We've been told time and time again that, rather than running, swimming or yoga, walking could be the simple, easy exercise we need to help us shift those stubborn last few pounds. Dr Craig Williams, a sports science lecturer at the University of Exeter, believes that walking could be the exercise we've all be looking for. He says, "It can improve muscle endurance as well as muscle strength, especially in the lower body, and can improve the body's cardiovascular system."
But isn't walking too simple? Don't we need to sweat to lose weight? Think again. Research suggests that if you walk for just half an hour a day, six days a week, you could lose half a pound a week - adding up to almost over a stone over the period of a year.
And power walking could help you walk off even more weight. Walking briskly will speed up your metabolism, in turn helping you to drop the pounds. Dr Williams stated that, "Power-walking - keeping a brisk pace at moderate to high intensity - can burn the same amount of calories as jogging or running." In fact, a Canadian study found that women who walked briskly for around an hour a day for over three months, shrunk the weight around their middle by 20%. And if that wasn't enough, celebrities such as Jane Fonda and Jennifer Aniston also swear by the method - if we weren't convinced before, we are now.
So if you want to shape up, slim down, and get your body ready for the new year, walking could be exercise for you. Follow our top tips below from some walking experts, to find out how you can walk your way to a better body...
Take care not to overeat
When you first begin your walking regimen, expect to feel hungrier than you did before - this is just your body getting used to the increase in physical activity. But it's important not to over compensate by eating more. Generally people find that when they first take up walking as exercise, their weight either plateau's or, unusually, they could see a small weight gain. This is simply your body gaining muscle - so don't panic that walking won't get you seeing any positive results further down the line.
Start off slowly, and build up intensity by 10% a week
Sue Henderson, a walking coach, suggests that you start off with just three 30-minute walks a week, slowingly increasing this number to five when you feel ready. Similarly, begin your walking weight-loss journey by walking slowly. Then, as the weeks progress, you can build speed and add in obstacles such as slopes, hills or uneven ground such as a field to begin to challenge yourself.
Use your arms
Pumping bent arms when you're walking can help to burn even more calories, and will also help enormously to ditch the bingo wings. Keep your arms close to the body when walking, and be careful not to clench your fists as you move, as this could interfere with your circulation. Similarly, make sure to correct your posture while walking. If you walk as straight as is comfortable, your back and bum muscles are able to work to full capacity, allowing your body to work even harder to burn those pounds.
Change your rhythm
Take care of your feet when you're walking. Joanna Hall, founder of UK charity Walk Active, says that we may be walking too quickly, which could cause damage to our soles. She says, "If you are a regular walker already, you may have developed an in-built rhythm that can be too quick to benefit the foot, which should be active with an open ankle. Try to slow your stride so you can perfect the technique. When you're completely comfortable, you can then increase the pace again."
Take smaller steps
One of the best ways to increase the amount of calories you burn when walking is to take shorter, faster steps, instead of longer strides. This will increase your speed and, in turn, your weight loss. It's an easy way to pick up the pace and get your heart rate going without feeling like you're over-exerting yourself.
Use the 'wipe the pavement' technique
Therese Ikonian, author of Fitness Walking, is a huge advocate of this method of walking. She says, "Roll through from heel to toe, and when you reach the ball of your foot, push off as if you're wiping chewing gum off the sole of your shoe. This technique which, although sounds confusing, could really help to work your glutes, calves and hamstring muscles, increasing toning and definition in that area"
Count your steps
Use a tracking device such as a Fitbit or a regular pedometer (you can find them at most health and fitness shops) to count the number of steps you're taking on a regular basis, and how much you walk when making a more pointed effort to do so. With this, you can measure your progress, and use it as motivation to speed up and lose those last few pounds.
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