Can you lose 10 pounds without going to the gym? You’d be surprised at the slimming effect a daily walk can have, not to mention that it’s a low-impact, cost-free workout you can fit into virtually any packed schedule. Valerie Kirk, a Personal Training Specialist and founder of Essentially Fitness in Warman, Saskatchewan, often sees clients who admit they’re long-time strangers to exercise. Some are overweight or out-of-shape. Others are runners who have sustained knee injuries that keep them from staying active. For people like this, Kirk creates a walking routine that slowly grows in intensity. “If they’ve never exercised at all, I start with getting them to walk for five minutes a few days a week,” she says. “When they get the hang of it, I make it 10 minutes, then eventually 20 minutes. I’ve seen people lose 20 pounds in six months thanks to daily walks.”
Cover new ground
Find a routine that works for you, but mix up the type of walking you do. On a treadmill, you can control distance, speed and elevation. Outdoor walking offers a completely different experience, Kirk says. Terrain has a huge impact on your workout – and not just the hills: “You burn more calories walking on gravel or grass. And walking on sand, at the beach, is a great cardiovascular workout.” You can add an extra 30 percent to your workout just by raising your arms up 90 degrees which each stride, she says. A heart rate monitor can help remind you when to increase or decrease your pace, but keep it moderate if you want to burn body fat. “You should be breathless, but still able to carry on a conversation,” she says. If you can’t catch your breath, and you’ll get tired quickly, and your body will use up simple carbs and sugars as fuel, instead of fat.
Be the early bird
As with any exercise regiment, creating a walking routine is a great way to see results – as long as you stick with it. “It has to be consistent, at a specific time on a daily basis,” Kirk says. “No excuses!” She prefers to get it over with early. “You have more energy in the morning. You’re awake, your body is revved up and ready to go. You burn more calories that way.” This means you should make sure you have something to eat at least an hour or two prior to your workout, and a good breakfast when you return. As added bonus, your metabolism stays up longer after a good workout, which will help you shed those extra pounds. Of course, walking must be paired a healthy diet to feel the full benefit of the burn.