If you're starting a weight-loss plan from scratch, meaning you've never regularly exercised or you've been on hiatus for a good while, the thought of starting a new fitness routine can be more than a little daunting. But rest assured that you don't need to commit to running a marathon or even a 5K to achieve your weight-loss goals — you can start by just walking.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the average person needs about four hours in total of moderately intense aerobic exercise per week, to lose weight. However, there are some important factors to keep in mind if you want a walking regimen to prove effective for weight-loss results.
"Walking is one of the safest and most effective methods you can use to lose weight," said A'Tondra Vinchealle, a certified personal trainer and owner of A'StrongerU Fitness in Houston. "As far as intensity is concerned, it is important that you understand exactly what 'moderately intense' means for you as an individual, because this will not be the same for each person."
In order for walking to be an effective method of weight loss, you need to ensure that when you are walking, you are slightly out of breath, Vinchealle said. This means that you would need to move from the more leisurely stroll you normally do when not actively exercising to more of a "power walk." Power walking is great for aerobic and anaerobic exercise, because it engages multiple muscle groups at one time. However, it is important to understand that without consistent resistance training (whether it be training with weights or by using your own body weight), it will take you much longer to see the results you are looking for.
"When you are slightly out of breath, this is when you will know you have hit the 'starting point' of effectiveness for your walk," she said.
"Now, if you are new to working out or if you are coming back after a long hiatus of not working out, you will probably see fast results in the beginning, but after about six weeks or so, you will experience a plateau," she said. "While there is absolutely nothing wrong with using power walking as your only method of physical activity for your weight loss, you need to be realistic about the kinds of results you are looking for and the time it will take you to get there."
Vinchealle also stressed the importance on focusing on one's nutrition when walking for weight loss.
"It's very important to make healthier dietary choices to go along with your power walk if you are looking to lose weight. If you are not addressing your nutrition habits, then no amount of any type of exercise will produce sustainable weight-loss results," she said. "This doesn't have to be complicated, either — you can take those first steps by simply adding an extra serving of green vegetables to all of your meals or beginning each meal with a warm glass of lemon water. Both of these habits will help to curb overeating and get you closer to reaching your weight loss goals."