Q: Erika, thank you sooooo much for the blog, I saw the video on your facebook about the man who walked off all his weight and saw that you were talking about walking off your weight, too. Can I really lose all this weight just from walking? I’m 300+ right now and I really want to get in better shape but I know I can’t run and I’m starting to get scared. What if the zombies come and I can’t save myself! Ha ha ha just kidding, but I need to know. Can I really walk off the weight?
Shorter answer: Yes. There’s even a DVD to help you do it. (And, if you use my link to buy it, Amazon gives me a few pennies for sharing it with you!)
Longer answer: Yes, and here’s what you need to understand about our bodies.
Everything we do burns calories. Sleeping, we’re burning calories. Brushing our teeth, calories burning. Sitting on the couch, burning calories. It all burns calories. But, because weight loss—barring extenuating circumstances—is largely a game of consuming fewer calories than we burn, it’s not enough for most people to merely sit on the couch and expect to burn enough calories to lose weight.
So, you have to move.
Walking is an incredibly effective way to lose weight, even though it burns fewer calories than, say, a spin class or a jog down the sidewalk. Walking is how I got my start.
Walking helps many of us feel better. It helps loosen the muscles surrounding the joints we often feel tightening or aching throughout the day. Back pain can often be alleviated by a walk in the park, because it loosens the muscles around the pain point and helps reduce inflammation that presses on and aggravates the area. It encourages deeper breathing, especially for brisk walkers, thereby improving blood flow and, by extension, health of outer limbs as well as hair, skin, and nails.
Walking also helps prepare your body for the future activity you may engage in when you’ve decided you need something more advanced. When you decide you’re ready to run for 15 seconds and walk for a minute in intervals, your body will be better prepared for that than if you’d tried it straight off the couch. Furthermore, if you’d tried to go from Couch Potato to Fitness Star overnight, you’d undoubtedly injure yourself, make mistakes that discourage you, and then return back to the place that left you so disappointed to begin with: the couch. Walking is a good way to prime and prep your body, not just lose pounds.
Most important of all, walking is an inexpensive, uncomplicated, and easily achievable way for a person to teach themselves to commit this hour of these days of the week to themselves, and see genuine results by doing so. Walking doesn’t require travel to a fancy facility, though you may decide that’s what you want to do when you’ve made active living a part of your life. It doesn’t require expensive equipment, though you may eventually opt to invest in some once you discover the value of doing so.
There’s such a low barrier for entry for walking as a regular activity, all it requires is your time. And, not for nothing, but that’s a hard thing to give, too. But walking helps you focus intently on only giving your time and making sure that your level of commitment is on point.
Look at it like this—when I first started, it was one walk, 45 minutes a day, every day. I made sure I committed to at least that much. I didn’t buy fancy shoes, so I walked in flip flops. I didn’t have workout clothes, so I walked in my Old Navy polos (which aren’t really polos but work with me, here) and cargo capris. (Don’t laugh. I was stylin’ on you.) I didn’t have anything except my phone and my almost-three year old…but we walked. Every day.
Thanks to this and changing the way I ate, I started losing weight almost instantly. The positivity I felt from taking time to myself, the peace of mind I got from having 45 minutes of my Mini-me engaging with the outdoors instead of “Mom? Mom? Mommy? Momma? Mom? Mom? Momma? Mommy? Mommy?”ing my all day, and the way walking brought me sincere joy had a great impact on my emotional well being. From there, I decided I needed shoes to make me more comfortable when I tried to walk faster. Then, I decided to get an iPod Touch (this was back in the days when Verizon didn’t have the iPhone) so that I could listen to music on my walks, but ultimately only decided to listen to audiobooks along the path. And, eventually, I felt confident enough to tackle running. Now that I’m post-baby and baby is now toddling (!), I can feel the regressive effects of my current lifestyle—back pain, joint discomfort, blood circulation issues—and can’t wait to feel the goodness I felt from my daily walks.
An activity like walking allows for a natural progression towards a more active lifestyle, which encourages you to commit all on your own. So, put on your flip flops and your cargo capris and hit the catwalk, you stylish beauty! For 45 minutes! With an e-book (may I make a suggestion?) and a talkative toddler! Your body will thank you for it!