The global pandemic has stopped us in our tracks, literally. The unsettling environment we find ourselves in can be truly demotivating when it comes to exercise and it's hardly surprising when that little bit of extra weight creeps on. Scientists are discovering more and more links between the medical risks of excess weight and disease, so it's more important than ever that we take responsibility for our own health and fitness.
But when it comes to exercise the advice can be confusing. For example the phrase 'no pain, no gain' can be counter productive as it leads people to believe that unless they work out excessively they won't make a real difference to their body. Motivation then goes and you can end up doing nothing at all.
The wonderful news is walking is one of the best exercises you can do with almost boundless benefits - releasing happy hormones, lowering blood pressure, improving sleep, vitamin D exposure, reducing the risk of dementia, increasing bone strength and vitally, weight loss. Almost everyone can do it, it can be done anywhere and the natural movement means very little risk of injury. It's basically perfect!
But just because walking upright is an easy, natural way for humans to exercise, it doesn't mean that we can't learn to do it better and increase weight loss.
So here are 10 tips to battle the bulge and whittle the waist while walking:
1. Have a route in mind. You'll feel more confident knowing what to expect as you stride out and you won't be dawdling whilst figuring out where you're going. A couple of different route options will also keep you interested.
2. Listening to uplifting, energetic music will increase your speed and help you to work harder.
3. Walk in the morning to ensure you've got your exercise done, otherwise life may get in the way. Also there's new evidence from the International Journal of Obesity that mornings could be a more effective time to exercise for weight loss.
4. Walk with others. Numerous studies have confirmed that having a support group helps maintain a regular exercise routine. Statistically those who walk with a friend or a group lose more weight over the long term than those who walk alone.
5. Use correct arm motion to speed up your pace. By being able to walk faster, you will raise your heart rate and burn more calories.
6. Vary your walking pace. Speeding up and slowing down increases fitness and your workout will become more effective.
7. Include hills. When you walk up hills you recruit many more muscles, this forces you to work with more effort. Not only can you lose weight by hill walking, but you can also tone multiple lower body muscles.
8. Use your walk to plan your food for the day. Think about the healthy meal you'll return to and don't use the walk as an excuse to eat junk.
9. Check your fitness monitor to see how hard you're actually working. Being in the fat burning zone is good, but if you push yourself to get into the cardio (or aerobic) zone you will shake up your metabolism and continue to burn calories even after you've stopped.
10. Learn how to Nordic walk. Using poles turns walking into a total body workout, improves posture, builds upper body strength and burns up to 48% more calories.
Completing an extra 10,000 steps each day typically burns about 2000 to 3500 extra calories each week. One pound of body fat equals 3500 calories, so depending on your weight and workout intensity you could lose about one pound per week by simply striding out.
But no matter how many steps you do, any increase in the amount of walking you do will bring significant health benefits. And no lycra required.
The Bristol & Bath Nordic Walking Team