Losing Weight, Step By Step...

We all know that walking burns calories, but just how many calories does it burn?

In general, an 11 stone person walking at average speed (from 2 to 3½ miles per hour) can count on burning about 80 calories a mile. This amount increases with your weight, your speed, and the shortness of your legs (the number of steps you need to take). For example, a 14 stone person will burn about 30 per cent more calories than an 11 stone person, and so on.

So a brisk walk, covering 3½ miles in an hour, burns about 280 calories. When repeated each day, this excellent habit burns almost 4000 calories (more than a pound of body fat) every 2 weeks.

Okay, so this rate of weight-loss might seem like a long way from the "pound-a-day" claims of some crash diets. But when you combine walking with sensible eating habits, a balanced diet with moderate portion sizes and fewer fats and sweets, all this can soon translate into a better-toned and healthier body.

But here’s the thing… walking does more than just burn calories. It also burns fat (which is more important), meaning that weight loss in this moderate range (one or two pounds of body-fat a week) is easier to maintain. In contrast, higher weight-loss rates tend to involve losses of water and lean muscle, as well as body fat.

If you are out of shape or overweight, your goal in getting started should be to walk as far as you can for as long as you can. Don't worry about speed. You'll be able to burn more calories by keeping to a moderate pace, walking for a longer time and thus covering more distance.

Walking's weight-loss potential is just as flexible as you are. So as your fitness level increases, you can raise the intensity of your program to increase the number of calories you burn. For example, walking at a brisk pace of four or five miles per hour and vigorously pumping your arms (Power walking), or hiking with a backpack are just two of the possible options for boosting the intensity of your walking routine.

In fact, power-walking can actually burn more calories than can slow jogging. At high power-walking speeds (like six or seven miles per hour), your body yearns to break into a jog. Forcing yourself to continue walking by keeping at least one foot on the ground at all times takes more energy than jogging at the same speed.

There are also substantial weight-loss payoffs for tackling hilly terrain. Even at a slow pace, going uphill dramatically raises walking's calorie costs, compared with following the same pace on level ground. Surprisingly, even going downhill burns more calories than covering level ground, because it takes extra energy for the body to resist its natural tendency to travel down the hill too fast. Walking on sand or dirt, rather than rigid asphalt or concrete, can also boost your calorie burn.

The advantages of walking don't stop there, either. The warm glow you feel after exercising is a sign that your metabolism is still revved up. This slight increase in post-exercise metabolic rate means you're burning a few extra calories even while you're resting :-)

Next Time – Discover which foods can affect your metabolic rate the most..