Fifty is the new thirty and walking is the new running. Everyone seems to be lacing up their trendy athletic shoes and slipping into their coordinated workout gear. Everywhere you look people are flashing Fitbits, Apple watches, and Garmins. We are hitting the roads in every part of the world. We are walking to work, walking for fun, and walking the dog. We are counting our steps and counting our miles and most importantly, counting our calories.
The million dollar question is whether walking contributes to weight loss.
In searching for information for this article about walking for weight loss, it was difficult to find any definitive study showing a direct correlation for walking and weight loss for any age, including seniors.
I turned to a dietician who said studies are showing that exercise alone is not enough to lose weight or maintain your weight. In fact, studies show diet is more important.
There are so many benefits of walking that it seems wrong to pin down just one good reason to do so. Research shows that walking is a great weight bearing exercise to decrease the risk of osteoporosis. It gets us moving so our joints stay looser. It gets the oxygen pumping and the blood circulating and the mind clearing.
Social emotional benefits abound with walking too. It can be a time to reflect or process. Modern technology allows us to to use walking time to listen to a book or music. It’s a great neutral zone for heart to heart talks with family or friends. It’s a perfect way to meet your neighbors and see your community in a different way.
I am an avid exerciser. I walk, hike, run, play soccer, swim AND I now wear an Apple watch to “keep track” of my workouts. I’d never given calories in vs calories out much thought. With my new technology it was “in my face”. What I’ve learned is that my 250 pound male friends can burn more calories walking across the room than I can walking a mile. That’s a little frustrating when you are just looking at the numbers. I think that would make anyone a little crazy so you have to look at it logically. A small person does not require as much energy to move itself.
Common sense tells us if we burn more calories than we take in, we’ll lose weight. That’s a pretty simple theory. It’s one that we aren’t always diligent about. We need to step up on our basic thinking and keep in mind that we need to be vigilant with tracking our diets and exercise.
We also need to find reasons for doing so. The benefits of walking are clear. Walking does help with weight loss and it can help keep you in shape. We just need to remember how walking for weight loss works according to basic science, including calories in and calories out. In oversimplified science terms, your body has to be deprived of glucose which comes from all sugar sources. Once that happens, it will begin to seek fat cells for energy which will lead to weight loss.
Varying pace and distance changes the way we burn calories too. Faster and farther will burn more calories. The more you move and the harder you work the more energy you use which causes higher calorie expenditure. With all of this, we need to keep in mind that losing weight seems simple theoretically but it is actually very complex when you begin to factor individual circumstances in such as hormones and genetics, other health issues such as diabetes and heart disease. Initial body mass plays a role too.
The bottom line is that walking contributes to weight loss and staying in shape both directly and indirectly. Throw on your shoes, add a fitness app and grab a friend or your ear phones and hit the road on the journey to walking for weight loss and fitness.
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