There are many misconceptions when it comes to walking for exercise. You may think that in order to lose weight, you have to do something “more intense”, which is not always the case. A consistent walking program with the proper time and intensity, coupled with a balanced diet can help you reach your health goals when it comes to weight loss!

The American Heart Association recommends that adults get in 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise weekly. If you are trying to actively lose weight, you may have to increase that number when walking. A good goal is to get in 4-5 one-hour walks each week for a total of almost 300 minutes of exercise.

One thing to keep in mind while walking is your intensity. A slow, leisurely walk will produce much different results than a faster paced walk that include some incline. If you want to walk for less time, then you could increase your intensity from moderate to vigorous. You want to pay attention to either how much your heart rate increases or track your rate of perceived exertion. In order to be at vigorous intensity, you want to be at 70-85% of your maximum heart rate, or at a 7 or above on the rate of perceived exertion scale. The scale goes from 0 (sitting down) to a 10 (highest exertion possible).

Walking can be a great alternative to running. There’s a lower rate of injury and people can find it more enjoyable than running, which will increase adherence. The obvious difference between these two forms of exercise though is the intensity level, and therefore the calories burned over the same period of time. Running is the more time efficient form of exercise, but the other benefits of walking may outweigh that for an individual.

Keep in mind that when it comes to weight loss, calories burned through exercise is just one part of the equation. Pay attention to your nutrition by eating appropriate portion sizes, lean meats and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Start your walking program by adding in one more walk each week until you’ve made it to 4 or 5 walks total for the week!

Blog post written by: Keri Westbrook, ACSM-CPT, ACE-CHC