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Author: Kristy Erickson
Source: Taste for Life, January 2005

Walk It Off – Get Moving to Lose Weight

It’s January, and many of us have resolved to drop those extra pounds we put on during the holidays.  Losing weight can actually be enjoyable if you find a healthy diet you can live with and exercise you enjoy.  An easy and effective activity to fit into any busy schedule, a walk a day can do wonders for your health – and your waistline.

Excess Weight And Disease

Far too many of us are sedentary.  Seventy-five percent of Americans fail to meet even the minimum governmental recommendation for daily exercise.  That’s 30 minutes of walking or its equivalent accumulated in bouts as short as eight to ten minutes.

Research shows that walking as little as an hour a week, even at a slow pace reduces the risk of heart disease.  Investigators at the Harvard School of Public Health also found that walking for 30 to 45 minutes per day lowered the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 30 to 40 percent.  “This reduction is remarkable”, says Frank Hu, Ph.D., associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. “There is nothing else that has stronger and quicker effects than physical activity for preventing diabetes.”

Walking for Weight Control

To lose weight, you may need to kick your walk up a notch to burn more calories.  A 150-pound person will burn 100 calories per mile.  According to James Hill, PhD, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, people should start by walking a little more than they would on an average day (2,000 steps more, which is roughly an extra 15 minute walk) and eat 100 fewer calories.

Change It Up

A word of advice from Dr. Hill – buy a pedometer to keep track of your steps.  You’ll be more motivated to exercise if you can track your progress.  Also, vary your walks every day.  Research from the American Council on Exercise shows that you can increase calorie burn by swinging your arms while you walk.  Keep your elbows in close to your body and pump.  Walking backward is another way to alter your routine.  It allows you to change muscle groups and align your skeletal system.  Walking backward elevates the heart rate and stretches the Achilles tendons, calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, back muscles, and the shoulder and neck.  Also try “boxing” while you walk which will give your triceps and shoulders an extra workout.

Selected Sources: “A Dozen Ways to Improve Your Walking Workouts,” UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, 4/0 * “Burning Calories-How to Walk for Weight Control” by Wendy Bumgardner, walking.about.com * “The Deadliest Sin” by Jonathan Shaw, Harvard Magazine, 3-4/04 * Female Fitness on Foot by Bob O’Connor, Eystein Enaksen, Christine Wells, Eldin Onsgard ($16.95 Wish Publishing, 2002) * The Step Diet by James O. Hill, PhD; John C. Peters, PhD; with Bonnie T. Jortberg, M.S., R.D ($22.95 Workman Publishing 2004) * “Using Electronic Step Counters to Increase Lifestyle Physical Activity:Colorado on the Move” by James O. Hill, et al., Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 7/04 * “Want to Lose Weight? Start Walking.” Associated Press, msnbc.com, 10/27/04