Research has shown that walking for exercise prevents type II diabetes, strengthens the heart, is good for the brain and bones, reduces the risk of breast and colon cancer and improves overall fitness. That's why more and more doctors are recommending this type of activity for their patients, especially those that need to lose weight. But why is it so effective?
The human body was designed to walk. Our ancestors were hunters and gatherers. They walked for miles each day. Our bodies have not changed that much from the hunter-gatherer, but our habits and lifestyles have changed tremendously. Modern conveniences allow us to walk less, but our bodies still want to walk more. But, how quickly can you lose weight?
If you are walking for exercise to lose weight, you need to be aware of your pace. If you are currently sedentary (you don't move around much at all), you may need to start with a slow pace, but that's okay. If you are overweight, you will actually burn more calories than your skinny friends.
For example, if you weigh 130 pounds and walk at a slow pace of 2 mph, in 60 minutes, you will burn 148 calories. But, if you weigh 190 pounds, you will burn 216 calories. Assuming that you make no changes in your caloric intake (you continue to eat the same amount), you could lose a pound in 15 days, just by walking for an hour.
Once you have been walking for exercise for a while, you will need to increase your pace to continue to lose weight. Sometimes, it's difficult for people to tell how quickly they are walking, unless they have a treadmill. A treadmill is a good investment, but if you can't afford one, there are ways to judge your speed. At a very brisk pace of 4-5 miles per hour, you are nearly running and it is very difficult to talk.
In order to increase your pace gradually over time, try walking at your normal pace for two or three minutes, then speed up. Walk as fast as you can for a couple of minutes, until you become breathless. Then slow down. When you are breathing easier again, speed back up. Eventually, you'll be walking faster at your normal pace.
If you can walk up hill, you will burn more calories. For example, a 130-pound person who walks at 3 miles per hour on level ground burns an extra 2.5 calories per minute. If that person keeps up the pace and walks up hill for one hour, they will burn an extra 150 calories. Of course, it's nearly impossible to walk up hill for an hour without a treadmill.
Having a treadmill makes walking for exercise more fun and helps you burn more calories. It also allows you to be consistent. You can walk, regardless of the weather. Being consistent is one of the most important factors in any exercise program.