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Walking and Weight Loss - The Keys to a Successful, Long-Term Weight Loss Program

Raspberries - A Great Snack to Help with Weight LossOne of the most popular fad diets in recent years is the Atkins low carb diet. It directly contradicts what we know about nutrition. In the early phases you are limited to 20 grams of carbohydrates a day and thereby are restricted from many of the heart / cancer friendly foods that we are taught to eat as part of a healthy, balanced approach. You are not supposed to stay that low permanently, but even as the diet progresses, the amount of foods you eat with sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals are greatly restricted. Do people lose weight on this diet? Sure, but so do chemotherapy patients. Just because you lose weight on a system doesn’t mean your body is healthier for it. Long term studies on its effects are unknown. Some studies have shown a low carbohydrate, high protein diet is bad for the kidneys. Countless studies, including the The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health (upon which I base a lot of my philosophy) show negative correlations with eating higher animal protein diets and these studies are at levels of animal protein intake far lower than Atkins recommends. So why risk it? There are better ways.

Don’t be discouraged, there’s quite a bit of solid science to follow. Let’s start with the simple fact that if you burn more calories than you consume and digest then you will lose weight and if you burn less calories than you consume and digest then you will gain weight. In order to lose a pound of weight, preferably of body fat, you must burn 3,500 calories more than you consume and digest. The complication derives from the complexity in calculating the amount of calories you burn from performing activities or just sitting still.

There are two basic ways to increase your caloric expenditure. The first, which is obvious, is to exercise more. The second is to increase your metabolism.

For many out of shape individuals the thought of high intensity working out is a turn off However, one of the best weight loss activities doesn’t require intensity, a gym, or much equipment. It’s walking. Estimates for calculating calories burned for walking a mile must account for many factors including:

·        Body Weight
·        The Terrain / Incline
·        Walking Pace
·        Efficiency of Stride

Calculated amounts can vary wildly on either extreme. A 160lb man, walking 3 ½ mph, burns 314 calories in an hour or approximately 90 calories per mile. Meanwhile, a 240lb man, walking 2 mph, burns 305 calories or 152.5 calories per mile. Clearly a heavier individual will burn more calories per mile, however pace is a complicated factor. If one walks too slowly, they are less efficient and burn more calories per mile. As a walker speeds up, they burn less calories per mile as they gain efficiency, but burn more calories per hour of walking. When you walk even faster, the calories burned per mile increase slightly and the calories you burn per hour increase significantly.

If we took the accepted average of calories burned per mile of walking (100 calories/mile) it would take walking 35 miles to lose one pound of body fat. Assuming you didn’t diet, that’s not very encouraging since you would need to walk five miles a day seven days a week just to lose one pound per week. With the average pace for a recreational walker somewhere between 15-20 minutes per mile, that’s between an hour and a quarter and an hour and forty minutes of walking a day. While I typically walk at more than an hour a day at faster than most while walking with my dog, I don’t think I am average.

Fear not, all is not doom and gloom. Walking is still a great base to start your weight loss program. It’s easy, can be done virtually anywhere (including the mall) and it requires little equipment other than a pair of sturdy walking shoes/sneakers and comfortable clothing. If you set a goal of building up to three miles a day you are well on your way to achieving your plan. As we know from physics bodies in motion really do stay in motion and bodies at rest stay at rest.  It is the inertia of starting that takes the most psychological energy. So learn get started with one of our free online walking programs today.

The second way to expend more calories is to increase your metabolism. There are many natural ways to do this. The first we’ve already covered. It’s exercise. When you exercise you boost your metabolism for a greater time than just during the activity. This means in the hours after your workout you continue to burn calories at a higher rate than if you hadn’t walked at all. Furthermore, the time of day you walk matters. By walking earlier in the day, you boost your metabolism and will lose more weight than if you walk immediately before you go to bed.  Exercise before bed also changes your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

In addition, combining a cardiovascular workout like walking with a strength training workout like either lifting weights or performing exercises with your own body weight has many benefits. It strengthens your body, builds lean muscles, and causes you to not only burn more calories while you are strength training, but increases your base metabolism all day due to the increase in musculature built by the exercise.

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