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Walking or Running to Get Fit: Is it Really Effective?

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 24 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Walk Run Walking Running Fitness Weight

Everyone knows that the other part of the weight loss equation to 'calories in' is 'calories out'. That means that to lose weight faster, and in a healthy way, you need to think about getting yourself moving as well as cutting down your intake.We all know this but it still sounds and feels too much like hard work. It needn’t be though – one of the easiest methods to lose weight actually involves something we all know how to do – walking.

Can Walking Really Help with Weight Loss?

The honest answer is YES. Just walking at a moderate pace for around 30 to 60 minutes will help your body to burn fat stores and it also helps build muscle, which in turn speeds up your metabolism. Muscle needs more energy to sustain itself than fat does.Walking for just an hour a day is good for weight loss and it also boasts impressive health benefits too. It can help to your risk of many illnesses, including heart disease, some types of cancer, strokes and diabetes.

How do I Start Fitness Walking

You need to warm your muscles up first. Try steady walking at an easy pace for ten minutes, to get things moving and the blood pumping. The jury is out on whether stretches are really necessary for walking, some say that it doesn’t hurt to stretch the muscles beforehand and it avoids injury. It’s up to you, but you should never start off a walking workout at high intensity or your muscles will get really sore!

The best speed to walk at for optimal fat-burning is what’s described as a ‘determined’ pace. Faster than your warm up but still able to carry on a conversation, although your breathing will be noticeably faster. If you have a heart rate monitor, you should set your goal heart rate at about 60 to 70 per cent of your maximum. Imagine you’re a bit late for an appointment and walking to hurry up! Carry on for 30 minutes to start with, and build up to 60 as you get fitter.

Cool down afterwards with a slower walk and some gentle stretches.

How Often Should I Walk?

For weight loss, you’ll need to aim to go for a walk like this most days of the week, and rack up a total of between five and ten hours if you want to make a difference.

Vary your routine with longer walks at a slower pace, and walk different terrain if you can. Try and incorporate hills and different types of surface when you can. If you can, walk on sand as this provides a really challenging workout.

What about Running for Weight Loss?

Intense running is one of the most effective ways to get fit and lose weight fast. It’s a great fat and calorie burner, if you have the stamina for it. You’ll need to have a certain level of fitness to run for weight loss though, it’s not for the very overweight or beginners, who are better suited to walking at first. Running can put strain on the joints, especially if you’re carrying a lot of weight to start with. Seek advice from an expert if you are very overweight and want to know whether running is suitable for you.

If you want to run at a slower pace, you still need to be careful if you are overweight but it’s easier to get into and kinder to your joints. Once you’re comfortable with a fast walking pace and start to think you could up the intensity, start with a slow jog, or run for a minute at a time.

How Often do I Need to Run?

When you want to lose weight, one running session per week won’t be enough; you need to schedule in the time to do it regularly. Most days is ideal with rest days every couple of days. Recent studies have shown that one 40 minute period of running can keep your body burning calories at a higher rate for up to 19 hours.

Running Fast versus Running Slowly

It’s a tricky choice, which really depends on your level of fitness and preference. If you run at a low speed you will tend to burn more fat than if you take off at a higher speed, but conversely, when you run faster, you burn more calories.

Studies from the University of Texas and also from the Laval University in Quebec showed that intense exercise also helps you to burn more fat, so although longer and slower runs are ideal for beginners and heavier people, once you start to feel the benefit and get a little bit fitter, you should try adding in some fast, intense running occasionally to boost the weight loss benefits.

There are some excellent books and magazines on running for fitness and weight loss that set out training plans for anyone who wants to take up running but hasn’t run before. It’s a good idea to invest in one of these before you start training, so that you can take hints from the experts and devise your own training plan before you launch yourself into the running world.

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