In the search for weight loss success, many people want to know if it is possible to lose weight without exercising, or at least without exercising vigorously. Whether it is due to physical ability, desire, or just being overwhelmed with the idea of trying to plan your meals for weight loss, the thought of also incorporating formal exercise plans can be too much for some people. While it is definitely possible to lose weight without exercising, adding a bit of physical activity will definitely add to your success.
Because formal and/or vigorous exercise routines might be too difficult as you start your weight loss journey, perhaps you should consider keeping it simple. Something that requires little to no equipment and can be incorporated easily into your daily routine is walking. But can you lose weight walking? YES YOU CAN. While it is always best to put proper nutrition at the top of the list for lifestyle changes that contribute to weight loss and health, something as simple as a daily walking routine can greatly improve weight loss results.
While you will not need fancy equipment, there are a few things that you should have in order to reduce the risk of pain or injury when beginning a walking program. There are also a few things to consider that just tend to make walking more enjoyable. Below are a few items to consider:
1. Proper Shoes. It is ESSENTIAL that you have proper footwear when doing any kind of physical activity. What happens when your foot hits the ground can affect the rest of your body. Improper footwear can lead to overuse injuries very quickly. You may have to spend a bit of money on your shoes, but it will be well worth it in the long run. It is important for a walker (or runner) to have supportive footwear. You will definitely want shoes that are specifically made for walking or running.
The best type of shoe depends on your individual foot type. There are two foot types (other than a neutral foot type ) that are important to be aware of when choosing shoes.
- Pronators — People with low arches/flat feet or arches that drop too much when walking. Pronators should look for a shoe with good heel control.
- Supinators — People with high arches. Supinators need a shoe with good shock absorption.
2. Proper clothing. Always assess the weather conditions if walking outside, and dress appropriately. It is often a good idea to layer clothing if weather is a factor. Active Dry, CoolMax, or some type of moisture wicking fabric is best used as a base layer. In warmer temps, that may be all you need. This type of fabric is much preferred to cotton as it wicks sweat/moisture away from the body, minimizing the risk of chafing and helping with the regulation of body temperature. You may want a windproof, water-resistant jacket if it is cool or rainy. If walking in colder winter temps, you should add an insulating layer of polyester micro fleece or wool. Be sure to cover areas prone to frost bite with appropriate winter gear as well (ears, face, hands).
Don’t forget to think about what is on your feet! DO NOT wear cotton socks. Cotton holds moisture against your skin and can quickly lead to blisters. It is important to wear socks made from active/technical, moisture-wicking fabric such as CoolMax, polypropylene, or wool.
3. Sunscreen. It’s important to protect your skin from sun damage.
4. Cell phone. It’s a good idea to always have a means to call for help should something unexpected happen.
5. A great play list. Whether it is some of your favorite songs or a great book on audio, having something to listen to is a great distraction and often a great motivator when out for a stroll. One item of caution, however, is to never have the volume so loud that you are unable to hear your surroundings. It’s vital to be able to hear oncoming cars and such in order to remain safe. I would also recommend occasionally going without the playlist and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature instead.
6. Identification. In the event of an accident or emergency, it’s wise to have some form of identification on your person.
Walking to Improve Weight Loss
There are several ways in which walking contributes to improvements in overall health and weight management.
It is widely known that weight loss is largely the result of burning more calories than one consumes. In order to lose 1 lb per week, a person needs to have a calorie deficit of approximately 3500 calories, below their basal metabolic rate, for the week. This means consuming 500 fewer calories or burning 500 extra calories per day. Doing both would give an added benefit in doubling the weight loss potential.
On average, a person can burn approximately 100 calories for every mile walked. Therefore, a daily walk of 3 miles means a calorie deficit of approximately 300 calories. If you are aiming to lose a pound per week, that would mean you would only have to reduce your calorie intake by 200 calories instead of the 500 that a sedentary person would have to do.
When people are restricting calories to reduce weight, it can often lead to a loss of lean muscle mass along with fat loss if efforts aren’t made to reduce the loss of muscle. It’s important to maintain muscle tissue as it contributes to a higher metabolic rate, which will help you sustain weight loss. Walking will help to maintain muscle mass, which further helps to maintain strength and function.
Reducing Belly Fat
Storing extra fat around your abdomen increases risk for some diseases such as Type II diabetes and heart disease. One of the best ways to reduce belly fat is to incorporate regular aerobic activity into your lifestyle. Walking is one of the best and safest forms of aerobic exercise and has been shown to reduce weight circumference in men and women.
Physical activity has been shown in many studies to improve mood and overall sense of well-being. It does so by affecting the brain’s sensitivity to the “mood boosting” hormones norepinephrine and serotonin, which reduce feelings of depression, and stimulate the release of endorphins. This boost in mood further contributes to the likelihood of being more consistent with a walking program. If you feel good doing something, chances are you will want to continue.
Maintaining Weight Loss
Because walking is something that requires little equipment, is less vigorous than many other forms of exercise, and generally contributes to a greater sense of well-being, it is often the type of exercise people will commit to long term. Doing so will help improve the odds of maintaining a healthy weight long term. Studies show that people who maintain a regular exercise program are most likely to maintain weight loss, while those who don’t exercise regularly are less likely to keep weight off. Recent recommendations for maintaining a stable weight are to walk at least 150 minutes per week, at a relatively brisk pace.
Make Walking Fun
In order to make walking part of your every day life, find ways to make it fun. Find ways to incorporate it into you day. Some ideas that might help keep it interesting and motivating:
- Find a friend and set a regular walking “date”. Being accountable to someone else often helps in making a commitment.
- Use a fitness tracker and set new walking goals, whether it be improving speed, distance or frequency.
- Add little bits of walking just by choosing to park further away or take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Pick new routes that allow you to explore new scenery.
- Start or join a walking group/club.
- Set a goal to walk a 5k, and include/encourage family members to join you.
Whether you are considering walking to help lose weight or just looking to increase your activity level, it is well worth the time and effort. Not only can walking improve your physical health and well-being, it can greatly improve your mental and emotional well-being. It is something that can truly be an everyday accomplishment. Just take that first step, put one foot in front of the other, and see where you can go and what you can achieve.
If you have success stories you would like to share in your walk toward better health, please leave comments below.