I used to be a real snob about walking for weight loss, but I have recently been turned around on this issue.
My turn-around is mainly thanks to real life, known-to-me examples of people who have lost significant amounts of weight through walking. Just walking, not even dietary changes.
They simply walked for an hour (at least) a day, incorporating this walk into their daily life, i.e. walking to a destination instead of using public transport.
Well, duh, you might be thinking. Why was this such a revelation to me? Because I had bought into the idea that in order to get into shape you had to do lots of high intensity exercise, get yourself a personal trainer or at the very least join a class to push you to your limits!
Living in the fast lane
In recent years, society (at least here in the UK) has been cash rich, time poor and obsessed with shiny things. So industry and advertising has followed suit. All the fitness magazines are about how quickly you can get things done: achieve an amazing body in five minutes a day, get fit on ten minutes a day, use this shiny machine to halve your workout. It’s all about saving your precious time.
There’s no better example of this obsession than the tabata fad (typical headline: get fit in four minutes), which Graeme Marsh does a great job of analysing here.
Some fitness professionals would have us believe that the more money you pay and the less time you spend working out, the better your results will be. Funny, that.
But perhaps some of us have, or wish we had a more relaxed attitude to life. Why must we be obsessed with getting the maximum amount done in the minimum amount of time? What’s so great about that, other than bragging rights on the Men’s Health forum?
The ‘slow’ movement
Walking briskly for an hour burns the same number of calories as jogging for 30 minutes.
It seems counter intuitive, especially to people who find running difficult. But it’s true; although running burns more calories than walking, the difference is smaller than you think.
I know many people who would take the walking option every time. It is easier on the joints, easy to incorporate into daily life and there’s no lycra involved.
Shiny thing make it all better
There are some people who find it impossible to exercise unless they are surrounded by shiny machines, TV screens and ipods. Somehow the gadgetry makes it legitimate, acceptable, worth the time and energy.
But we have forgotten just how much exercise and calorie burn we can notch up in a single day just by taking the stairs or walking to our destination.
I know I sound like a government information campaign, but leading a more active life is not just for the unfit and overweight, it’s for everyone.
You might do 20 minutes of interval training three times a week in the gym, and that’s great as far as it goes. But what do you do for the other 167 hours in the week?
How much time do you spend sitting down? How’s your posture these days – got any lower back pain? Did you dash through the barriers on the Tube this morning, or did you wait and help the mum get her buggy down the stairs?
The drive to get everything done as quickly as possible, including exercise, means you might actually be missing out on a load of good stuff, including using your strength and fitness to make someone else’s day a bit easier.
It doesn’t always have to be hard
It is easy to fall into the trap of ‘if it’s not tough, it’s not doing me any good’. Lord knows, we are told this often enough by exercise gurus who are obsessed with getting “fast results”. Moderate exercise is no longer relevant; everything must be done as quickly as possible.
Folks, this isn’t the case. Walking is a great example of an exercise and a movement that is easy, fun, relaxing and good for you.
I have a fairly tough weightlifting schedule and on recovery/active rest days I don’t really want to do a high impact activity like running, but I also don’t want to sit around all day getting stiff.
Walking therefore suits me well, and not just on days off. It loosens me up, gets blood moving round my system to aid recovery, raises my heart rate and burns calories.
The mental benefits are also brilliant. It gets me away from the ubiquitous digital environment, allows me to de-stress, think problems through, or just enjoy being in some green space. It also gets me from A to B in a zero carbon way (well, apart from the CO2 I’m breathing out).
There’s no one way to train and everyone is different, with unique motivations and various goals. You can say what you like about my friends (they should have done this, that or the other) but they wanted to lose weight, they took up walking and they lost weight. A job well done.
I am walking a lot more these days, for recovery, relief from bad postural positions, some extra calorie burn and an enriched daily life.
Walking may not be shiny, fast-paced or over in twenty seconds but it certainly has its place in the exercise arsenal.
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