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Q & A

Got a question about some aspect of mind-body-spirit fitness? Ask! It can be as earthly as "Can a heart monitor really enhance my workout?" (the short answer to that is yes) or as heady as, "Don't I need to sell all my worldly goods and go live on a mountain top to find enlightenment?" (the short answer here is no). Needless to say, we can't answer every question we receive, but we will take one every month and answer it here. If you've got a burning need to know about something, email us, and you may find your query featured next time around.

If you're walking around 3 miles per hour will you still lose weight? Do you have to walk at a fast pace to lose weight?

It all depends. Is the walking extra-added activity that you haven't been doing before? How long are you walking, and how many days per week? Are you doing anything about your diet? How much weight are you trying to lose? You have a simple question, but the answer is actually quite complicated!

(Article continued below.)

When it comes to weight loss, it's always good to get down the very basics: calories in versus calories out. In other words, to lose weight, you must burn more calories than your body is consuming. A half hour of moderate walking (the 3 miles per hour you mentioned) burns a certain number of calories, depending on your weight, gender, age, muscle-to-fat ratio and other factors. Walking for that same half hour, but picking up the pace (brisk walking) will burn more calories. It's simple math. Sure, if you begin a moderate walking program and stick to it, it will help you lose weight. You will lose it more quickly if you walk faster over the same amount of time. That also is simple math. Throw the human factor in, however, and the numbers begin to fly out the window.

In reality, the exercise that will help you lose the most weight is the one you will stick with for a lifetime. If you like walking at a certain pace, and you look forward to your daily (or almost daily) walks, that's better than forcing yourself out the door to walk at a pace that you don't enjoy. If you dread exercising, you'll find any excuse to get out of doing it, and eventually your mind will scheme up a way to drop it altogether.

Or think of it another way. Maybe you like walking moderately, so you do it for a few weeks, maybe longer. But one day you feel so good that perhaps you just decide to walk a little faster, with a bit more spring in your step. That gives you a nice, energized feeling, so you start walking more briskly on occasion. Eventually, as more weeks go by you discover that you actually prefer walking at a quicker pace. But keep in mind it all started with a moderately paced walking routine.

You see, while your question is, "Will walking 3 miles per hour help me lose weight?" you are really asking if it's okay to walk just 3 miles an hour, and if it will still help you achieve your weight loss goals. So yes, moderate walking is definitely good for you. It will improve your health, even if you aren't looking to drop some pounds. If you want to lose weight and you haven't exercised for a long time (if ever), moderate walking is a great place to start. But as your body gets better conditioned, don't be surprised if you want to walk faster, or if you start looking for other forms of exercise to supplement your walking routine. Exercise is like that — it grows on you if you do it regularly.

Lastly, if you are serious about losing weight, it's necessary for you to take a look at what you are eating. Although exercise plays a part in weight loss and will help you look your best as you shed the pounds, 80% of it actually depends on diet. Where can you cut back on your calories? Can you replace processed and junk food with whole foods? Eating better doesn't have to be hard. A few simple changes — changes that you can stick with — will put you in the right direction.

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