fitness

Can you really lose weight just by walking? We ask an expert.

I am one of those people who walks everywhere.

If the destination’s under an hour away, I won’t even think about taking public transport or ordering an Uber.

In fact when I moved to Sydney a few months back, my number one priority when looking for a place to live was whether it was walking distance to work, good coffee and a supermarket.

…I’m just lucky that the place I found is also walking distance to plenty of pubs, too.

Honestly, how could you not love walking? It’s great for so many reasons, including but not limited to:

  • It can sometimes involve dogs.
  • It means you get to wear sneakers.
  • It’s not only exercise, but gets you from A to B.
  • It’s a great way to clear your head.
  • You can find cool things (read: intriguing shops) along the way.
  • It provides inspiration for endless Spotify playlists.
  • You can do it with friends.
  • You can walk somewhere with lots of trees and nature and call it hiking.
  • And the one over-arching reason that trumps all the rest: it’s free.

For someone whose exercise regime consists of nothing but walking, I’ve always wondered whether it’s actually… doing anything.

I’ve never been much of a gym enthusiast, and while I’m not attempting to lose weight at the moment, I have always felt like walking as a means of keeping active is what keeps me healthy – happy, sleeping well, and maintaining a pretty strong immune system.

But to find out if walking can actually help you lose weight (if that is what you so desire), I spoke to Andrew Zorzit, an exercise physiologist and managing director of TherapyCare.

He said ultimately, if your want to lose weight, your objective is to burn fat – which walking can certainly do.

…But only if it exceeds 20 minutes (so unfortunately, my walk to work doesn’t count).

In the first 20 minutes of any moderate level of activity, you only burn carbohydrates, as the body recognises them as the easiest fuel source to burn,” Andrew explained. 

“Only once these stores have been depleted (which is 20 minutes into a walk), will your body turn to your fat stores for fuel to burn.”

Interesting.

As with most exercise regimes aimed at assisting with weight loss, he added that long walks should be paired with a nutrition plan, as “diet is the main reason behind losing, maintaining and gaining weight”.

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The best approach to weight loss comes down to physics – your energy output must exceed your energy intake. If you’re able-bodied, a nutrition plan paired with an exercise regime is the best way to lose weight in a controlled and effective way,” he added.

“My client Debra, 47, lost 23 kilograms over an eight-month period by following a personalised nutrition plan, incorporating 3-4 high intensity workouts into her weekly routine, and walking every day.”

He said it was best practice to incorporate high intensity training into your exercise routine if your goal is to lose weight – so walking and something a little harder.

“If you’re incorporating high intensity training into your exercise routine, you increase your base metabolic rate (BMR); which means you’re increasing the number of calories you burn while you’re resting.”

Sam Wood’s exercise tips for tummies. Post continues after video.

So – how many 20 minute-plus walks per week do we need to do to start noticing results?

It all depends on your diet, according to Andrew.

“Based on your current state and your goal, a dietitian can provide you with a nutrition plan fit with your recommended daily intake. Sticking to it will see you lose a calculated amount per week,” he said.

“If you want walking to be a part of your exercise regime, roughly, one kilometre of walking equates to 100 calories burnt.”

He further explained: “For someone who maintains a stable weight, but wants to lose one kilogram per week without making any changes to their diet, they would have to walk 10kms per day for seven days to lose 1kg of fat.”

He added that when it comes to the type of walking you partake in “the brisker, the better”.

“Uphill hikes, power walks and adding a 30-second to one-minute jog in five-minute walking intervals will support cardiovascular health,” he said.

If walking’s not your jam, but you’re keen on the idea of a free workout, Andrew had these suggestions:

“Incidental exercise: climb every flight of stairs you see and take every opportunity to exercise.

“Search for fitness videos: there are many fantastic free workouts available online. As long as they match your fitness level, are facilitated by a professional and don’t aggregate any potential injuries you shouldn’t have any issues.”

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