Walking is a great form of exercise for a couple or reasons. One, you don’t need any equipment. Two, you can do it just about anywhere. These two reasons make it a great type of exercise to do on your lunch or when traveling – you don’t have to carry around a bunch of equipment or have a shower afterwards.
If the weather is nice, walking outside is the best for you. Getting your vitamin D from the sun, breathing in fresh air, listening to the birds singing and seeing the greenery of trees are all reasons why walking outside is good. If the weather is cold or miserable, walking indoors is a good alternative. For example, my Mom and Nana would walk laps inside a mall before the stores opened; I’ve done laps around the floor of an office building (plus flights of stairs so it was a giant loop) during my lunch.
I often asked is “How many steps do I need to walk every day to stay healthy? How many more to lose weight?”
Walking for weight loss has been researched world wide.
In Canada, Health Canada recommends that adults accumulate at least 2 1/2 hours (or 150 minutes) of moderate to vigorous physical activity, each week. In America, the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition recommends the same. That’s about half-an-hour a day.
Most of us do not walk nearly enough due to our sedentary lifestyle. We sit at home – at the table to eat and on the couch. We also sit for work – at a desk and in the car (or public transit) to commute. According to the UK’s National Health Service, most Brits walk on average between 3,000 and 4,000 steps per day. The America On the Move study conducted in 2003 reported adults taking an average of 5117 steps per day (fewer steps per day than those living in Switzerland, Australia, and Japan). Stats Canada also did a study (2007-2009) and reported that men averaged 9,500 steps per day, and women, 8,400.
Walking for one hour at 5 mph (5 miles or 9 kilometers) equates to approximately 10,000 steps. Do this for five days and you’ll burn off enough calories to have lost a pound during that week – provided you ate healthy and watched your calorie intake.
You can’t “out run” a bad calorie-laden diet. Increase the intensity by walking faster, swinging your arms, etc. and you’ll burn even more calories.
But unless you measure out a 5-mile route and time your walk, how do you know you are walking at least 10,000 steps? This is where a step-measuring device can help you. They range from a simple pedometer that only measures the number of steps taken to the new fitness trackers that not only measure steps, but the number of calories burned and a whole host of other data.
Personally, I use a Fitbit Charge HR that tracks my steps, sleep and heart rate. On days when I go for a one-hour walk, it’s easy to reach (and even surpass) 10,000 steps. However, on days when I don’t make an effort to get out and walk, my steps are between 4,800-5,200. What it tells me is that my day is very routine since the number of steps are consistent every day (and that would be a true statement!). If you’ve thought about getting a pedometer, I will say that I’ve been really happy with my Fitbit. They come not just as watches and clips, but stylish pendants that look like jewelry (I’ve been eyeing that one when I need a replacement).
Getting in your steps throughout the day
One common excuse many people say is that they don’t have enough time. There are some “tricks” used by many people to get in their steps without having to expend much more time. Some examples are:
- If you drive to work, park at the far end of the parking lot and walk in to work.
- If you take public transportation, get off a stop or two early and walk the rest of the way.
- Once in your office building, take the stairs for a few flights instead of the elevator.
- During your lunch break, strap on your walking shoes and take a walk leaving just enough time to eat your healthy brown bag.
If you are wearing a pedometer or fitness tracker, you’ll see how these simple actions add to your daily step count. Finish off your day with a walk after your evening meal – a daily constitutional. It helps with digestion. I’ve also been seen to run up/down our staircase before bed to get in those last few steps if I’m really close to my goal (6 miles a day).
If going outside doesn’t appeal to you at all but you enjoy walking, consider an at-home program like Leslie Sansone’s: Walk At Home DVD series. I picked up a copy on Amazon and after just 3-weeks of doing 1 mile of her program in the morning and 2-3 in the evening, I noticed a significant difference in my ability to climb the stairs at work. We’re on the 4th floor of an commercial block and I would be winded and sweating by the time I got to the third floor. Now, I can make it the whole way up with my laptop, purse and lunch bags in hand AND say hello to my colleagues. This was only possible because I am conditioning my body to be more efficient at walking. Just be sure to speak with your doctor before trying anything new, like a walking program.
There are so many healthy reasons to walk besides losing weight. You are doing yourself a disservice if you are not getting in your daily number of steps. Make an effort to reach your goal each day and reap the advantages of walking.
Footnote: fancy math
 The number of calories exerted by the body due to walking varies with weight, muscle mass, length of your walking stride, and lots of other factors. However, 100 calories per mile for a 180 pound person is average, and a typical walking pace is 3.5 mph (or 17 minutes per mile). That translates to about 350 calories per hour for a 180 pound person.
There are 3500 calories in a pound of fat. Therefore, one-pound of fat is the energetic equivalent to walking one-hour a day for 10 days. Weight loss is due a combination of reduced water, fat, muscle, ligaments and so on. It’s not an exact 1:1 but walking will certainly help!