I love to walk! I walk easily 10 to 15 km a day because I avoid the public transportation and enjoy it as a relaxing moment by listening to my music, calling my friends or just looking around. It is as well an excellent workout and actually walking is my secret gym! My father has even renamed it to “Urban fitness” with my daughter because everytime he comes to visit me he goes back home with super fit legs!
I actually started to enjoy walking when going to castings. Before that I found walking boring. I enjoy mountain climbing from time to time but I could not do it every week! But, I really enjoy walking in the city. There is always something to watch and in case I don’t want to walk anymore I can quickly grab a cab or public transportation. There is no obligation to continue and feel an endless walking which is one of the most annoying things I know!
Walking kilometers per day have also made me realized some years ago how it keeps me fit! And believe me or not, it is proven to be one of the best weight loss workouts!
According to Art Weltman, PhD, director of exercise physiology at the University of Virginia, “when you want to shed serious weight, walking might not even come to mind. But it should.
Fast-paced walking, when combined with healthy eating, is hugely effective for weight loss.”
And those simple steps can have a big impact on your overall health, cutting your risk of everything from heart disease to depression. If your daily strolls haven’t made you skinny so far, your speed may be the problem. Many of us stride more like a window-shopper than a power walker. The goal—thankfully—isn’t crazy race-walker style; you just need to move at a challenging pace.
In studies, Weltman has found that women who do three short (about 30-minute) high-intensity walks plus two moderately paced recovery walks a week lose up to six times more abdominal fat than participants who simply stroll five days a week. (This despite the fact that both groups burn the exact same number of calories.)
The power walkers also drop about four times as much total body fat. “There is a strong relationship between intensity of exercise and fat-burning hormones,” says Weltman. “So if you’re exercising at a pace considered to be hard, you’re likely to release more of these hormones.” The best part: When women walk, deep abdominal fat is the first to go. That’s a scientific fact we can get excited about.
Another happy truth: Although you’re moving at a fast clip, power walking is still easier on the joints than running. “During walking one of your feet is always in contact with the ground,” says Weltman, “but during running there’s a float stage where your whole body is lifted in the air. Then you come back down and subject your body to the impact.”
That’s why walking is a smart long-term fitness plan, where long period of gentle exercises improves insulin sensitivity and blood lipid levels at a better rate than an hour long high octane workout.
We actually all think that we need to do a high-speed cardio, such as running, to lose weight but here are good news for cardio haters: 5 Reasons Running May Not Help You Lose Weight from the Huffington Post.
Your Workout Is Always The Same
Your body is an amazing machine. It’s designed for efficiency, meaning if you do the same thing over and over again, the process becomes easier. This applies to your running workouts too. Not only will they start to feel more effortless (even if you’re still sweating and pumping your legs), but your metabolism literally learns and reacts so that fewer calories are burned with the same exercise output.
One of the biggest problems with running at a steady, moderate-intensity pace, is that the calories you burn are limited to the time you spend sweating. So once your body adapts, the benefit is limited. That’s why weight training is oftentimes viewed as better than “just” running for fat loss. Lifting weights impacts your metabolism by causing mini-micro tears that need to be repaired. That healing process requires energy, which means you’re burning more calories — a process that can sometimes last for nearly two days after your training session.
To put it more simply: With cardio, you can slog away for 30 minutes at a lower intensity and burn 200 calories — or you can just eat 200 fewer calories per day. It’s the same thing. With weight training (or as you’ll soon find out — sprints), that’s not the case. The calories you burn are not limited to what you do in the gym. So while a little variety might not seem like a big change to your routine, it will have a dramatic impact on transforming your body.
You Go Longer, But Not Faster
One of the most important variables with any type of exercise — cardio or other — is intensity.
Now imagine you focused on pushing yourself to certain level of difficulty. If the 3.0 on a treadmill would be a “four” on a difficulty scale of one to 10, what would happen if you pushed yourself at an eight or nine for a shorter period of time?
There’s no need to guess, I’ll tell you: More fat loss. Researchers at the University of Western Ontario compared short but intense exercise to long, less-intense cardio. One group performed four to six 30-second “sprints” while the other group did cardio for 30 to 60 minutes. The results were nothing short of amazing. Despite exercising for a fraction of the time, those in the sprint category burned more than twice as much body fat.
That’s because the process of sprinting causes similar internal changes to your body as those that occur during weight training. Your body needs to replenish it’s ATP (energy), convert lactic acid that’s produced during exercise into glucose, and restore your blood hormone levels after an intense workout. All of those processes mean your body works harder and burns more fat — both of which don’t happen during steady-state aerobics.
You Focus Too Much On Calories Burned
One of the most common weight-loss mistakes is believing that the majority of the calories you burn results from exercise. This is a dangerous misunderstanding. Simply being alive — sleeping, standing, eating, thinking — requires a tremendous amount of energy. The number of calories you burn at the gym actually pales in comparison to normal functioning and your daily activities that are not exercise based.
Does that mean there’s no need to hit the gym? Of course not. Exercise has many health benefits, but the type of exercise you perform in the gym will influence how many calories you burn outside of it. Running will burn calories, but sprinting or lifting weights will result in more muscle. And the more muscle you have on your body (no — not the “bulky” muscle of bodybuilders), the more calories your body burns just functioning.
You Don’t Try Other Forms Of Cardio
Now that you know muscle is important to your overall weight-loss goals, it only makes sense that you would want to do the type of training that helps this happen in the least amount of time. So if you’re a lover of slower, longer duration cardio, I have some bad news: “Endurance” running and walking (longer duration, lower intensity) impairs strength and muscle growth, according to research in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. What’s more, even if you increase the intensity and run on an incline, cycling is still better for gaining muscle and burning fat, say researchers from Stephen F. Austin State University.
Again, the point here is not that “running doesn’t work” or that there aren’t any benefits. This is about finding the most efficient weight-loss strategy. And if you’re short on time, you might be better served by cycling (preferably at a high intensity) as opposed to going for a longer walk or jog.
You Run Too Much (Yes, Too Much!)
This might sound crazy, but just hang with me: The number on the scale might not be changing because you’re running too much. While this isn’t a problem for the majority of people struggling to drop a few pounds, I’ve worked with more than a few people — and seen hundreds of other case studies — where fat loss has been stunted by doing too much.
Exercise is an indisputable component of a healthy life, but it’s still stress on your body. And the demands of that stress impact your hormones, which also control your ability to lose fat. More specifically, the hormone cortisol is released when you exercise. All cortisol is not bad (despite what late-night TV and supplement ads might have you believe), but chronic stress and chronic cortisol can lead to insulin resistance which forces you to store belly fat against your best-laid plans. Research published in the journal Hormone Research found that long distance running — like that done in endurance runners — causes a sustained increase in cortisol. And this increase in cortisol for long period of times can lead to more inflammation, slower recovery, breaking down your muscle tissue, building up fat, and even harm your immune functioning.
Just as bad, if you’re suffering from too much stress — whether it’s the result of exercises for too many hours or not recovering with the right nutrition — you can harm your thyroid and lower your metabolic rate, making weight loss more difficult.
If you’re doing an hour of cardio per day, that’s more than enough for fat loss. (Remember, this isn’t for endurance training.) If you start running two to four hours per day and aren’t losing weight (or maybe evening gaining), you might be best suited to reduce your running frequency, add some resistance training, and see what happens. Odds are, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Photos by Paolo Montuori – Main image by Stefano Gai.