Weekly column by fitness experts Adam Wright and Jacqui Watson for the Waterford News & Star, in association with Kingfisher Fitness Club
THIS might be an unpopular opinion but walking is always good enough exercise for fat loss. I say “unpopular opinion” because there will always be zealots that believe their latest and greatest fat burning workout is the only way to go but the truth of the matter is, for most people, it starts with going for a walk.
Admittedly, there is also a certain amount of reading what I’m actually saying. I’m saying “good enough”. Forty percent is “good enough” to pass many school exams, that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to do better. But does it get the job done: Absolutely. Here’s why:
Walking burns calories
Fat loss requires a negative calorie balance or calorie deficit. That is less calories going in than are being burned. This can be achieved by reducing calories in or increasing calories burned, right? Well any activity burns calories. Granted higher intensity exercise burns more per minute but walking still burns them (besides most of the deficit should come from improved nutrition anyway) and walking has other benefits as listed below.
Walking is easy on the body
It’s low impact and low intensity. Meaning it’s not overly hard on the joints and central nervous system making it easy to recover from. This can be particularly important for very heavy individuals who want to lose weight. In this case high intensity exercise could be very uncomfortable, even painful and might put them off entirely. Low intensity and done is better than high intensity but avoided.
Walking is low stress
It’s not intimidating, requires little to no investment and is about as comfortable as “cardio” can get. Meaning it’s low stress mentally. Often when a person has weight to lose they’ve gained it as a result of coping behaviours for dealing with stress based around food and drink. Weight loss is stressful. Work is stressful. Life is stressful (especially at the moment with our current medical climate). If we also add exercise a person finds stressful as well… The more stress we’re under the more likely we are to fall back on old stress relieving behaviours. And as stated, if those behaviours involve overeating (or drinking) then they aren’t going to coexist very well with fat loss goals. Better to add less stressful exercise… like walking.
Walking is also unlikely to cause a person to fool themselves into thinking they “deserve” a takeaway after “all the hard work”, which can be a factor with higher intensity forms of exercise. I know I’m not the only one that’s caught themselves thinking, “I’ve done loads of hard workouts this week, I can afford/ deserve a takeaway!” only to actually have that takeaway stall my fat loss efforts when it happens too often. We’re very good at jumping through mental hoops to get what we want in the moment. In my opinion walking is less likely to add to this problem, but maybe this one is just me.
The only caveats I’d throw in here are, One: In the long term, walking won’t be enough to improve the health and fitness of the heart and lungs, higher levels of intensity will likely be required for this, but to help in the creation of a calorie deficit walking works just fine.
And Two: Strength training should also be participated in in order to help maintain muscle mass. The idea is specifically fat loss not straight weight loss, there is a difference. Muscle is healthy and should be maintained. Most people will never have more than is healthy.
So don’t worry about running or aerobics or burpees unless you enjoy them (although if you’re trying to get fitter; see caveats in the comments). You’re never too much of a beginner or too advanced to go for a walk.
If you’d like to contact me about any of the topics covered here you can reach me @AdamWrightPT on Instagram or Facebook.
Mind yourselves. Stay Safe. Have a great week. Adam