The best exercise strategy for weight maintenance isn't hitting the gym. Really.

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When people commit to overhauling their fitness and health, the purchase of a gym membership is often Step One (followed invariably by shopping for brightly-coloured activewear).

Especially where weight loss or weight maintenance is the aim, it’s easy to assume hitting the gym or doing other high-impact sports is going to be the most effective route to take fitness-wise.

Yet new research from the London School of Economics and Political Science suggests there’s an even more efficient option. The study claims that people who walk briskly for longer than 30 minutes every day have lower Body Mass Indexes (BMIs) and smaller waists than those who work out at the gym, run, or go swimming.

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“Briskly” is the operative word here — a leisurely stroll to the nearest bakery probably doesn’t count.

The study published in the journal Risk Analysis examined data from the annual Health Survey of England from 1999 to 2012 and found moderate-to-high intensity walking had the strongest link with weight control of all the exercise types. This was particularly evident among women, people over 50, and low income earners.

As the Evening Standard reports, Dr Grace Lordan believe her findings make a good case for encouraging people to walk more, which could prove a simple way to address rising obesity rates and inactivity.


“Recommending that people walk briskly more often is a cheap and easy policy option… Additionally, there is no monetary cost to walking so it is very likely that the benefits will outweigh the costs,” she writes in Risk Analysis.

Get your walking shoes on.

Of course, this is no reason to relinquish your gym membership or throw in the [swimming] towel — exercise is good for you, full stop, and if you love sweating it out in Pump Class then go for it. Plus, experts will always recommend a fitness regimen made up of diverse activities.

However, this information does go to show the humble walk shouldn't be dismissed as a fitness lightweight.

In fact, a separate study last month found the simple act of switching up your speed when you walk is enough to burn up to 20 per cent more calories, and increase your metabolic rate, than you would at a steady pace.

If you're still not convinced, there are myriad ways to turn your standard walk into a more serious workout.

Personal trainers recommend incorporating hills and stairs into your route to add some resistance; adding bursts of jogging; or using your surroundings to challenge yourself to change pace — for instance, picking up speed between two particular trees or every time you see a blue car. (Post continues after gallery.)

To ensure you've got this "brisk walking" thing nailed, personal trainer and former ironman Guy Leech has a simple solution.

"If you can walk and still talk to the person you're with, or you naturally think you can talk easily, then you're not walking fast enough," he explains.

"So I do the 'Talk Test' — if you find that you would struggle to get more than a couple of words out before you needed to take a breath, then obviously you're working at a rate that's better for you from the point of view of actually getting fitter and healthier and burning calories."

Happy walking.

What's your favourite way to work out?

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