Last Updated on December 11, 2017 by Michael Brockbank
Walking is one of the easiest forms of exercise. However, it’s also one of the more misunderstood. Some have the misconception that simply getting a certain number of steps is going to make them healthy and fit. In reality, more goes into losing weight after a walk than simply meeting a step goal.
What Influences the Health-Factor of a Walk?
There’s no doubt that getting up and moving is going to help you burn off fat. But how much you lose is going to be influenced by several factors.
Don’t assume that meeting a 10,000 step goal in a day is going to slim you down.
You’ll burn more calories and fat doing a 30 minute walk at three miles per hour than you will at two. This is because of the effort your body puts into moving faster. The quicker your muscles have to flex to sustain an activity, the more energy you burn.
It’s all about effort. You won’t burn as much if you go for a leisurely stroll as you would with a power walk. Think about it, how often do you see people walking on a treadmill at the gym with their hands in pockets and whistling a pleasant tune?
You don’t want to push yourself too hard, but you want a walk that is going to keep the heart rate up.
The longer you sustain a faster rate, the more calories you’ll burn. This is true in any physical activity. If you want to lose weight by walking, you need to focus on time and distance.
This is why I like to use tools such as Runkeeper. It keeps track of my best times and distances in a myriad of different types of travel. In this case, I have a few time records for different distances I try to break.
Breaking personal records is one of the best ways to focus on health and fitness, in my opinion. This is about surpassing your own abilities, which then feeds into self-confidence as well as pride in your accomplishment.
What You Eat
It does no good to go for a walk that burns 400 calories if you eat 500 worth of sweets when you’re done. The foods you eat are going to influence your success at losing weight whether you’re walking or doing aerobics.
Certain foods are more productive than others when it comes to shaving the fat. But this also depends on the type of physical activity you plan on doing. For a walk, I usually stick to higher proteins and some carbs for fuel.
Because I have a problem with low blood-sugar levels, I found a sweet snack in the middle of a workout helps to prevent going into shock. You will undoubtedly be different. If you start to get light-headed, dizzy, clammy or generally not “good,” you may have to tone your walk down a bit.
You’ll burn more by walking up hill than you will on a flat surface. This is because it takes more effort and strength to propel against gravity and lift your body up. Why do you think stair machines are so popular?
This is another reason I like Runkeeper so much. Using GPS tracking, the app can tell you what kind of inclines and declines you face when out for a walk. Experiment with your area and find a route that is more productive for losing weight.
If you walk on a treadmill at the gym, use one of the machines that simulate an incline. It offers a similar experience and greatly increases the effort you’ll put into each step.
What If You Want to Lose One Pound By Walking?
Studies suggest that each pound of fat is about 3,500 calories. This means you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you eat. For example, if you’re on a 1500 calorie diet for the day, you need to burn a total of 5,000 to lose one pound!
Burning 5,000 calories in a single day is an unrealistic goal for walking. For myself, who walks at an average pace of about 3.5 miles per hour, it would take just over 9 hours of non-stop walking to burn a pound. And that’s if I stick to eating 1500 calories of food that day.
The bottom line is health and fitness is not a get-thin-quick scheme. It’s going to take time and perseverance if you want to shed the weight short of dangerous activities or surgeries.
By pushing too hard, you also run the risk of putting your body into shock. Diabetics are not the only ones who can suffer from too much in a very short amount of time. In reality, anyone can push too hard and do some serious damage to themselves.
For instance, I busted both of my feet up pretty good by trying to do a 5k power walk back in 2015 while weighing 280+ pounds. Of course my shoes didn’t help matters during that episode.
Not Everyone Burns Calories at the Same Rate
The example I gave above is based on my physiology and monitoring my heart rate. Everyone is different, and you may burn calories at a faster pace than myself. In fact, overweight people tend to burn faster than those who are skinny.
However, pushing yourself to burn 3500 calories in a single day, on top of what you’ll burn just being alive, is unrealistic no matter who you are.
I’m not saying that it’s impossible. However, it’s unrealistic to think you can maintain that level of weight loss every day and still feel healthy.
What Are Some Good Goals for a Walk?
I know a lot of people who focus on 10,000 steps in a single day. Personally, I focus more on calorie burn rather than steps. It really boils down to what you want to accomplish.
A lot of people will try to surpass their own personal records according to the total number of steps in a day. I would rather focus on a weekly average only because of how haphazard my life is at the moment. You could also focus on distance traveled during your walks, which demonstrates more steps.
Remember, sustained activity is key to losing weight. The longer your able to keep up with a physical activity, such as walking, the better. This could also be trying to cover a certain distance in a specific amount of time. For example, I started by trying to do one mile as quickly as possible every day.
The key to keeping your mind focused on health and fitness is boosting your level of confidence. If you’re able to surpass your own personal bests, you will feel much better about yourself. It may also play into keeping you motivated to continue. After all, a lack of motivation is where a lot of people will fail trying to diet and exercise.