How to plan a walking weight-loss program

Kristin Chessman is a freelance writer, editor and mom from Southern California with a passion for travel, fashion, Disney, the beach, Italian food and all-things celebrity. Follow Kristin on Twitter @KristinChessman.

Walk it off

Think you can’t lose weight from walking? Think again! An increase in your physical activity, combined with a healthy diet, can actually help you lose weight and maintain an active and fit lifestyle. Keep reading to find out how to plan your own walking weight-loss program.

Woman walking with weights

Before beginning any diet or fitness programs, be sure to consult with your doctor.

Importance of a healthy diet and physical activity

According to the US Food and Drug Administration's site, FDA.gov, the two most important factors in healthy weight management are a healthy diet and physical activity.

As Dr Julie Ellner of San Diego's Alvarado Hospital points out, both diet and physical activity play a big role in weight loss and weight re-gain. "Combining a healthy, high-protein diet with cardio and weight -training exercise helps the body lose fat and not muscle," she said. "Dieting alone leads to muscle loss, which leads to fat re-gain. Doing the right exercise increases muscle tone, and the protein feeds the muscles so they can boost the metabolism and literally burn fat in your sleep."

Dr Brian Quebbemann of The New Program in Newport Beach, California, agrees. "Without an active lifestyle and a regular exercise regimen, almost everybody will gain an unhealthy amount of weight," he said.

Get physical

So just how much physical activity should you be getting? According to Dr Quebbemann, the average person should engage in at least one hour of strenuous physical exercise on a daily basis in order to maintain a healthy weight and stay fit.

Think before you nosh

As Dr Quebbemann points out, no matter what body mass index (BMI) you start with, the diet you eat on a regular basis will be the single biggest determinant in your weight.

Use this online BMI calculator from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine your weight status. According to the CDC, a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal.

According to Dr Quebbemann, a healthy diet will do wonders for your body. "A habit of healthy nutrition is critical for maintaining not only a healthy weight, but maintaining a generally healthy condition in terms of lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, prevention of diabetes, dementia and even cancer," he said.

Plan your walking weight-loss program

Once you've consulted with your doctor and are ready to begin a walking weight-loss program based on walking and a healthy diet, check out these simple steps from Dr Quebbemann:

Exper tips

If you're looking for a boost to your walking program, Dr Ellner recommends adding hand or ankle weights to help increase your heart rate.

1. Start the walking program first. This activity will be invigorating and motivating.

  • Begin by walking a reasonable distance at first; reasonable is defined as more walking than you normally do, but not so much that it takes too much time, and not so much that it hurts your joints or causes injury. Finding a walking partner is also a great way to enjoy the walk and to stay motivated.
  • Increase your walking a little every week until you reach your goal. It's not necessary to always increase; walking quickly 45 minutes per day will be enough to maintain muscle tone in your legs and buttocks, and to burn enough calories.

2. Begin drinking enough water, or calorie-free beverages (not including caffeine) every day in order to stay properly hydrated. The amount of water a person drinks to be healthy varies, but most people need at least 64-ounces of water per day, especially if they're active. (People with kidney or heart disease, or severe hypertension should check with their doctor first). Start by drinking a full glass of water every morning.

3. Commit to three meals a day, even if they're small. Avoiding severe cravings and hunger is key to weight loss.

4. Once you begin to develop the pattern above, you can start focusing on what and when you eat, too.

  • Start every meal with protein. Begin to plan what protein you'll include with every meal. Carbohydrates and sugar are easy to find, protein takes some practice.
  • Eat at least three vegetables and three fruits per day.
  • Buy whole grain breads and pastas so you don't have lots of processed carbohydrates around your home.
  • Make sure to eat everything above on a daily basis before you eat desert or sweets.

5. Remember, you don't have to make all of your changes at once. If you were to start one healthy change to your diet and exercise regimen every week, at the end of one year you'll have a healthy lifestyle and be on your way to permanent weight loss.

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