By Marc Courtiol
Getting motivated for exercise is one of the most difficult parts of any weight-loss program. In a perfect world, losing weight would be easy to achieve with minimal effort, but shedding pounds requires long-term commitment and consistent effort on a day-to-day basis. But if you are one of those people who has trouble getting up the motivation for a sustained workout (and you would not be alone in this), a rigid walking program can be an effective alternative to things like running and using exercise machines.
The main disadvantage to a walking-based weight-loss program is that it takes a bit longer to see results than with a more intensive workout program. Also, it is common for people on walking programs to plateau after they lose a certain amount of weight, after which it becomes necessary to lengthen the distance walked, pick up the pace, or introduce other types of exercise.
According to the National Institutes of Health, adults need at least 10,000 steps a day in order to maintain a healthy weight. However, it is important to remember that the 10,000 step recommendation is just to stay at the same weight, not to shed pounds. If you want to lose weight, then 12,000 steps per day is a better figure. This could be anywhere from 4 to 6 miles per day depending on the size of your stride.
The key to an effective walking weight-loss program is to make it a part of your everyday lifestyle and to take as few days off as possible. For more intensive types of workouts, experts recommend taking off two or three days per week in order to give the body a chance to recover. But with walking, any more than one to two days off in a week can get the program off track. That’s why, in order to make a walking weight-loss program work, many people have to completely change how they go about their daily lives.
Everyone’s life is different, so you will have to come up with a specific program that accommodates your needs, but here are some general ideas to keep in mind:
- Pedometer: If you set a goal of 10,000 or 12,000 steps every day, wearing a pedometer helps you keep track of when you reach your goal.
- Get it done early: If you can set aside 30 minutes to an hour to take care of a substantial chunk of your daily walking first thing in the morning, this will take a lot of the pressure off for the rest of the day. There is nothing worse than being stuck with 6,000 steps to go when you are exhausted at the end of the day.
- Walk instead of drive: If you live in an area where there are things to walk to, try to avoid using your car unnecessarily for short trips. Also, if you drive to work, try leaving a little earlier and parking further from the office.
- Enlist partners: If it helps, recruit a friend in the neighborhood to take regular walks with you. Having an appointment involving someone else is a great way to make sure you get going even when you do not feel completely up to it.
- Take it slow: Again, losing weight with a walking program takes longer than more intense types of weight-loss exercise. Have faith that your plan will work, and give it time.