Can you up those numbers? The more you weigh, the more calories you’ll burn, no matter the activity—that’s because it takes more energy to move more weight. If you’re specifically looking to up calorie burn, adding a 20-pound weighted vest would up your calorie burn to 8.7 and 15.1 per minute for walking and running, respectively. It’s simple physics: “The majority of calories burned in running [or walking] comes from supporting body weight while moving up and down,” says Hunter. “With more weight, there will be a greater energy cost in doing this due to a greater gravitational force.”
Your morning cup of java could actually aid your weight loss efforts. According to the results of a 1990 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, caffeine consumption can increase calorie burn. A second study, published in a 1994 edition of the International Journal of Obesity, found that the consumption of 200 milligrams of caffeine increased calorie burn by 6.7 percent during a three hour period.
“I like to say that running is a gift. Not everyone gets that gift. If you’re one of the ones who has been gifted with the ability to run and enjoy it, then treasure that gift. Nurture it and never ever take it for granted,” says Hamilton. “But walking is a wonderful activity and for those who don’t have the ability or desire to run, it can provide huge health benefits. The difference in calorie burn between briskly walking a mile and slowly running a mile is minimal—the more noticeable difference is how long it took you to cover the distance. Walking builds and maintains lower extremity and core strength, helps clear your mind, and, for runners, it’s a great way to have an active recovery day.”
Knowing a bit about the health benefits of walking can also help you stay on track. Not only can walking benefit your heart, bones, and joints, it can also prolong your life. In a 10-year study of 650,000 adults over 40, those who got 75 minutes of moderate activity, like walking, weekly, lived on average, nearly two years longer than their sedentary counterparts. Walkers who logged just over an hour a day gained four and a half years!
Crockett does make one caveat: “One common mistake people make is setting the machine to a pace that requires you to hold on,” he says. “When adjusting the incline or speed, make sure it is set at a pace that you can safely walk or run on without hanging on for dear life. This takes away from the muscle engagement and energy required to actually walk or run at the level you set it to.”
No study has been more conclusive about the role of lifestyle changes (diet and exercise) in preventing diabetes than the Diabetes Prevention Program. It was a study of more than 3,000 individuals at high risk for diabetes who lost 12-15 pounds and walked 150 minutes per week (five 30-minute walks per day) for three years. They reduced their risk of diabetes by 58%. That's significant considering there are 1 million new cases of diabetes diagnosed each year. Aerobic exercise can also improve insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body doesn't use insulin properly, and this condition can occur in individuals who do and do not have diabetes. Insulin is a hormone that helps the cells in the body convert glucose (sugar) to energy. Many studies have shown the positive effects of exercise on insulin resistance. In one, 28 obese postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes did aerobic exercise for 16 weeks, three times per week, for 45-60 minutes, and their insulin sensitivity improved by 20%.
An analysis of studies on walking showed it improves aerobic fitness - which is technically the ability of the heart to get oxygen to our muscles and how effectively our muscles use that oxygen. But to be effective, walking needs to be of at least moderate intensity, which means an intensity where you’re able to notice your breathing but can carry on a conversation without noticeable pauses between words. For many, this is a brisk walk.
“Cardiovascular disease remains the number one cause of death in America,” says Dan G. Tripps, PhD, the chief operating officer and director of exercise science for Speck Health, a lifestyle medicine practice in Seattle. “Associated with physical inactivity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking, cardiovascular disease accounts for approximately a quarter of all U.S. deaths. (3)
By paying just a little attention to your posture as you walk, you can help tone your abs and reduce your waistline. Concentrate on straightening your spine to create space between your ears and shoulders, relax your shoulders and pull in your stomach and pelvic floor. This helps your shoulders naturally rotate and works the abdominal muscles. And swinging your arms (backwards and forwards as you walk) faster not only increases your speed but also tones your arms, shoulders and upper back. So there’s a double benefit here, by thinking a little about how you walk you can improve your posture and get a better workout too!