Tell me how to walk for weight-loss.
June 14, 2006 6:50 AM   Subscribe

I want to start walking to shed some pounds. Besides getting good shoes and being aware of my surroundings...

what else should I do? I don't want to put too much stress on my joints/muscles/feet initially, and I don't want to put myself at risk for muggings, etc. (I live in Philadelphia, and yes, I do have common sense).

I know runners talk a lot about proper form, is there such a thing for walkers?
posted by misanthropicsarah to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As far as I know bike riding stress joints a lot less then running, because body weight isn't sustained by feet. If you can't use a bike or don't know how to go on a bike a gym bicycle will allow you to exercise almost the same way an ordinary bike will do. Remember not be as constant as possible , an intense hard superfaituging exercise done in a day is not the same as a moderate, gentle exercise done daily.
posted by elpapacito at 7:00 AM on June 14, 2006

Ops to BE as costant as...
posted by elpapacito at 7:00 AM on June 14, 2006

If you have back issues make sure you stand up straight, hold your tummy in and be careful with too many hills or too much distance at first. Otherwise I don't think you are really stressing yourself walking. You want to walk at a fast enough pace to get your heart rate up to say at least 135 bpm. That will be pretty fast so crowded streets might not work so well.

(As for bicycling, that can put a lot of stress on your joints, especially if your bike doesn't fit properly. Knee, elbow, wrist and back pains are all too common. The constant repetitive nature of cycling only makes it worse. It's still on the low end of stress inducing exercises, but don't ignore pain.)
posted by caddis at 7:08 AM on June 14, 2006

I recently moved from Philadelphia after living in West Philly for a few years, and actually started my running routine there. Walking's a good choice there, as you can keep it up during the summer, and the cold will make you walk faster in the winter (just watch out for ice).

If you're a girl, consider walking with a buddy. I'm a guy, and there are plenty of places in Philly that I was uncomfortable walking alone in. Lighting, traffic, and number of residences all play into this. My route was from 46th St. into Center City and back again.

Philly is a great walking city. Old City down to South Street over to Rittenhouse (and perhaps back up along the walking/biking trail that leads along the Schuykill towards the Art Museum) will give you a few miles of walking through interesting neighborhoods.

As to form, head up, back straight, and eyes forward. And leave the music at home or you'll never hear the guy running the red light.
posted by Mercaptan at 7:10 AM on June 14, 2006

I don't think that walking generally stresses joints the same way as running does. I think it's a great exercise. I'd say to be conscious of your posture, make sure you have supportive shoes, and go for it.

I would think that any problems walking was casuing you would be apparent in pain or soreness long before they because irreversible.
posted by crabintheocean at 7:29 AM on June 14, 2006

Walk at a pace slow enough that you could say a whole sentence if you had to, but not so fast that it leaves you gasping. If you could easily manage to hold a conversation you're going too slowly. Step forward onto your heel and push off with your toe. Let your arms swing freely to give yourself more momentum. If you have to carry something, try to balance it so you've got the same weight in both hands. Wear loose clothing warm enough that your muscles can get started, but not so hot that you expire once you start sweating. A few calf stretches before you start and after you finish will help to stave off any aches the following day. Know where you're going, or take a map. A circular route is psychologically easier to follow than a there-and-back straight line because it's more interesting.

Don't overdo it. Start slowly and steadily work up the distance you cover.
posted by talitha_kumi at 8:07 AM on June 14, 2006

Wear a pedometer. You can buy a decent one for about $10-$20. They say you want to walk 10,000 steps a day. My company did a fitness program last summer where everyone was given pedometers and asked to keep track of their steps. It was fun to kind of compete with others and yourself to see how many steps you could do--average 5,000 steps the first week, 6,000 steps the second, etc. I found myself seeking out stairwells to climb instead of taking elevators and would take the dog out for longer walks in the park. I'd even march in place before I went to bed just so I could reach my goal for the day. If you get someone else in your house to wear one, you can compete with them. It really is pretty fun!
posted by printchick at 9:18 AM on June 14, 2006

You could also look into purchasing a heart rate monitor. You can wear it and check your heart rate and see how you're doing, to get a good idea of just how much exercise you're getting.
posted by pazazygeek at 9:36 AM on June 14, 2006

If you can afford it, it is probably a much better idea to get an exercise bike for your house. You'll burn significantly more calories than walking (walking doesn't burn significantly more than being awake per hour) and it'll be safer.
posted by mhuckaba at 10:22 AM on June 14, 2006

be warned, exercise bikes are really, really boring
posted by caddis at 10:44 AM on June 14, 2006

Try racewalking. I took one of Dave McGovern's clinics a few years back and had a great time. There's a racewalking club in Philadelphia (Philadelphia Area Striders, Jeff Salvage ( (609) 714-1308). It's easy on your joints and a fantastic exercise. And I think it looks cool (other opinions vary, I know). The only special equipment you need are shoes that are flexible, like the kind runners use to train for marathons in.
posted by redheadeb at 3:08 PM on June 14, 2006

If you can afford it, it is probably a much better idea to get an exercise bike for your house. You'll burn significantly more calories than walking (walking doesn't burn significantly more than being awake per hour) and it'll be safer.

This is just wrong. Here's a calorie counter for walking. Maybe if you're walking one mile an hour, walking burns barely more calories than being awake. Biking doesn't burn many more calories than walking briskly.

I'm a runner, and I love riding bikes, but if I had to ride a stationery bike to stay in shape, I'd never stick with it. Plus, then I'd have to pay money for an exercise bike and have it taking up space. Walking gets you outside, you see new things in the neighborhood much better on foot than in the car.

You can map your routes and see how far you've gone or figure out where you want to go at Favorite Run.

The important thing is to just get yourself moving. You'll improve fast.
posted by Airhen at 3:43 PM on June 14, 2006

Exercise bikes have a tendency to turn into clothes racks after a short while of enthusastic usage.

I love to walk, and walk long distances when I can spare the time.

The shoes you've got under control, so also make sure you have some good socks. I've bought rather expensive ones from outdoors type shops, and they're usually worth the money. They keep your feet dry and have additional padding on the soles.

I also recommend getting some pairs of lycra track shorts, they prevent problems with chafing / bunching of regular underwear on longer walks. You may not chafe after 10 minutes walking, but what if you're walking for a few hours? At those sorts of distances, even a small bit of rubbing can cause some painful chafing.

Always carry a phone, and I highly recommend an Mp3 player crammed full of interesting audio books / podcasts. I've walked extra distance when I'm out just because I've got a great book going and I don't want to stop listening to it.

Get a pedometer and log the distance you walk. It's fun after 6 months to look at a map and realise you've walked some huge distance.

Have fun walking!
posted by tomble at 9:07 PM on June 14, 2006

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