Ever since the late 1970's when Jim Fixx's best selling book "The complete book of running", hit the shelves, jogging and running has been seen by many as the best form of exercise (despite the author dropping dead a few years later on his morning run) especially for weight loss. There is no doubt that running is a very effective form of aerobic exercise, which in turn can promote many health benefits to the runner. It is also true that in most sports, such as football, rugby, tennis etc, require some level of running ability, be it short sharp sprints or a more endurance based jog. However in my experience as a health and fitness professional most of the clients I meet rarely play competitive sport (if they did I would base their programmes towards sports specific exercises anyway) and a high percentage feel sick at the thought of spending hours pounding away on the treadmill. There are also a significant amount of people who would be advised not to run due to knee, hip or ankle injury or just general obesity issues. So it to safe to say that running isn't for everyone.
The good news is that there are other ways of improving your physical fitness and losing weight. Walking is often the most under rated activity when it comes to weight loss due to the perception that it is easy and ineffective. However a brisk walk (getting slightly out of breath, not a poodle around the shops) for 30 minutes a day for an 80kg individual can burn approximately 1400 calories per week, the same walking rate for a 60kg individual would burn around 1100 calories per week. So if this is multiplied over the year in can burn up to 75,000 for an 80kg individual, or 56,000 for a 60kg individual. Or to look at it another way 21lbs or 16lbs of fat respectively. These statistics clearly show that an achievable target of a 30 minute brisk walk per day can be an effective weight loss tool, especially if accompanied by an adequate nutrition plan.
Another advantage that walking has over running is that it doesn't have a counter productive effect to resistance training. One of the most efficient ways of losing weight and burning fat is to build lean muscle tissue. Building muscle mass not only helps make the body look aesthetically pleasing, but makes the body more metabolically active, which in turn burns fat more efficiently. If an individual is attempting to build lean mass in the gym but then going for a long run the next day there is a high chance that the new muscle is being broken down in this process. This would not happen during a 30 minute brisk walk as the body is not pushed to the same limits. In fact it has been shown that brisk walking itself can raise the bodies metabolic rate.
Starting your walking programme
- Get yourself a pedometer. A pedometer is a device that clips onto your waistband and counts how many steps you have taken. This handy bit of kit can act as a motivational tool as it allows you to keep an accurate record of how far you are walking each day, which can then be used to set progress targets. A 30 minute brisk walk will take approximately 3600 steps. You can buy pedometers for around £10 from a variety of sports shops or online retailers.
- Get yourself some comfortable shoes. Walking for 30 minutes per day is not a huge burden on any ones timetable, but if this walk was causing your feet to blister and get sore it wouldn't take long before 30 minutes in front of the television is a far more tempting use of time. So I recommend either some comfortable trainers or some walking shoes. These can be bought from either sports retailers or outdoor adventure stores.
- Find somewhere interesting to walk. There is a greater chance of you sticking to your new walking regime if you find interesting walks to go on. These do not have to be in rolling countryside or areas of outstanding natural beauty, but it is easy to go down to your local town hall or search online to find information on walks in your local area. I am lucky enough to be based in the Highgate/Hampstead area of London, where there are hours of walks on the heath.
So all that is left for you to do is to get yourself outside, start walking and get burning that excess fat. Remember every exercise programme should be accompanied by an adequate nutrition plan, this does not mean starving yourself or surviving on powdered foods or milkshakes. It means a diet that provides an optimum amount of nutritional value whilst at the same time promotes a slow and steady weight loss (or weight gain or maintenance depending on the individual goal). For more information on how to plan an effective weight management programme or to discuss a series of personal training or boot-camp sessions, contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org.