With obesity and disease increasing dramatically, many fitness experts are recommending walking for weight loss and exercise. Some are even going so far as saying that walking is the best way to burn fat and lose weight. I strongly disagree with this and will show you why walking is NOT effective at burning off body fat. Walking is NOT effective at burning body fat and if your goal is fat loss you may be wasting your time. I am not saying that walking isn’t beneficial, I am saying that if fat loss is the principal goal, there are far better choices that will deliver far better results.
The principal benefits of walking are increased blood flow and circulation, improved recovery, and a strengthened immune system. There are lots of reasons why walking in not the best choice when it comes to fat loss.
- Walking does NOT burn a lot of calories The lower the level of the activity or exercise the smaller the amount of calories burned per unit of time. For instance, you can burn more calories in 15 minutes of bicycling at a high intensity level than you can in 45 minutes of easy walking.
- Walking does NOT result in a large increase in metabolism Another downside to walking is that because it’s generally low intensity it results in only a small increase in metabolism that will only last approximately 1-2 hours after the walk. On the other hand, metabolism increases are larger and last longer (4-24 hrs or more) when you perform high intensity cardio workouts.
- Walking does NOT deplete muscle glycogen Low intensity exercise like walking doesn’t deplete muscle glycogen levels and therefore, later that day if you have excess calories they will likely be stored as body fat whereas if you deplete the glycogen the excess calories will primarily be stored in the muscles.
So why do so many fitness and health experts recommend walking for weight loss? One reason is that people do not need to hear that they need to work hard so they figure some activity is better than none. Another reason is that the body burns more fat for fuel when exercising at an easy pace, but the whole amount of energy used is so small that you wind up burning off little body fat. That’s also why when you choose the “fat burning” program on your treadmill or bike it has you exercise at any easy level. Yes, you’re burning fat, but so little that you would have to exercise at that easy pace for hours and hours every day.
High intensity cardiovascular/aerobic exercise is far more effective in burning off the excess body fat. In actuality, many studies have been done to prove this. In one study they compared one group who did moderate level aerobics for 45 minutes with another group who performed high intensity workouts for 15 minutes. They did before and after fitness testing including body fat analysis and found that the group who performed the high intensity aerobics lost nine times as much body fat!
Compare the bodies of a walker, marathon runner, and sprinter. If you’re unfamiliar with what a sprinters body looks like, it’s quite muscular and has little body fat while on the other hand the body of a walker will likely have the opposite, little muscle and more fat. So what should you do then if your main aim is to shed those excess pounds of body fat? I know some of you by now are saying”I can not do high intensity exercise, I have a bad knee” and do not worry, I have a solution for you. The fantastic news is that high intensity is all relative to you and your current fitness level.
So don’t believe that you must start running or something like that. Just slowly start to increase the intensity of your cardio workouts while also maybe decreasing the time because you can either work hard or you can work long. Obviously, some exercises/activities or better suited than others but the point is if you would like to burn more fat and make your workouts as productive as possible you will need to raise the intensity.