Many people find it hard to believe that walking is enough exercise to get them fit. What is interesting is that many completely unfit and inactive people also believe that walking is not enough! This just shows how brainwashed by the diet culture driven fitness industry we are into thinking that you have to push yourself till it hurts to get results. If you stop to think about it, I am sure you’ll realise that ANY movement is better than nothing. I mean, isn’t that just common sense?
Studies have proven time and time again that moderate exercise is as good, if not better, for you than intense exercise. [Read, for example: Is intense exercise better for your health? and The benefits of moderate exercise]
For a complete beginner, it takes very little physical effort to start improving your fitness and health, as long as you push yourself a little bit more than previously, you will be making progress. The greatest benefit of moderate exercise for a beginner is motivation – moderate exercise is pleasant even for a beginner which means you’ll soon learn to enjoy it and hence are more likely to keep it up long term. If you start with high intensity exercise it will be unpleasant and you chances of keeping it up long term are around 3% – it’s just like strict diets. If you want long term results, you need to focus more on consistency than intensity. Walking is a fantastic way to get started and to learn to enjoy moving your body!
Here’s how to get fit by walking in 3 simple steps
The first step to take, obviously, is to just get started. The sooner you start the better. All you need to do is just go for a 10-15 minute walk. The first steps have to be easy. Start as soon as you can, like right now, and then keep doing it every day. Right now, it’s about getting started, not about the results. once 10-15 minutes is easy, you can start increasing the time little by little.
2. Pace yourself
This is where the advice is going to be different for everyone depending on your fitness level and your motivation/mindset. To improve your fitness, you should push yourself enough to get your heart rate up a little bit so your breathing should get a little faster and deeper than normal but you should be able to keep up a conversation easily and you should feel good.
For even better results, mix in some interval sessions where you walk as fast as you can eg from one lamp post to the next one and then walk slower until your catch your breath. Interval sessions are as good as running in terms of their fitness benefits!
However, in the beginning, you might find it very uncomfortable to push yourself even just a little bit, so it’s best to just walk at a pace that you enjoy. Any movement is better than nothing. Your joints and muscles will benefit as will your lungs and your mind! After some time of regular walking, you will find that you really want to push yourself a little bit more. It’s always important to respect where you are at physically and mentally and allow yourself to be a beginner! It might make your progress a little slower but it’s the best way to guarantee long-term success and results!
3. Be consistent
I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times that consistency is the key to getting fit. And it’s true. One gym session here and there is not going to make any difference!
The key to staying consistent is enjoyment. You have to feel good while you exercise otherwise it’ll be hard to force yourself to do it again and again. Ideally, your aim should be to enjoy it so much that you really want to do it; that it feels like a treat, something you get to do, rather than have to do.
The key to enjoyment is making sure you exercise at a level that feels good (see ‘pace yourself’ above) so it’s really important that you do not push yourself too much in the beginning but also that you push yourself enough, especially as time goes on, so you don’t get bored.
It’s also important to remember that walking doesn’t have to be the only thing you do forever, it can just be a great way to get moving and start building up your fitness as well as your motivation. I’ve seen many of my private clients as well as WalkFit participants who have previously been inactive and unable to motivate themselves to exercise, start with walking and after some months join various fitness classes or start working out with a personal trainer. They take the same mindset to that and what in the past felt like torture they did just to lose weight/tone, now feels enjoyable! The results come easily when you enjoy what you’re doing!