Lose Weight by Walking More

Looking to lose weight but not up to running? No way you're hitting the gym until some of those pounds are already off? Diets just don't do it for you? No worries, you can still decrease your body fat while increasing your fitness without any high impact exercise and without starving yourself. Believe it or not, you can lose weight by walking more.

In a Duke University study, overweight men and women who walked 30 minutes a day or 12 miles a week all lost weight without changing their diet. Many other studies have shown similar results. And an analysis of 26 of these studies by the American Medical Association concluded that women and men who used a pedometer walked an average of 2,000 extra steps a day more than people trying to lose weight without a pedometer.

How is it that walking can be so effective? What difference does 2,000 steps make? What exactly is a pedometer? Read on, and all your questions will be answered.

Walking to Lose Weight

Vigorous walking burns calories at nearly the same rate as jogging on a per mile basis, but because it's so much lower impact, it's much easier on your joints. That makes it the perfect weight loss exercise for the injury prone or anyone who needs to avoid high impact activities. Walking also requires less effort to get started, allows you to enjoy the scenery, and leaves you less tired when you're finished than most forms of exercise.

But how does walking work? The same way as any other activity--the more you move, the more calories you burn. By getting your heart rate up for more than 20 minutes at a time, vigorous walking has the added advantage of speeding up your metabolism so that your body burns calories faster even after you've stopped exercising. And extensive walking gradually increases your muscle mass. Muscle burns more calories even when you're at rest, so your walking provides a triple weight loss benefit.

The 10,000 Step Rule

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) studied two groups of women who all started with a body fat ratio between 40% and 45%. Neither group changed their diet. Both groups used pedometers to measure their activity. At the end of the study, those who averaged more than 10,000 steps a day had only 26% body fat. Those who averaged fewer than 6,000 steps a day had 44% body fat. Yet another study based on the 10,000 step guideline found participants significantly improved their cholesterol and overall fitness levels in addition to losing weight and body fat after just 8 weeks.

The 10,000 step rule seems to roughly correspond to walking 30 minutes a day or 12 miles a week. While the benefits seem to be greatest in studies where participants walked at least 10,000 steps, studies using time or mileage as measurements have also shown weight loss benefits. So, you may be thinking, "Wouldn't it be easier to keep track of time or mileage than to count every step?" That's where the pedometer comes into play.

What the Heck Is a Pedometer and How Does It Help You Lose Weight?

The pedometer is a small, inexpensive (about $15-$45) device that measures how many steps you take, how far you travel, and how many calories you burn. You attach it to your clothing, usually around your waist. Pedometers have the added benefit of being excellent motivational tools.

First off, measuring your workouts with a pedometer can be fun. You get in the habit of no-stress competition against yourself, like playing a video game but with aerobic health benefits.

You may not be able to walk 10,000 steps the first day, but you will be able to set your baseline activity level. Just walk around the block or a parking lot if you want to start slowly. Each day, make it a game to walk at least a few more steps. Gradually increase your activity over time, and soon you'll be amazed at how much progress you've made.

Plus, the pedometer is informative. You know how many calories you have burned at any given stage of your workout. If you haven't already measured the mileage, you know how far you've walked at any given point. And, of course, you know how many steps you've taken.

An additional advantage of the pedometer is that it lets you measure all the steps you take during the day, not just during your scheduled walk. Just walking around the room burns some calories and counts toward your 10,000 step goal. With the pedometer, you'll be encouraged to walk a little extra, take a few extra steps, whenever you have spare time. And when it comes to weight loss, every little bit really does help.