Our columnist Alice Dogruyol has for most of her life been trying to lose weight. Here, she looks at how walking can play a role in weight loss.
When it comes to exercise, I’ll have bursts of enthusiasm and self-discipline that usually last for a few weeks or months and then life takes over and I inevitably fall out of the routine and fall back into my sedentary desk-bound lifestyle.
But, when I do decide that it is time to get back into exercising, walking is always my first step. It is free, it is gentle, it can be really enjoyable and I always feel better for doing it.
It is widely accepted that there is no better elixir for metabolic health than being active, but finding the motivation, energy and time to take 10,000 steps a day can be challenging – it’s unattainable for so many due to time or physical constraints, and it takes around a 100 minutes to complete in one go.
Walking for weight loss
If you commute to work, pop out for lunch and dash around attending meetings all day, then 10,000 steps a day becomes much more achievable. If you work from home or drive a lot, getting to 10,000 steps can feel out of reach.
Thankfully, there is mounting evidence to support that even a modest number of steps a day is related to lower mortality rates. A 2019 study carried out by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital concluded that older women who took 4,400 steps per day had lower mortality than those taking 2,700. Risk of death continued to decrease with more steps up to 7,500 steps per day before levelling off.
The positive effects of walking on cardiovascular health is well documented but for weight loss you need to be doing a host of other things alongside your walking.
Walking boosts your mood
Walking definitely improves my mood and doesn’t make me as tired, like other exercise, which means I feel less hungry and less likely to overeat. The benefits of decreasing sedentary time have been shown in many studies to reduce anxiety and depression.
To help get motivated I find that getting into a routine walking with a friend is really helpful. You talk so much you forget how far you have walked.
I used to go out with my dad for a long walk in our local park every Sunday morning and I remembered once seeing the ballerina Dame Darcey Bussell also on her morning walk. She was walking with poise and purpose, circling and stretching her arms as she stepped.
Ever since then I have always tried to walk with better posture and I have no embarrassment about flailing my arms around to mobilise my shoulders. Some of my most memorable adventures around the world have involved an epic walk up a mountain, down a gorge, across a Roman city, along a coastline.
In a world of super gyms with innovative exercise classes and high-tech equipment, the joy of taking a walk in nature can get sidelined.
Walking helps you make better food choices
That joy in nature seems to have a positive weight loss effect itself as what I find is that if I have had a nice morning walk with a friend, it puts me in a good frame of mind and makes me far less likely to each an unhealthy breakfast.
A study carried out by researcher Larissa Ledochowski and colleagues from the University of Innsbruck revealed that 15 minutes of brisk walking reduced urges for sugary snacks in in overweight people, so every time you have the urge for chocolate, take yourself out for a walk instead!
So, the mood benefits are definitely a plus for me as it makes me less likely to feel low and then indulge in comfort food.
Walking to reduce blood glucose and lose weight
I often have a gentle walk to lower my blood glucose. Walking and diabetes is a match made in heaven. Having said that, as a type 1 diabetic even a short walk needs planning and constant blood glucose monitoring.
A long hike for me often pushes my blood glucose dangerously low and I’ll need to eat several sweets to get my levels up, which can be frustrating for getting in a calorie deficit for weight loss.
There have been many studies to show walking can lower blood glucose and improve insulin resistance. Studies in both men and women with type 2 diabetes have demonstrated that eight weeks of aerobic walking for 30 minutes a day, three days a week decreased HbA1c (three-month average blood glucose) levels by 18 per cent.
Walking outdoors for weight loss
There is something magical and liberating about being able to just go out for a walk and we often take it for granted. I have become more aware of people around me that for one reason or another can’t walk in the way they would like to.
Some people have mobility issues, problematic feet, knees, hips and backs, or might be undergoing cancer treatment or recovering from a stroke or surgery. I even have a friend who was paralysed in a swimming accident and hasn’t walked since.
So, when I feel as if I can’t summon up the energy to go out for a walk, I try and reframe my thoughts and realise how lucky I am that I have a body that walks perfectly well and to be thankful for every step.
Alice’s 5 top tips to walk well and achieve weight loss
There is nothing quite like the feeling of having an amazing pair of trainers or hiking boots to take you out on a walk. Out of all the brands I have ever tried, nothing beats Hoka. Their Clifton 9 Trainers (£130) make you feel as if you are walking on air and their hiking boots will enable you to head off into any terrain feeling protected.
As well as my FreeStyle Libre 2 blood glucose monitor which never leaves my arm, I invested in a super smart Withings Scan Watch (£279.95). The watch tells me everything from the number of steps I’ve completed to my blood oxygen levels and heart rate beat rhythms.
It looks great and helps keep me on track and motivated along with my Withings Body Scan Scales. I like being able to look back at my weekly report and see how many steps I have taken each day.
Before doing any brisk walking or exercise, having a great sports bra is essential. Having tried lots of designs, the very best I have ever found for large cup sizes is the Enell High Impact Sports Bra (£70).
I find no other bra comes anywhere close to the support and comfort this bra gives.
When I head out for a walk, I wear my Sweaty Betty Power Gym Leggings (£80) and I feel I could walk forever. They have just the right amount of compression and are cut with a nice high waist (I have them in plain black though – not the fetching multi-coloured print shown here).
They firmly hug your curves and sculpt your silhouette and when I walk with them on, I feel confident, strong which encourages me to walk faster.
One of the best wellness retreats I have ever been to in the UK is Yeotown in Devon. Their programme involves daily guided walks along some of the most stunning British costal and countryside locations you could ever imagine.
As well as hiking, they offer yoga, meditation, massage, nutritional advice and amazing nourishing healthy food in their stunning property. A week at Yeotown is transformative. I dropped a nice amount of weight and rediscovered my love of walking in nature.