Lose weight and keep it off forever
Our 28-day walking plan will help you get fit and transform your shape
The health facts about walking are indisputable: if you want to shift the pounds, doing it regularly can deliver lasting results. Going along at a brisk pace for just 45 minutes at least four times a week could help you lose up to 18lb a year without even changing your diet. And with longer days and a hint of spring in the air, now is the perfect time to start our 28-day walking plan. It's easy, fat-burning and free!
So whether you want to lose weight or get fit, or have signed up for this year's MoonWalk or one of the dozens of other charity walks happening across the UK, our plan will help you achieve your goals.
If you've never done any regular exercise before, you don't need to attempt anything too ambitious - start small and build gradually. But be warned: what starts with a 20-minute walk around the park can quickly become addictive.
The combination of feeling fitter, your newly toned shape and all that fresh air is an intoxicating mix, and it won't be long before you're going further and faster than you ever imagined possible.
Walk the Walk founder Nina Barough, who has inspired thousands of women to get moving, says: ‘Many of the women who do the MoonWalk every summer have never even owned a pair of trainers before, let alone walked a marathon, but they get inspired by the challenge and come back again and again.'
Here are her tips for tackling the tricky bit - getting started:
● Think big, but set yourself small, manageable targets week by week. ‘You need to imagine and visualise your end goal, but take small steps to get there and mark your successes along the way.'
● Find a walking pal ‘There will be days when you don't feel like walking and they do, and vice versa, so you'll motivate each other to keep going.'
● Believe in yourself ‘A big part of your success will be self-belief. If you think you can, you will.' Having a mantra that you repeat to yourself in your head can really help.
Our walking plan gives you the basics you need to get going and improve your fitness over 28 days. Wear cushioned, supportive trainers that are big enough for you to wiggle your toes in, as well as layers of loose, comfortable clothing that you can layer up or peel off as needed.
Maintain the momentum
■ Try to go for one long walk and one shorter one - in your lunch hour perhaps - a couple of days a week.
■ Chart your progress - recording the time/length of your walks on a graph is a great way of seeing how far you've come.
■ Vary the terrain - walking on soft surfaces like grass or sand will burn more calories.
■ Set yourself achievable goals. Get into training for a charity walk - Walk the Walk have 5km (3.1 miles), 10km (6.2 miles), half and full marathon-length walks, so there's something to suit every level of
fitness. To find out about other charity walks, contact Just Walk on 01460 30456 or visit www.just-walk.co.uk.
■ Set yourself weekly or monthly goals to increase your walking time and speed.
■ Read Nina Barough's 'Walking For Fitness' (Dorling Kindersley), which tells you everything you need to know about walking - including how to take it to the next level, and how to train for half and full marathon-length walks.
■ Buy a pedometer. ‘This is a great short-term motivator because people can see the upward trend and chart their progress,' says Stella Goddard of the Walking for Health initiative. Research shows that, in the early weeks, pedometers help people walk further and keep going.
■ Remember what it's doing for you - as well as keeping you in shape, walking helps cut your risk of stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer. It also helps control high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, keeps bones and muscles strong, boosts immunity and helps fight depression.
■ Remind yourself why you started - write your reasons in big letters and stick them on the fridge.
■ Inspire others - get other people walking with you. If you're not a selfstarter, join a group to motivate you and help keep you on track.
Walking for weight loss
Walking is the perfect route to steady weight loss, and the longer you walk the more effective it will be, says Dr Derek Peters of the University of Worcester. Brisk walking speeds up your metabolism - the rate at which you burn calories - not just while you walk, but for several hours afterwards. The average woman will burn around 300 calories an hour, so if you just walk for half an hour six days a week you'll lose around a pound a week, even without eating less - that's almost a stone a year. Eat a bit less and you'll lose even more. Walking helps tone you up, too - researchers at Duke University found that walking 30 minutes a day helped people lose body fat, trim their waist size and build muscle.
‘The down side is that you may feel hungrier at first, so you have to be careful not to eat more,' says Dr Peters. ‘It will probably take a couple of weeks before you notice any weight loss - you may even gain a little. Don't be disheartened - any weight gain is because you are building muscle, which is heavier than fat. After about three weeks you should
start to lose weight.'
Click through the numbered pages for weeks, 1, 2, 3 and 4
If you have a pre-existing medical condition, consult your doctor before beginning an exercise plan