Walking for weight loss
Take a step towards better fitness, less stress and a happier outlook. Ellie Moss helps you get started
You may not think walking is the answer to your fitness woes, but you’d be surprised at the multitude of benefits that can be reaped from regularly pounding the pavement. ‘A brisk walk can burn up to 100 calories per mile. It’s also a great way to clear your head, reduce stress and release mood-boosting endorphins,’ says Rory James Manning, managing director of RJ Fitness (rj-fitness.co.uk).
And depending on how challenging you want to make it, activities such as hiking can take the calorie-burn even higher! ‘Walking is a great form of exercise that can ease you into a higher level of fitness and is accessible to just about everyone,’ says Rory. ‘For many people, walking is one of the best forms of exercise as it provides a lot of physiological benefits without major risk of injury.’ Interested? Here’s how to make the most of a simple stroll.
Bring a friend
The best way to get into walking is to simply start – but it helps to have company. ‘Walking with a friend, partner, family or in a group is a great way to make new friends and keep motivated,’ says Rory. So, enlist a buddy – or even your dog! – and head outdoors.
If you haven’t done much walking before, don’t sign yourself up to trek Kilimanjaro as your first challenge. Instead, start closer to home. ‘Find ways to naturally include more walking in your life, such as walking the dog, walking your children to and from school, walking to the local shops, using the stairs instead of the lift or taking a stroll on your lunch break,’ Rory suggests.
Find a route
You don’t have to live in the Lake District or somewhere particularly picturesque to find a good trail. ‘Who says you have to go to the country to enjoy a walk?’ says Rory. ‘London, for example, has plenty of interesting walks including parks, heritage trails, towpaths, riverside paths, commons, woodlands, heaths and nature reserves.’ Have an idea of your route before you set out and try to include some interesting landmarks on your way.
Build up slowly
Pick walks to suit your fitness. ‘Both the length and terrain of a walk can affect how difficult it is – it’s important to realise that a short hill walk can sometimes be more tiring than a longer, but flat city stroll,’ says Des de Moor, senior walking officer for Ramblers. ‘Make sure you’re well aware of your fitness and honest about what you feel comfortable with.’
Commute to work
OK, so it may not be possible to foot it all the way to the office and back, but it might be possible to walk at least part of the way. ‘Get off the bus or train one stop earlier or take a slightly longer route on your way to work,’ suggests Rory. You’ll be amazed at the difference this can make to your fitness.
Use the internet for inspiration. ‘Get Walking, Keep Walking is a Ramblers project that helps people do more regular local walking to improve their health and wellbeing,’ explains Des. ‘It provides free, locally based 12-week walking programmes in certain cities, or you can use the online resources to find tips on how to plan your walks, set goals and monitor your progress.’ Check out getwalking.org for more information.
Or, join the club!
There are lots of walking clubs all over the country where you can meet fellow walkers and sign up to a range of walking and trekking adventures. ‘Many Ramblers clubs now offer shorter walks at an easier pace,’ says Des. ‘You can find details of hundreds of walks led by Ramblers volunteers on our online Group Walks Finder.’ It’s free to try up to three walks before becoming a member. Sign up to your first trial walk at ramblers.org.uk.
Set yourself a goal
Give yourself some targets to keep your fitness on track. You could even invest in a pedometer to help you monitor your progress. ‘You can walk 1,100 steps in around 10 minutes,’ says Rory. ‘So, try gradually building up to walking 10,000 steps on five or more days a week.’ You’ll soon see a difference.
If you want to really make a change to your fitness and you think walking could be for you, set yourself a challenge. Whether it’s Everest Base Camp or your local park ramble, a goal will keep you motivated. Sign up to a charity trek or check out the inspiring events in the box (right), then build up to it slowly using the tips here to prepare for the big day.