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Getting Ripped and Losing Weight is A Walk in the Park
Struggling to find a diet/training regime that actually works and helps you to burn calories and fat? Got a six pack that is hiding under just a little bit too much stomach flab?
The latter is a problem I’ve been dealing with for the last couple of years. My abs were still there and they looked pretty good when I was tensing. Unfortunately, the rest of the time my lower gut would cover them up and ruin an otherwise good physique. I assumed this was part of getting older and that it would take a lot more painful dieting to solve. I know that a lot of other guys have the same problem and find it hardest to shift just those last few percent off their body fat.
(Of course it’s less of a problem for me as I’m more interested in performance than aesthetics, but everyone wants good abs!)
I took up running in a big(ish) way, reduced my carbs and restricted my caloric intake. It’s hard when you’re trying not to lose muscle mass though and it seems that even though I was in pretty good shape, that roll of fat was there to stay.
But then I moved house and in the last month I’ve lost 5lbs. And most of that is not muscle.
The difference? I started walking Hannah to and from the train station in the mornings, which forced my daily step count up to 10,000. That’s quite a big improvement from what it was before, at typically around 4,000.
Meanwhile my wife has also lost half a stone from the same extra walking (not that she needed to at all) – and if anything we’re eating more calories and carbs. A gym buddy of mine who is built like a tank, recently decided to get lean and absolutely transformed his physique simply by choosing to walk to work.
Why Walking is Ideal for Losing Weight
I was reluctant to write this article because I thought it might be a ‘no duh’ moment. But I think that for a lot of people, this is something that gets overlooked. Or at least you may be surprised at just what a profound impact walking can have on your shape and size…
We worry that we’re not getting enough exercise and so we add a workout to our routine a few times a week. I’m all for that. In fact, that’s pretty much what I’m all about!
But if that’s all you’re doing, then it’s still not enough. You can’t just sit still for 8 hours a day at work, then sit for a further 2 hours on your commute and then collapse for 3 hours in the evening and expect a few training sessions to transform your health. It just doesn’t work like that!
This is something I’ve found when writing training programs for people. Looking into their routines and lifestyles is incredibly important and the people who struggle to lose weight are invariably the ones with no commute and no regular walking.
Studies back up the power of walking too. Many report that walking is actually more effective than going to the gym when it comes to weight loss (which is pretty much what I just said), or at least that walking is a better predictor of low body fat. Of course saying walking is better than working out is an over-the-top response (and it of course depends on the types of workouts) but suffice to say that your average Joe may see significant improvements to their physique by making walking a regular habit. And these improvements are likely to be even more pronounced for those who also train. Other studies show that dieting combined with walking is hugely more effective than dieting alone.
Walking VS Running for Weight Loss
So why walk rather than jog?
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t jog for weight loss, I’m saying that walking is still important on top of jogging. And if you can only do one and your main interest is getting cut (as opposed to improving physical fitness), then walking might be the more powerful of the two.
Jogging for 30-40 minutes is highly intense and places a great strain on your body. If you’re going long enough and hard enough to burn serious calories, then you’re not going to be able to do this more than a few times a week without overtraining.
What’s more, is that running is highly catabolic and this can be bad news for bodybuilders. By using up your blood sugar, you are increasing the production of cortisol, as well as myostatin (the two are closely linked). As gym-rats will know, myostatin is a molecule that signals the breakdown of muscle tissue, so this is exactly what we want to avoid if we’re trying to maintain muscle mass while getting ripped. Oh and when you increase cortisol, you decrease testosterone. Hence why a lot of bodybuilders will spend a lot of time walking on treadmills to burn calories without damaging that precious muscle.
And for bodybuilders and other types of athletes, walking also has the big benefit of not placing any serious stress on the body or on the adrenal glands. In other words, it leaves fuel in the tank to ensure you can still give it 100% when it comes to throwing weights around. In fact, walking can even help with recovery by encouraging blood flow!
Walking is also great for your overall health. It can improve your resting heart rate for instance (as can running) which will make you generally more anabolic throughout the day. It will generally improve your aerobic fitness and this will help you to exert yourself for longer durations.
How to Start Walking for Weight Loss
So with all that said, how do you create a walking program that will aid your weight loss?
In order to see actual differences, you will want to walk for around 3-5 hours a week and at a brisk pace. Better would be five hours, or to aim for at least 10,000 steps. And for added credit, trying walking on an incline (bodybuilders often do this using a treadmill in the gym). This is part of the reason that my wife and I have seen the pounds fall off – she walks like an Olympic champion! (Competitive walking really is a thing btw…). My friend who started walking to work and saw such weight loss also made sure to do so ‘briskly’. You should be warm by the time you get to your destination and you should need to take your coat off.
Personally, I would recommend walking outside whenever possible. Not only is this less boring but it is also better for your brain. Walking is a great form of moving meditation that forces us to disengage from technology for a while. And studies tell us that walking is also very good for creativity, as it helps to activate the default mode network in the brain to encourage daydreaming. Of course getting vitamin D from the sun and fresh air are also added bonuses of being outside.
Making Walking a Part of Your Routine
The big problem with walking though, is that it is time consuming and not particularly exciting or fun. Many of us don’t feel we have time to fit 3-5 hours of walking into our routine.
But the slow nature of walking is also its biggest advantage. This is possibly the only kind of exercise you can use on your walk to work and not arrive dripping in sweat from! It’s also the only kind of exercise that allows you to chat to a friend casually at the same time. And it’s something a lot of us find we end up doing anyway for various reasons – why not make the most of that trip to the shops by extending it slightly?
So to make walking stick as a form of weight loss, the key is to work it into your routine. This is something I had already started doing just before I moved home. The big way I did this was by walking whenever I needed to make a phone call. I call my Uncle, my Mum, my Sister and a few buddies most weeks and by heading outside for a stroll while I chat to them, I am able to get a pretty long walk in!
Making the choice to walk to work, or to the bus/train/tube is also another very good way to get some more regular walks into your regime. This might mean you need to get up 30 minutes earlier but unlike more intensive forms of exercise, you’ll find that walking is something you can do even when tired. And it will wake you up in the process.
If you absolutely can’t face the idea of getting home later, or waking up earlier, then an alternative is to walk on your lunch break. If you have an hour to eat your lunch, then head out for a walk and gobble it down in the last ten minutes. This will also improve your performance when you get back to work and if you want to be social, you can invite a colleague along with you.
A fitness tracker is also something I highly recommend if you’re looking to increase your step count. Being able to check how many steps you’ve done in a day is a great motivator and it will also illuminate the most sedentary parts of your routine (I can be awful on weekends sometimes…). It’s also encouraging to see just how many more calories you burn by walking a little more.
If you do this and manage to get just 40 minutes of walking in every day on top of a regular 30 minute workout routine, then you’ll be burning well over a thousand calories from exercise a day (rather than a few hundred). That makes a massive difference and you’ll be surprised at how quickly the fat falls off.