Losing weight can seem like an impossible feat. Sifting through the advice of an endless parade of exercise and health gurus and whatever diet fads are in or out of fashion can itself be daunting. But there is one simple thing that’s been proven to result in sustained weight loss and it’s as natural to people as swimming is to fish.
Walking is something nearly everyone can do with relatively little effort. For most of us, it can be hard to find the motivation to go for a jog or the time to go to the gym. And who wants to get on a treadmill (yawn)? But walking around your neighborhood or going to a park or hiking trail is its own reward. The benefits of fresh air, sunshine and physical activity are really hard to measure. But if you establish the practice of getting out there and walking for a little while each day — or even every other day — you’ll feel great, you’ll be sharper mentally, and, after a while, pounds will vanish; never to return.
Walking is not a lose-weight-fast solution. If you have a high school reunion coming up or want to quickly drop twenty pounds for swimsuit season, look elsewhere.
But if you want to look good and feel great for all of the reunions, swimsuit seasons, weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs, court dates and whatever else a little further down the line; make walking a part of your daily habit.
How to get started
Getting started may be the hardest part of any new endeavor. Here are some tips to help get you off the couch.
- Establish a schedule and stick to it. Start out walking about 20 minutes at least three times a week. Walking this much will likely provide immediate mental benefits in the form of elevated mood which will give you extra motivation to keep it up. Keep in mind, though, that for significant weight loss, your target needs to be at least 45 minutes at least five days a week. Work your way up to this as soon as you are able.
- Get a friend to walk with you. “Peer pressure” can encourage you to keep it up on those days when it’s just too easy to find excuses not to hit the trail (or sidewalk). And your friend will be grateful to you when they begin to see the benefits of walking in their own life.
- Get the gear. As fitness regimens go, walking is extremely low cost. In fact, it costs nothing to just get out and walk, so never let lack of equipment be a barrier. That said, a pair of slick new shoes just for walking can act as a motivator for many people. Your investment might also include a pedometer to help you keep track of your walking. Measuring your accomplishment in cold, hard numbers can itself be very motivating.
- Pump up the jams. Well ok, don’t pump them up, because the jams in this case go right into your ears. But get yourself an MP3 player if you don’t have one and load it up with music, audiobooks or podcasts. Get some culture while you get thin.
- Plan out your route. This one maybe doesn’t apply in all cases. One of the great things about walking is that you get the chance to discover things you wouldn’t see from your car (or couch) and an unplanned, wandering route can be great for that. However, that’s not always realistic given most people’s busy schedules. Planning a route can help both with motivation and time management as it helps you visualise just how much time your route is likely to take.
- Mix it up. The same route every time can get old. Take a different route through your neighborhood, around the area where you work, or visit different parks or trails. Get off the beaten path.