Question: Hi, I am a 54 year old woman. In the past few years I have gained some extra weight and have recently begun a walking program. Do you believe that walking is enough for someone in my situation?
Answer: As with many of these questions, there is not a clear cut answer. Much of the answer lies in what your goals and capabilities are. In general, I absolutely recommend walking. From an activity and a psychological perspective, walking is great. For many of us, our surroundings are made for us to be lazy. We tend to lead very sedentary lives and walking is an activity that gets lost on many people. For many people, a 2-3 mile walk is a daunting task and it is much easier to take a cab, train, car or bus instead of the walk. So, I would definitely recommend anybody increase the amount of walking they do. It keeps you active, moving and also has psychological benefits. Making the decision to walk , either as an alternative to other modes of transportation or just as an activity, usually carries over to other things. You may find yourself taking stairs more often, preparing your own meals, getting up to change channels and choosing other, more active alternatives throughout the day.
Things get a little more cloudy when it comes to walking as a means of achieving results. Walking can be great for someone who is rehabbing an leg injury. It can also be good for an otherwise very sedentary adult with health problems. As great as walking can be, if weight loss is your goal, it may not be the most effective means of achieving that goal. A combination of a healthy diet and exercise are the components needed to lose weight. If the weight loss goal is small (3-10lbs) then the diet in combination with walking may be enough. For a weight loss goal of more than 10lbs, walking is not likely to be enough exercise. On average, walking will burn approximately 150-250 calories per hour. This may not be enough for someone looking to lose a significant amount of weight when compared to other forms of exercise:
Activity calories/ hour
Running (moderate) 530-630
Running (heavy) 800-1200
Cycling (moderate) 450-600
Weight lifting (moderate) 200-400
In addition to burning more calories, more intense exercise will increase the metabolism in a way that you are burning more calories, post exercise for up to 2 hours after the workout. More intense exercise is also important for the heart and developing the cardiovascular system and walking will likely not help in this area unless the person is severely deconditioned.
When it comes to using walking as a form of exercise, we get a mixed bag. While there are definitely benefits to increasing the amount of walking you do, it’s not a replacement for vigorous exercise especially if there is a specific weight loss goal.
Please feel free to comment. Thanks for reading.