In a recent survey among urban Indians, walking was by far the most common physical activity. For anyone living in India that's been to their neighbourhood park, this is quite obvious. There are hoards of morning walkers everywhere, and growing.
If walking burns calories then, why don't all morning walkers lose fat? Some remain the same even after years of walking. Most of them are doing it to stay healthy and get fit, but the question is- Does walking really helping you lose weight?
The answer to that depends on many factors:
How long: If you get down to the actual numbers, then the average person walking briskly burns around 4-5 calories per minute. So, if you walked for 15 minutes, then you burned about 70 calories. That's fewer calories than a slice of bread! To really make a dent in your calories burning, you need to walk at least 45-60 minutes.
How brisk: Law of physics again. The faster you move, the more calories you burn per minute. So, if you're walking leisurely, then you burn about 3 calories per minute. So, if you walk at a brisk pace, then you're burning almost 50% more calories! Now, imagine if you were jogging, then you would burn another 50% more calories. And if you run faster, then you burn even more calories.
What's the snack: A typical habit of many morning walkers is to snack after the morning walk. Like a chai-samosa snack. This kind of kills the whole effort you made while walking. Say you brisk walked for 45 minutes, and you burnt 200 calories. After that you ate a samosa and a cup of chai. That's a total of 200-250 calories, or even more! So, may have just eaten more calories than you burnt! Better than that, next time have a fruit after your walk. Or your regular meal.
Don't treat your walk as a reason to indulge in food or drink. You're not doing yourself any special favours by walking. Your body needs exercise every day, and you're just doing what you should be.
Are you mixing it up: Your body naturally adapts to whatever you do, and learns to become more efficient at it. This is not a good thing for you, if you're trying to maximise your calorie burn. As it gets used to your walking pattern, it burns fewer calories for the same distance. So, you need to mix it up- try a mix of other exercises, like yoga, running, weights, or even a sport. It keeps your body guessing, keeps your metabolic rate high, and helps you burn more calories!
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Watch your diet: We meet so many people who exercise vigorously (sometimes too much), yet don't see a dent in your waist size. That's simply because they're eating more than they need to, to see results. Consider this, an hour of brisk walking burns 250 calories. In terms of food calories, that's two slices of bread, and an egg. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. So, keep your workout to a maximum of 45-60 minutes, and focus on ensuring that you're not eating too much.
Walking may not be enough: If you're doing all this, and still not seeing results, it means you need to change your exercise plan, or maybe get some help. There are plenty of weight loss app and services out there. Get one that's reliable, that uses natural methods to lose weight, like diet and exercise, and that focuses on eating healthy!
(Dhruv Gupta is the founder of the online weight loss programme Fitho (www.fitho.in) and the author of popular book on weight loss, Losing It- Making Weight Loss Simple).