Most people believe that in order to lose weight, they need to do high intensity workouts. Fortunately, this isn’t true (I mean, unless you are training for a fitness competition, ironman or marathon).
Whether you want to burn fat, boost your energy, lift your mood, or simply need a little toning action, this 21-day walking plan can help you achieve all of the above, and more.
However, you can’t expect to lose weight if you’re still eating poorly. While you will lose some weight, the majority of the weight will fall off when you put a little effort into your diet, too. I learned this back when I was just fifteen years old. I walked as a way of losing weight, but it wasn’t until I eliminated junk foods and animal products when I really started to slim down.
Diet vs. exercise. Which one is really more important?
Most of us tell ourselves that we can eat certain foods because we either earned it through exercise or will earn it by going to the gym later and burn it off.
Unfortunately, this mind-set isn’t helping anyone reach their weight-loss goals.
Take the basic concept of the 80/20 rule. This happens when 80% of weight loss comes from making healthy changes to your diet, and the remaining 20% comes from being physically active.
Given that diet is so important in weight loss, consider making healthy changes to your regular eating habits. Based on experience, I’ve found a plant-based, whole-foods diet to provide me with the energy I need (even more than consuming animal products), while also allowing my body to stay slim, no matter the amounts I consume.
If you can’t eat fully plant-based, cut out the major triggers for fat gain like highly processed foods, fried foods, fatty desserts like cakes, cookies, donuts, pastries and pies, animal meats high in saturated fat (red meat, dairy, etc.), and alcohol. I would also recommend cutting down on the amount of salt you are consuming, as this can make you hold onto water weight (which, surprisingly, attributes to a much higher number on the scale (even though it isn’t actually fat you’re weighing)).
Why Consistency is Key
In my own experience, and many others who have successfully lost weight and kept it off, there is one thing that matters most – consistency. People tend to be impatient when it comes to exercise, and too many times, people don’t give their exercise plans enough time to reap the benefits they’re looking for.
If you’re looking to lose weight, don’t expect it to happen in one weeks time. Success is not achieved unless we work at it day in and day out for months and months. This also applies to any exercise program. If you don’t stick with it consistently, you’ll end up frustrated and at a loss.
If you’re wanting to build lean muscle mass and lose unwanted body fat, you need resistance training, cardiovascular exercise, and proper nutrition. I mentioned the nutrition above, and this 21-day walking plan will provide you with the cardiovascular training you need – but what about resistance training?
Performing any type of resistance training with weights, anywhere from 3-6 times per week will help you build lean muscle mass, which automatically burns more calories at rest than fat. Muscle is like a 24-hour furnace, so we need to be sure to maintain or even increase our lean muscle to keep our metabolism going strong.
The second thing to understand is that doing “extreme workouts” isn’t the only way to lose weight. Going hard all the time is not a recipe for optimal health, and your body will eventually shut down, or you won’t feel motivated to stick with your exercise plan.
If you feel like you’re capable of following a high-intensity workout on a regular basis, feel free to do so. However, the majority of people out there looking to make exercise an everyday thing often find the most success when taking it slow and progressing from there.
Health Benefits of Walking
Walking comes with so many health benefits. This is one of the main reasons I love this 21-day walking plan. If you haven’t already read my article on the health benefits of walking, I highly suggest you do so! But for now, I’ll give a little summary below of the many health benefits you’ll achieve from going on a daily walk.
The health benefits of walking include:
– Reduced mortality
– Mental clarity
– Increased energy
– Reduced risk of injury
– Better sleep
– Improves heart health
– Aids weight loss
– Regulates blood pressure
– Fights cancer
– Reduces risk of diabetes
– Strengthens bones
– Improves digestion
– Boosts immune function
– Prevents dementia
– Increases lung capacity
– Delays aging
– Reduces stress
– Increases productivity
– Increases your creativity
21-Day Walking Plan
Here is a 21-day walking plan that’ll leave you wanting more once the plan is up. If you get bored while walking, listen to some music, or download an audiobook to keep you entertained. I’ve been listening to Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer whenever I go out on long walks.
During week one, you’ll be walking as if you’re going on an easy stroll. If you’re new to any kind of exercise at all, split the minutes between morning and evening.
Day 1 – Start with 10 minutes. Keep an easy and steady pace.
Day 2 – Walk for 12 minutes. Keep an easy and steady pace.
Day 3 – Walk for 15 minutes. Keep an easy and steady pace.
Day 4 – Walk for 18 minutes. You can start splitting the time up in the morning and night if you need – 9 minutes in the morning and 9 minutes at night.
Day 5 – Walk for 20 minutes. Optional: 10 minutes in the morning, and 10 minutes at night. Keep an easy and steady pace.
Day 6 – Walk for 22 minutes. Keep an easy and steady pace. Optional: walk 11 minutes in the morning, and 11 minutes at night.
Day 7 – Walk for 25 minutes. Keep an easy and steady pace. Optional: walk 13 minutes in the morning, and 12 minutes at night.
During week two, you’ll be increasing your pace from easy to moderate, so instead of a stroll, you’ll be walking a bit more faster, but not so fast that you wouldn’t be able to hold a conversation.
Day 8 – Walk 14 minutes: 2 minutes easy, 10 minutes fast, and 2 minutes easy cool down.
Day 9 – Walk 16 minutes with a moderate pace.
Day 10 – Walk 18 minutes: 3 minutes easy, 12 minutes fast, and 3 minutes easy.
Day 11 – Walk 20 minutes with a moderate pace.
Day 12 – Walk 22 minutes: 4 minutes easy, 14 minutes fast, and 4 minutes easy.
Day 13 – Walk 24 minutes with a moderate pace.
Day 14 – Walk 26 minutes: 5 minutes easy, 16 minutes fast, and 5 minutes easy.
During week three, you’ll be increasing your pace to the point where it should be difficult to talk. You shouldn’t be able to have a full conversation at this pace.
Day 15 – Walk up/down the stairs or a path with increasing elevation for 15 minutes. Cool down with 2 minutes of easy walking at the end.
Day 16 – Walk 25 minutes with a moderate pace.
Day 17 – Walk up/down the stairs or a path with increasing elevation for 17 minutes. Add 2 minutes of a fast-paced walk at the end.
Day 18 – Walk 27 minutes with a moderate pace.
Day 19 – Walk up/down the stairs or a path with increasing elevation for 17 minutes. Cool down with 3 minutes of easy walking at the end.
Day 20 – Walk 30 minutes with a moderate pace.
Day 21 – Walk for 25 minutes with a fast pace, and end with 8 minutes of easy walking.
And there you have it! If you want to keep going after day 21, keep challenging yourself by making walking harder and harder each day. If you have a treadmill, you can increase the elevation of the treadmill each day, challenging yourself to build muscle and burn fat. Do NOT stop after you complete 21 days – continue the momentum!