Walking for Weight Loss and Health

By: C Lynn Beebe

Walking has long been the exercise of choice because it is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to lose weight and improve your health. Walking as a cardio exercise can benefit anyone - young or old. For these reasons, walking continues to be popular with fitness enthusiasts everywhere.

No gym membership or expensive equipment is required to enjoy this superior weight-loss tool. An added bonus is getting to enjoy the quiet joys of nature and breathing in fresh air while clearing your mind at the same time. Some testify that walking is the best way to squeeze healthy exercise into a busy schedule.

The beauty of walking is that you have to do it anyway as part of your daily routine. Walking for weight-loss needs to be at a brisk pace in order to provide a truly effective workout.

Many experts now recommend exercise "intervals" where a period of time is spent at a difficult pace followed by a period of time at a slower "recovery" pace. Alternating difficult and recovery intervals can provide an extremely effective fat-burning workout and alleviate boredom. As you can imagine, more calories are burned using the interval method than in simply walking at the same pace for the same amount of time.

If you're ready to start a walking program, there are several things to consider. By far the most important consideration is whether you are healthy enough to begin the program. Always check with your physician before starting any new type of exercise routine. Your doctor should be able to tell you at what intensity and length you can safely begin your program.

One you receive the "all clear" signal from your doctor, you need to set your goals. Weight loss goals require a different approach than goals intended to gain energy and improve health. Experts now recommend 60 to 90 minutes of activity on most days to achieve weight loss. Thirty minutes will be fine for improved health in most cases.

Don't despair if you are in the weight loss group and have no idea where to find 60 to 90 minutes a day to exercise. If you are just beginning, even a slight increase in activity will produce positive results at first. In addition, using the interval method of training for about 30 minutes for a couple of your workouts each week can provide a challenging and effective workout.

Other considerations when beginning your program include getting the proper attire. This includes a good pair of walking shoes and comfortable clothing. A new pair of shoes and walking outfit can be the perfect motivator for jump-starting your new routine!

The next thing you have to consider when starting a walking regimen is your schedule. Regardless of recommendations for the perfect time to exercise, the best time to walk is the time when you will actually do it!

Some walkers prefer to begin their day with a walk to jump-start their energy and ensure their exercise is complete for the day. There is no better feeling than knowing you have met your exercise goals for the day and can do as you please with the rest of it.

Others prefer to end their day with a walk, perhaps after dinner. This is a great way to avoid the "couch potato" syndrome and enjoy nature as part of your evening activities. Evening walks could also prove to be a great way to spend more time with your family. Just be sure to keep the pace up for a good workout - walking with others should not slow you down.

You will also have to consider the environment and weather as well as the safety of the areas in which you will be walking. Look for sidewalks and trails in safe neighborhoods. A great alternative to walking outside during inclement weather is walking on a treadmill if you have one. The added benefit of walking on a treadmill is that you can watch your favorite television program without missing your workout. Also, many walkers head to the mall to get out of the rain or hot weather.

Wherever and whenever you choose to walk, use it as a time to reward and renew yourself. You will reduce stress levels, burn calories and improve your overall health. Enjoy!

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