Researchers from the London School of Economics say that brisk walking may be a more effective method of weight loss than going to the gym. Their study explored how various forms of exercise affect people’s weight.
The researchers used data collected from the annual Health Surveys for England in seven different years. They analysed what people said about how often they took part in specific physical activities, and compared this with their recorded Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference.
They found that those who regularly engaged in brisk walking for longer than half an hour each time had a lower BMI than those who engaged in other types of exercise, such as going to the gym or taking part in sports.
“The results thus provide an argument for a campaign to promote walking,” says Dr Grace Lordan. “Given the obesity epidemic and the fact that a large proportion of people in the UK are inactive, recommending that people walk briskly more often is a cheap and easy policy option.”
“This really positive paper shows you can reduce obesity through brisk walking, which is accessible for most people,” says Mike Loosemore, a Lead Consultant Sports Physician for The Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health. “It is slightly false to say walking is as good as going to the gym. It is brisk and fast walking which is as good as the gym – it doesn’t mean a meandering walk through the countryside looking at flowers. A very brisk walk means almost short of breath. Those who prefer walking over going to the gym or playing sport should start and gradually build it up to brisk or fast walking.”
Based on the findings, Dr Lordan and her team concluded that a brisk 30-minute walk five days a week may be one of the most effective ways of keeping your weight down. However, while this study has demonstrated a strong link between walking and weight, it cannot prove that participants’ weight was always a result of their activity levels – other factors, such as diet, play a large role.
Nevertheless, walking has long been advocated as a good way to keep fit. The NHS says that most of us already walk between 3,000 and 4,000 steps a day, and that those wishing to reach a healthier level of physical activity should aim for 10,000 steps a day.