While I am not a fan of using weight as a primary metric for health, it is a leverageable metric that can indicate how we are performing when attempting to get healthier and or slimmer. So if you are looking to burn a bit of excess body fat and walking is your go-to, This article will explain the truth about walking for weight loss.
However, before I get into the weight loss benefits of walking, I am first going to remind you of the number one principle for weight loss
Walking For Weight Loss
To lose weight, your body must burn more calories than you consume. That’s it, it is that simple. Unfortunately, the subject has been complicated by marketing for diet products and programs.
The people creating these products and programs know this principle, they are not trying to get around it, they are trying to create something that will hack your mindset or your body’s natural processes. Let’s look at some examples:
Intermittent fasting gives you fewer hours in the day to eat, increasing the probability that you will eat less. Meal replacement shakes literally replace calorie intake from meals with a lower calorie shake to make you feel satisfied. Weight loss tea is low calorie and can increase the amount of energy your body uses – more energy, more calories burned.
“To lose weight, your body must burn more calories than you consume.”
Now write it down, set a daily reminder or pin it on your fridge. You don’t have to obsessively calorie count, just keep it in mind if you start to lose motivation or if you feel snacky.
The great news is, thanks to something called thermogenesis, your body gives you a head start.
What Is Your Basal Metabolic Rate
Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) refers to the calories your body needs even if you don’t do anything. That’s right, your body needs the energy to run your vital organs and your bodily functions (e.g circulation, breathing, etc.).
Scientifically, you could learn your BMR through rigorous testing under controlled conditions in a lab. This is a pricey option so if you do feel you need to know this info, you can estimate based on a not so simple formula that can be found on Wikipedia.
If you wear a smartwatch to track your activity, you may remember inputting height, weight, and age data so even if you don’t wear your watch for 24 hours, it will calculate your BMR anyway. I don’t think you need to know your BMR exactly to get results but the smartwatch is the easiest way. I calculated mine and it gave me roughly the same number my Vivoactive 3 does when I don’t wear it.
Believe it or not, the majority of calories you burn daily will be attributed to your BMR. Think about it, you breathe all day and all night, your body is constantly working to keep you alive. If that is not enough, there are a few more ways we burn calories.
Thermic Effect Of Food
The thermic effect of food (TEF) refers to the calories our bodies will use to digest the food we eat. Remember when I said diet products are designed to hack your body? Well, the body expends more calories digesting protein than it does on carbohydrates or fats. I do not recommend a higher protein diet on the merit of this detail as it can complicate your nutrient intake but it’s another example.
Exercise Activity Thermogenesis
As much as EAT is an acronym to make TEF jealous, exercise activity thermogenesis refers to the calories we burn as a result of exercise, and
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis
You can probably guess that None-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) refers to the calories we burn as a result of non-exercise movement.
The rest of this article will look at leveraging EAT and NEAT when you design your walking for weight loss schedule.
If you are arguing semantics, you might not want to refer to walking slowly as exercise. For example, if you are walking at your usual pace, your body does this regularly and it may not seem to provide many benefits. However, you cannot deny that walking is movement.
How Does It Work?
With each singular movement you make, you are concentrating your muscles to expand and contract. This requires energy. In one experiment, scientists tested people just sitting, just standing, and just walking versus all 3 activities while fidgeting. The conclusion was “The thermogenic potential of fidgeting-like and low-grade activities is sufficiently great to substantively contribute to energy balance.” Basically, fidgeters burn more calories than none-fidgeters.
How Does It Help
Obviously then, bigger movements that carry your body weight are going to burn more calories than mere fidgeting. Increasing your daily footsteps can help take your burn rate beyond your calorie consumption and set you up for weight loss results.
Walking more increases your movement and provides more opportunities for your body to burn calories. This is fantastic if you are starting quite inactive it means you can start seeing progress immediately. The increased calorie burn will remain in play for as long as you are increasing your movement, whatever your pace. However, do remember that as you lose weight, your body will find it easier and this can lead to a lower calorie burn rate.
We might not be talking Arnie here, however, similarly to increased movement, you can strengthen some of your muscles by walking more, even at a slower pace.
How Does It Work?
Your body reacts to your routine. Your muscles are strong enough to do the things you need them to do based on your usual routine. This why most people work out, lifting weights in the gym is a way of telling your muscles they need to be stronger. Walking as an exercise is a similar principle. Whether you walk further, faster, or more uphill than you are used to, working a little harder than your usual routine will cause tiny fibers in the affected muscles to tear.
Your body will act fast to use the protein you have consumed to repair your muscles and because your body is amazing it will repair them a little bit stronger than before to cope with the increased workload.
How Does It Help?
The immediate benefit is that your body will continue to burn calories at a rate higher than your BMR while it repairs the muscles. However, perhaps the best benefit is that increased muscle mass will burn calories so your BMR will be higher than with smaller muscles. Remember your overall body weight will be coming down so your BMR will come down even with stronger muscles.
Your walking form, how much you engage your upper body, and even using walking poles will increase the number of muscles you use. The more muscles you can activate during your walking workouts, the more effective the longer-term weight loss benefits will be.
As long as you are asking your muscles to do more than they are used to they will get stronger. Stronger Muscles will burn more fat so it might be the exercise gift that keeps on coming. Your muscles are stronger because you pushed them harder, you need to keep adding in another level of difficulty to continue getting this benefit. Remember to stay hydrated and eat some healthy proteins as part of your balanced diet and immediately after any rigorous activity. Protein and water are what your body needs to build the muscles.
Calorie Super Burn
There are several ways you can increase the difficulty level of your walk. By doing this you can burn a lot more calories in a short space of time
How Does This Work
If you take that difficulty level to your optimal cardio heart rate zone, you will engage your anaerobic metabolism. This means your heart rate cannot increase high enough to get enough oxygen into your bloodstream so your body has to unlock stored energy without oxygen.
This is an inefficient process in the context of generating energy but an efficient process in the context of burning more calories.
Why Does This Help
In a short space of time, you can get a huge calorie burn boost. Much like with increased movement, this will make it easier to maintain a caloric deficit and lose weight. Unlike with increased movement, you’ve still got the rest of the day to reap the calorie-burning benefits of building muscle and the remainder of your NEAT.
When you are looking at walking for weight loss, the calorie super burn achieved by really pushing yourself can be invaluable. Walking up hills can achieve this by engaging more muscles and increasing your resistance. Powerwalking intervals can achieve this just by walking as fast as you can. My go-to is to take my walking poles out and walking fast with them. Try this once per week and see you get on, but remember to eat some healthy carbs immediately after your session as your glycogen reserves have been depleted and you need to replace the energy.
Walking For Weight Loss – So There You Have It!
As long as you stick to the number 1 principle of losing weight, you can achieve results by walking fast or slow. If you can push yourself harder occasionally you will get some bigger benefits. Managing your food intake, Increasing your movement, and building more muscle are the keys to sustained success over the long term, however, pushing yourself out of your physical comfort zone every now and again can give you a huge boost.
If you are ready to raise your walking game even more then why not check out Walking for Weight Loss by Jago Holmes.
What do you think, was this article helpful? Do you have a walking weight loss routine of your own? Join the discussion in the comments below.