Walking Mistakes to Avoid for Weight Loss

Many people begin a walking routine with the goal of losing weight. Walking is a great low impact way to get and stay in shape. Below is an article by certified physical therapy assistant Marc Lindsay that outlines 10 walking mistakes to avoid if you want to lose weight and how to fix them.  I love this article because, well, I could not have said it better myself!  Not only do I follow these 10 rules in my personal fitness routine, they provide more benefit than just weight loss. These are great guidelines for starting any fitness routine whether or not your goal is to lose weight. Weight loss is just a “free” bonus! And who doesn’t like free bonuses?!?

1. You’re Never Varying Intensity

While walking at a leisurely pace is better than no exercise at all, research shows walking at a brisk pace is the best for torching calories and weight loss. If you find it hard to up the pace, try doing so for shorter intervals of 1–2 minutes, with a minute of recovery in between. This high intensity-style workout can help rev your metabolism and break through a weight-loss plateau.

[Carla’s note: even shorter bursts of higher intensity will be beneficial. So if 1-2 minutes is too much for you, don’t fret! Start with 15 or 30 seconds and work up to longer bursts over time.]

2. You’re Always Taking the Same Route

If you stick to the same route, over time your body adapts and it won’t be as challenging. To boost weight-loss (and keep things exciting) change your scenery a couple days a week. This could be a hilly trail, the beach, an urban hike or even a new park. Not only will you feel mentally refreshed, but different terrain also engages different muscle groups to burn more calories.

3. You’re Not Strength Training

Strength training is a key part of weight-loss since it helps build muscle, which burns more calories at rest compared to fat. Whether it’s with simple bodyweight exercises or using equipment like dumbbells or kettlebells, strength training can help you build the core, glute and hip strength needed to walk further and faster. It can also help prevent injury, which means you’ll reach your goals sooner.

4. You’re Not Using Proper Form

Poor walking technique slows your pace, causing you to tire more quickly, and potentially results in injury. Since this can affect how far and long you are able to walk (or keep you from walking altogether), working on improving your form is essential to losing weight. Pay attention to the following on your next walk:

  • Stride length: A lot of walkers overstride. If your steps are too long, your speed can suffer and more stress is placed on your joints. To check your stride length, lift a foot and lean forward. Where the foot naturally falls is where you should be striking the ground. Shorter steps increase your cadence and make it easier to walk faster.
  • Arm swing: Swinging your arms helps you get more power and propels your forward motion
  • Standing tall: Slouching as you get tired is a common problem when walking. While you might need to strengthen your core to make it happen [Carla’s note, see step 3 again!] , work on keeping your back straight and your head up.

[Carla’s note: poor walking and running technique is the number 1 cause of injury. Increasing activity should not be painful. With proper form, everyone can increase their fitness level injury-free.]

5. You’re Not Focusing on Proper Nutrition

A hard walking workout can sometimes make you feel hungrier than normal. While you want to fuel your walks with smart snacks, it’s important to pay attention to your overall diet, too, to make sure you’re in a calorie deficit for weight loss. Tracking your food intake and keep you motivated to reach your goals.

6. You’re Not Using Weights Correctly

Some people use ankle weights to burn more calories and make their workouts more challenging. However, if you prefer this style of workout, adding weights should be done with caution. Ankle and wrist weights can place extra stress on your lower back, hips and knees, causing muscle strains and other injuries. If you choose to use ankle weights, limit it to no more than one or two days per week. Keep it to easy walks, and avoid using them on days when you have a longer duration or high-intensity interval training. If you want to increase the intensity of your workouts without relying on ankle weights, trying hitting the trails, where hills and other challenging terrain can boost your calorie burn and help build strength.

[Carla’s note: See step 3 again! incorporating strength training into your fitness routine safely through the use of body weight exercises will improve your overall health. Personally, I am not a fan of ankle weights for the reasons Marc mentions above.]

7. You are Sedentary for Long Periods of Time

Studies show a direct correlation between sedentary behavior and obesity. Even if you are getting out for a daily walk, it will be harder to lose weight if you’re sedentary for the remainder of the day. Setting an alarm reminder to get up and walk for 5 minutes every hour can help counteract the negative effects of sitting. Moving more throughout your day will also up your step count, help you lose more weight and contribute to overall health.

8. You’re Setting Unrealistic Goals

Goals are almost always a good thing. They can provide motivation to exercise daily and push you to challenge yourself. However, it’s important to avoid habitually setting unrealistic goals. For instance, your goal may be to walk a marathon. But if the event you want to complete is only a month away and you’ve never walked more than a few miles at a time, it’s going to be difficult to ramp up your mileage for a marathon without getting injured. Failing to meet your goal or expectations can lead to disappointment and negative thinking.

9. You are Procrastinating

Whether it’s mindlessly surfing the internet or not using social media to your advantage, it can be easy to procrastinate and avoid your walk. If you don’t have a set routine it can be easy to say, “I’ll start tomorrow” or procrastinate until you end up shortening your workout or skipping it altogether.

To avoid procrastinating, set a schedule and try your best to stick to it. Whether it’s waking up early, exercising during your lunch hour or making a post-dinner walk a habit, you’ll be more likely to make your daily walk a consistent part of your routine if you set aside a dedicated window of time when you can make it happen. If you miss one day, don’t beat yourself up, simply resume your routine as soon as possible.

10. You are Not Going Long

At least once per week, try to include a longer walk. This could be a weekend day when you have more time or first thing in the morning. You can even include your family (on part of or all of your long walk) to help you stay on track. Each week, increase the distance by about a mile, or 15 minutes. Not only will a longer walk improve your stamina, but it will also help you build up to increasingly longer distances and burn more calories in the process.

If you want to learn more about how to incorporate these guidelines and more into building an effective fitness routine for yourself, join me for the Finding Joy in Motion Program, starting this Tuesday, September 15th. 

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