If you're on a mission to lose weight but don't have the time or energy for a more intense workout, walking is a great place to start. And with fitness trackers and GPS apps readily available on our phones, it's easier than ever to track your steps, time, or distance whenever you hit the pavement.
So, let's say you walk for an hour during the day: will you lose weight? One study in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that subjects who, without making changes to their diet, worked out at a rate equivalent to walking 12 miles per week for eight months saw fat loss. The authors further stated that the controls in this experiment gained weight, but that could be reversed with 30 minutes of daily walking.
Plus, exercise physiologist Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, told POPSUGAR in a previous interview that you can certainly see weight-loss results by walking just 30 minutes per day. He recommends that true beginners start with walking three to four times per week, then increase from there. But, just how effective your workout is depends on a number of factors.
"The intensity at which you walk plays a key role in helping your body burn more calories and improve your cardiorespiratory system," Denise Miklasz, an ACE-certified personal trainer at Northwestern Medicine Crystal Lake Health & Fitness Center, told POPSUGAR.
If you're walking at a casual stroll, you're probably not going to achieve the weight loss you want. One way to pick up the pace? "You could include 30- to 60-second bursts of faster walking every three to five minutes, followed by a 30-second recovery walk," Miklasz said. You can also try walking with weights or picking a route with hills to add some intervals to your workout.
"An interval-training workout will continue to burn more calories after your workout due to a physiological effect called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. EPOC is sometimes referred to as the 'afterburn effect,'" Miklasz explained.
Even more important is your diet. You know this, but you can't eat whatever you want or as much as you want the second you start exercising. "In order to lose weight you need to create a calorie deficit," Miklasz said. One pound is equal to 3,500 calories, so you'd need to carve out 3,500 calories each week in order to lose one pound, which experts consider a safe and healthy goal. In other words, "you need to either burn an extra 3,500 calories or remove 3,500 calories from your diet," Miklasz explained — or a combination of the two.
"Combining exercise with a healthy diet is more effective than restricting calories alone. Exercise can help you maintain and increase lean body mass, which results in a larger calorie burn per day," Miklasz said. To that point, when you're ready to start building muscle, remember that walking alone won't cut it. She noted, "Ideally, incorporating strength training along with aerobic exercise will increase muscle mass and boost your metabolism." This four-week workout plan for weight loss is a great place to start, and you can check out this beginner weightlifting plan as well.