Running and walking use loads of calories and are excellent supplements for controlling weight and getting fit.
But they must be tackled sensibly. If you're new to this exercise start with walking, moving on to jogging, or a combination of walking and jogging. Then in time, if you’re up to it, progress to running. With these progressive options available they will suit almost everyone.
Improvement is easy to monitor and every small achievement is motivating. In addition with time, and following the simple progression it becomes easier and more enjoyable.
The immediate benefit is that it enhances your overall well-being. The after effect of a heightened heart rate and deep breathing is exhilarating.
But like most forms of physical exercise running has its downsides. It’s tough, and when you start out, it will probably hurt. Your body takes time to adapt to the stresses and strains. If you're older, you get injured more easily. Injuries take longer to heal, or even worse, become chronic.
Understand that walking and running is not a fast track approach to losing weight. Weight is not going to drop off overnight.
You won’t lose 5 kg’s in a week!
But it should become a part of your holistic, healthy lifestyle.
If you start with realistic expectations, you won’t become one of the many quick quitters. One of the many who start with lofty goals and, after a few weeks, are back on the couch.
Or one of the others who try to do too much, too quickly, get injured and give up.
When starting, it is important to be sober about your current level of fitness and general health. In many cases, it’s advisable to start walking and then, over time, including short periods of jogging into these walking sessions.
Whatever you do, a good starting point is 30 minutes every second day. Or if you want something more structured here here is a 21 Day Plan.
The golden rule is: don’t increase either speed or distance by more than 10% per week. When ignoring this rule, even experienced athletes become susceptible to injuries.
Running is not easy (does it ever get easy?), especially when you start. But after building a “road hardened” base in your legs, it’s one of the most liberating and enjoyable forms of exercise.
It can be done anywhere, at any time, and all that’s required is a pair of running shoes.
Best shoes for walking and running
When starting I suggest a pair of reasonably priced running shoes as these will suit most people. The first requirement is that they are comfortable and fit properly. Unless you get your shoes from a dedicated running shoe shop, where they can analyse your foot strike, the best option is to select a neutral shoe. The brand and the technical specifications are not important.
When you need to replace your shoes (after about 600 kms - 400 miles) you can look at the more detailed specifications. This will be the time to find a shoe that specifically suits your running action and environment.
Shoes with a heel-toe-drop (the height between the heel and forefoot) that is different from your day to day shoes may result in some soreness as the foot and achilles adapt to the difference. This is usually temporary.
My preference is shoes with a low drop Having a shoe that is close to the natural barefoot position. Although this can be a hotly debated subject it ultimately comes down to personal choice.
If you follow the ‘minimalistic running’ movement even shoes may be more than you need. There is a group who claim that running barefoot is best. This devoted group of barefoot running supporters believe that inappropriate shoes and running styles have been the cause of many running injuries.
So they are going “primal”.
If you live in a place where you can run barefoot, then try it. It needs some getting used to and toughening up but makes one feel like a kid again.
Walking vs running for weight loss.
When deciding to start running or walking for weight loss, you need to set a goal and make a plan. Answering the questions: “What do I want to achieve?” “Where am I now?” and then “What will I need to do achieve my goal?”
To help achieve this I recommend;
- Keeping a record of your walks, runs and other exercises,
- Buying one of the many fitness tracking wearables available on the market (Koretrak, Garmin, Fitbit, Apple),
- Subscribing to Endomondo, Strava, Runtastic or any of the other available fitness apps.
To stay on track it’s a great motivation force having a friend as an exercise partner. Someone who will ensure that you don’t miss sessions... or at least makes you feel guilty when you do! This is a win-win both ways as cycles of motivation are often different – when you want to miss a session, they don’t, and when they want to miss a session, you don’t.
Another excellent incentive is to set an objective of participating in a race in the future. If you think your resolve might dissolve, then tell everybody that you’re going to do it. Then increase the commitment by taking a few wagers!
So how many calories does running burn? As a rough estimate (depending on your weight, speed and fitness), running burns about 600 calories an hour. In comparison, a brisk walking pace burns about 300 calories an hour.
Now the not so good news! It requires about 3 500 calories to burn a pound of fat. So you can easily calculate that to lose a pound of fat, you have to run for about 6 hours or walk at a brisk pace for about 12 hours!
If you’re interested, you can get more details here of calories you’ll burn for various activities.
Walking/jogging/running will be just one element of your slow and steady lifestyle changing weight loss plan.
Running to lose weight can be fun, social and enjoyable. It is something the whole family can do and always remember we were 'born to run'.