your body, especially your most vital parts: the lungs, heart, blood vessels, and endocrine system. This will impart added protection against sickness.
- It can change your whole outlook on life, enabling you to relax, work more efficiently, and handle stress better. When not overdone, it imparts a cheerful quality to the mind.
- It will enable you to sleep better at night and think better during the day. Exercise strengthens the will. You will be able to get more work done with less fatigue.
- It will slow down your aging process – by slowing down the natural physical deterioration that old age normally brings. It will give you a new zest for life t a time when you most need it. And there is evidence that it can reduce the likelihood of cancer.
Take it slow
To receive the full benefit of a walking workout you should aim to increase your heart rate to 60 percent of its maximum. If you have been living a sedentary life, this will take some time. Do not rush the walk. You would want to begin slowly and increase to a comfortable but fat burning pace.
So do not expect to see huge weight loss immediately. As you begin, give your body time to warm up. Start off at a slow pace for the first 5 minutes or so. This helps prepare your body for what is to come and allows it to get ready to burn fat instead of sugar.
Increase your pace as you warm up. A good test to determine if you are really at the position to burn those calories is to be able to speak comfortably while walking briskly but be unable to sing. If you can sing, then you need to increase your speed.
Depending on your weight, your pace would vary. So you need to have a plan for yourself. Not your spouse’s plan or your friend’s. Pay close attention to your body and know how much you can do. If your friend is able to do three miles in 30 minutes and you are not able to yet, be glad for him but do not let that deter you.
The aim should be to achieve a minimum of 30 minutes of walking per day for at least five days per week. So pace yourself. If you are only able to do 15 or 20 minutes in the first week, don’t stress. You have begun the lifestyle. Maintain it now.
Add more minutes to your weekly walk. 5 minutes more per week would mean that by the fourth week you are at 30 minutes if you began at 15 minutes the first week.
It may be wise to take a day off after the second and fourth days to allow the body time to settle in to the new routine. This would help in avoiding ‘overuse injury’.
Remember that it is always best to check with your physician before you begin an exercise program. Yes, even walking. More so if you have preexisting health conditions.
If while walking, you experience signs of weakness, breathlessness, overexertion – pounding chest, feeling dizzy or faint, profuse sweating – you should back off and visit the doctor.
Always remember to take about five minutes to warm up and cool down before going for that walk and at the end of it.
Stretch your muscles gently in preparation for that walk and then stretch them again at the end. Allow yourself to relax and your heart rate to decrease from what it was while you were briskly striding. Don’t come to a sudden end of the walk.
When you are about 5 minutes from the end of the walk begin to slow your pace. By the time your walk is ended your heart rate should be almost back to normal.
By doing this and stretching those muscles you save yourself the aches and pains that you may hear others who just begin suddenly and end suddenly, complain about. You also save yourself from becoming discouraged as a result of having to deal with body pains at the end of each walk.
To the next level
Now your are feeling more confident about yourself. You are no longer feeling sluggish when you spring out of bed in the morning. You have begun to look forward to each new day.
The pounds have been dropping off steadily and people are noticing. Compliments are coming from all around and there is that feel – good atmosphere all around. What’s the next step? Should you cut back and let the rest happen on its own or should you press on?
I would want to believe that when you started out you had set a target for yourself. “Lose X amount of pounds to achieve my ideal weight“. If you have reached that goal, hurray for you, Give yourself a pat on the back. Now what?
Move on to the next level. Remember that this is a lifestyle not a roller coaster. You don’t want to have to be gaining and losing weight repeatedly. So now it’s about maintaining that ideal weight.
You have a choice as to what the next level will be. You can decide to continue walking at the pace that you are at present or you can pick up the pace. Challenge yourself to walk further in less time or choose a more demanding route – one with steeper inclines and longer steeper hills.
You can also decide to cross train. This means that you can add weight training to your routine. This will help tone up your muscles and give you that more defined look. Swimming can also be added as a part of your cross training schedule. Then there is the aerobic workout to help build stamina.
Whatever your choice, practice consulting with your doctor before adding more to your work out. More so if you have or have had any recent illness. A family history of illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes and cardiac problems should also be considered as you ramp up your exercise routine.
What can you expect
You want to see results. This is natural. To remain motivated you need to see the evidence of the falling off of that excess weight when you go to the scale. If that is not happening, if the waist size is the same or that smaller dress does not fit after 2 – 3 weeks of constant work/walk out, something is wrong.
Do some reflection. The first place to begin is in the kitchen. Ask yourself:
- Has the way I eat changed?
- Have I made any alterations in my diet?
- How often do I eat and when?
- What composes the bulk of my diet?
- Am I still using the fast foods, cheese, oils, simple sugars?
The answers to these and other diet related questions could quickly lead you to the reason for the weight gain or its remaining the same.
You may walk all you want, if your diet remains the same as it was before you began to exercise you will see little or no change in the weight you are carrying around.
What you constantly put in your mouth plays the biggest part in whether you achieve that ideal weight goal.
Keep this at the forefront of your mind as you set out on your walks. Resist the temptation to eat as you did before and you can expect that the weight to disappear.
You can also expect an increase in energy, overall good mood and a positive approach to life. This does not come automatically of course. Your mind must be used to focus on the positives.
While walking, it’s a good time to think, to plan, to set goals, to review what you have done before and learn from your mistakes.
Expect a stronger, healthier body with a more active immune system. Your blood pressure should drop while you experience an increase in the amount of oxygen going through your body.
Your heart should become stronger thus reducing the possibility of heart attacks. Your arteries and veins will also benefit.
Digestion would also improve and if you have been dealing with nervous tension, you may see that decrease if not totally disappear.
Here’s another good side effect of that walk routine; you will rest well at night.
O, and how can I forget this one; you will slow down the aging process. Isn’t that fantastic?
The cheapest form of exercise for weight loss is walking. It is something that the majority of us can do. There are other ways for those who are physically incapacitated, so don’t count yourself out if there is an impediment that hinders you from walking.
You can step out in almost anything you have at home or you can expend some cash and get a neat kit if you are concerned about looking the part.
Walking gives a full body workout and involves most if not all the muscles of the body. Done properly and with the very necessary care when it comes to our diet, it is a simple and enjoyable and most times pain – free way to lose weight.
Beginning slowly and increasing distance until you are able to walk for at least 30 minutes per day, 5 days for the week with a rest day every two day should bring visible results of weight loss and a fitter body.
Walking rolls back the years while improving the functions of both internal and external systems. Your mood may be transformed and you will sleep better at nights while you experience improved digestion.
So, can walking help you lose weight? You bet it can! Come on, step out. Burn that belly fat!