The belief that keeping it simple doesn’t work is something that is embraced in every area of life — except exercise. Unless a behavior is deemed extreme or challenging, people don’t think it will be effective.
This belief, that fitness has to be hard, is not only dangerous, but it’s also a reason why so many people don’t see results, get frustrated, and generally miss all the easy ways to stay healthy.
Even though you do need to put in some time and effort, it’s not as much as you might think. The amount of time and effort you need to invest to see a difference in your health and well-being is actually quite small.
If you’re looking for a place to start your routine or you want to make slight changes that will have a big impact, it’s time to start walking. Here’s why and how walking can help you lose fat.
Is Walking Better Than Running?
A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that just because something is healthy, it must mean that it will help with weight loss. However, this is not always the case. You can eat a lot of healthy food, but if you eat too much of it, you will end up putting on weight.
It can be hard to tell the difference between “healthy habits” and “fat loss habits,” but it’s an important distinction to make.
Conversely, just because something helps with fat loss does necessarily mean it’s healthy. Dr. Mark Haub, a professor at Kansas State University, proved this when he lost 27 pounds following a Twinkie diet.
This is also true of exercise – people can’t seem to agree on the best type of exercise.
When the goal is weight or fat loss, some say that certain types of exercise, like weightlifting, are more effective than others, like running.
How many calories you burn really depends on how much time you have, your goals, and what you’re capable of. If you go for a run and push yourself, you’ll burn more calories. But it’s not just about the intensity of the run, it’s also about how often you’re running and what your goals are.
Let’s say you only ran 2 days per week for 45 minutes. But let’s also say you hated it, it led to some aches and pains, and those feelings (emotionally and physically) made you a very inconsistent runner.
Now, compare that to going on a 30-minute walk 5 days per week, at a brisk pace while listening to your favorite podcast.
Your total amount of exercise (150 minutes vs. 90 minutes) would increase, the frequency of your movement would be more (5 days per week vs. 2 days), the stress on your joints would be reduced, your stress levels would go down, and your motivation up.
Not to mention, if you did other forms of exercise — such as weight training or playing a sport — the walking would function as a form of active recovery, which would help your muscles recover quicker and reduce soreness.
So, is walking “better” than running? Not on a minute-by-minute comparison, but it could be a healthier and more consistent option.
And, in general, there are many benefits to lower-intensity exercise, and this type of training can also fill weaknesses that you didn’t even know existed.
Can Walking Help with Fat Loss?
While it doesn’t make headlines because it’s not sexy, walking gets the job done much better than people think, if you put in the consistent effort.
Think of every step you take as a small win. In a 2011 study published in the journal International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, researchers found that taking a 5-minute walking break every hour could burn an extra 660 calories per week.
Extrapolate that over one year and you could lose about 9 to 10 pounds just by adding up the 5-minute walks.
Of course, over an 8-hour day, which amounts to 40 minutes of walking per day for at least 5 days per week. And not everyone can get up every hour to go for a walk. It’s a commitment, but even if you did half of that amount, you could still see a difference.
In fact, some of the biggest celeb trainers, people such as Harley Pasternak, are best known for their focus on daily steps as a foundation for health and fat loss. Pasternak sets a goal of 12,000 steps per day for his A-list clientele, which is a whos-who ranging from Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga to LL Cool J and Adam Levine.
Proven Health Benefits of Walking
The health benefits of walking should not be understated, and research shows that it is undeniably good for you.
New research from the Netherlands compared several types of exercise and movement (and lack thereof) on health markers. You’ll know “health markers” as the “under-the-hood” breakdown of how your body is really feeling and whether you’re healthy.
The study investigated the specific effects of:
Turns out, each has a distinct impact on your body that is measurable in as little as four days.
In this study, researchers recruited 61 adults — some who were healthy, some overweight, and some overweight and diabetic. None were exercisers prior to the study. The scientists then had the group follow three different living patterns, each for four straight days at a time. The patterns were:
➤ 14 hours a day of sitting, getting up only to use the bathroom (sounds like my life after an early morning workout)
➤ 13 hours of sitting + 1 hour of moderate exercise.
➤ 8 hours of sitting + 6 hours of standing or strolling around
Participants underwent a series of health tests before and after each block. The results:
➤ The sitting period led to a worsening in cholesterol and increases in insulin sensitivity, even in those who’d been metabolically healthy (no diabetes) at the outset.
➤ The exercise period led to an improvement in endothelial cell health (which keeps your blood vessels flexible, supple, and strong), but no effects on insulin sensitivity or cholesterol.
➤ The standing/strolling period led to improvements in insulin sensitivity and cholesterol levels
The lesson is that movement has benefits, and you shouldn’t think of exercise as “checking off” all the boxes of health. Just because you lift weights or have gym time doesn’t mean that you should think you can sit all day. Also, walking has a surprising amount of health benefits (and yes, it will burn some calories too). In fact, this is very much in line with what we’ve been saying for a long time: the movement you do outside of the gym has a surprising impact on your health and on weight loss.
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