A consistent walking routine can be an excellent way to get rid of excess belly fat and tone your body. But if you’ve reached a weight-loss plateau, don’t worry. From simply strolling leisurely to omitting strength training, these common walking mistakes can easily be fixed to help you reach your weight-loss goals:
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 HIIT-style workout can help rev your metabolism and break through a weight-loss plateau.
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.
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 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.
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, work on keeping your back straight and your head up.
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. The MyFitnessPal app is a great way to track your food intake and keep you motivated to reach your goals.
Many 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.
Studies show a direct correlation between sedentary behavior and obesity. Even if you are getting out for a daily walk, it’ll 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.
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.
Instead, set smaller, more realistic goals that lead to a bigger goal. If you want to walk 26.2 miles eventually, your more immediate goal should be to work toward walking a 10K or half-marathon first. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare and expect some setbacks. Once you’ve accomplished a smaller goal, take the time to celebrate your progress, and then make a new one.
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.
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 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.
Originally published May 2019, updated with additional reporting
To become more active, try setting a simple goal to increase (and track) your daily steps. Go to “Plans” in the MyFitnessPal app and choose a 28-day step plan to learn tips to boost your activity.