Walking for weight loss: How to maximise your daily exercise

Step up your daily walks and slim down with our weight-loss walking plan

Walking for weight loss: woman walking with dog
(Image credit: Getty / Ronnie Kaufman)

It’s likely that you’re appreciating a daily walk right now, but why not upgrade your stroll so that you’re walking for weight loss, too?

What could be simpler than getting out there and just putting one foot in front of the other? Dedicated gym-goers and marathon runners might raise an eyebrow at whether walking is actually a workout, but multiple studies show that walking is one of the best activities we can do for our health – and walking for weight loss is pretty simple. All you need is one of the best fitness trackers and a pair of the best women’s walking shoes, and you’re ready to go.

By incorporating different paces, speeds and even elements such as lunges and squats into your walk, it can be an effective way to help the pounds fall away.

And that’s not the only benefit. Just 30 minutes of walking, five times a week, can have a big impact on your health. “Walking helps to protect against cardiovascular diseases, cancer, bone-thinning osteoporosis and dementia,”says Dr Melanie Wynne-Jones. “It’s also good for our mental health to get outside and see gardens or green spaces, and walking can be sociable, too.” Plus, walking boosts circulation, making your skin look fresher and younger.

Check out these tips for making the most of your daily walks, then follow our plan to get in shape within 30 days.

Walking for weight loss: woman walking on path

(Image credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Walking for weight loss: Work on your style

Improve your technique and walking becomes a body-toning workout:

  • Lengthen your spine through your neck. This will lift your head, relax your shoulders, help you go faster and prevent back strain. “Avoid slouching your shoulders, turning your feetoutwards or inwards, collapsing through the arch of your foot or just walking on your toes,” advises trainer Chris Richardson.
  • Stop clenching. It’s tempting to tighten those bottom cheeks, but if you release them, you’ll get a natural sway, which reduces back tension. It makes your tummy area work harder, too – a waist-whittling bonus!
  • Shorten your stride. We know you’re keen to walk faster, but taking giant steps will overtax your leg muscles and put strain on your knee joints. Trust us, shorter really does equal more calorie-burning speed – ideal when walking for weight loss.
  • Pull your tummy in towards your spine. Then keep it there but without holding your breath. Tricky at first, but combined with cardio-pumping power walking, it really does help shape up your middle.

Boost your motivation

Keep going, even when the weather is miserable, with these easy tricks:

  • Add great sounds to hype your calorie burning.Studies at a US university revealed that women who walked at least three times a week to music lost around 16lb in six months, whereas those who walked in silence only managed 8lb.
  • Head towards nature. Live near woodland? Try forest bathing – as you walk, submerge yourself in your surroundings by breathing in the aromas and focusing on the nature around you. Japanese researchers found it can reduce stress while boosting immunity and wellbeing. Plus, a study by the mental health organisationMindshowed that taking a walk in natural surroundings increased sensations of happiness in 71% of participants.
  • Think about signing up to a charity walk. Not only will you raise money but it will give you a goal. Plus,joining up with a friend will keep you both motivated.
  • Grab some poles.These ramp up calorie-burning by 20%, so it makes sense to use them. The right technique is key: Swing poles so that the one in your right hand strikes the ground as your left foot hits the floor, then the left-hand pole hits as your right foot strikes the ground, and so on. Our pick of the best poles? Leki Traveller Carbon Nordic Walking Poles, £132.45.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAmsHhc2zCw

Walking for weight loss: Your 30-day plan

This month-long walking challenge is all about maximising the activity on your daily walk and it’s super simple.

There are three levels. Find yours using the test and then follow the targets below. If you find that your level is too easy, switch to a more advanced one – the key thing is the consistency of your efforts.

Do the daily walks and the weekly booster walks when you can, but don’t stress. “We’ve massively over-complicated health,” says TV GP Dr Rangan Chatterjee. “We think everything needs to take a long time and a lot of effort, but a five-minute walk around the block can make a difference. Every little counts.”

If you want to up the health benefits, up your pace instead. Research at America’s Duke University found that the walking speed of middle-aged people was a good guide to how well they were ageing. Slower walkers aged faster, with immune systems, lungs and even teeth in a worse condition than the faster movers.

Not sure how you fast should you go?It depends on your age and fitness, but aiming for a certain pace doesn’t have to be complicated. A good measure is that you should sweat a little bit, feel your heart rate rise but should still be able to hold a conversation.If you’re one for stats and gadgets, try to stick to 100 steps a minute (2.7mph). Check your pace by counting how many steps you take in 10 seconds and multiplying by six. Anything above 130 steps a minute would count as a vigorous walk.

Take the test:

Beginner? If your daily average is less than 5,000, opt for the Novice Level

Daily output between 5,000 and 7,500? Go for the Intermediate Level

If your daily average is 7,500+, choose the Whizz Level

Walking for weight loss: woman walking outside

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Walking for weight loss: Now do the challenge!

DAYS 1-7

Novice 5,000 steps

Intermediate 7,000 steps

Whizz 7,500 steps

DAYS 8-14

Novice 5,550 steps

Intermediate 7,500 steps

Whizz 8,000 steps

DAYS 15-22

Novice 6,000 steps

Intermediate 8,000 steps

Whizz 9,000 steps

DAYS 23-30

Novice 6,500 steps

Intermediate 8,500 steps

Whizz 10,000 steps

ADD IN THESE, TOO…

Twice a week, do two extra-brisk walks. Each should take 10-15 minutes, building up to 20-25 minutes.

DAYS 1-7

Novice 1,200-1,500 steps

Intermediate 1,500 steps

Whizz 1,700 steps

DAYS 8-14

Novice 1,500-1,800 steps

Intermediate 1,700 steps

Whizz 1,800 steps

DAYS 15-22

Novice 1,800 steps

Intermediate 2,000 steps

Whizz 2,500 steps

DAYS 23-30

Novice 2,000 steps

Intermediate 2,500 steps

Whizz 3,000 steps

Waking for weight loss: add in strength exercises

(Image credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Walking for weight loss: Boost your results

If you really want to make your workout work harder, it’s easy to do. You just need to add some extra strength exercises in. “Adding these to your walks will boost your muscles’ strength and endurance, as well as improving your balance and walking gait (the way you walk),” says Chris. Pause your walk at every 1,000 steps and aim for either 10 (Novice), 20 (Intermediate) or 30 (Whizz) repetitions of the below.

Curtsy lunge

With feet shoulder-width apart, step your left leg behind you and to the right. Bend both knees, so you’re in a curtsy position. From here, jump to the side to switch the position of your legs, ending in a curtsy lunge with leg positions reversed. Split the rep count between each leg.

Squat

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your feet flat and back straight, then lower into a sitting position. Lift your arms out in front of you to balance. Hold for three seconds, push your heels into the floor and drive up to standing.

Eagle squat

Start with your legs together. Lift your right leg over your left leg, so they’re crossed. Interlink your arms so your right elbow is underneath your left, palms touching. Squat down, hold for three seconds, switch sides and repeat.