The best exercise to lose weight and keep it off is surprising. Most people believe in the false narratives. Some think if you are not sweating or breathing heavily, its meaningless. Others think its about how much weight you can lift in the gym. Still others swear its “no pain, no gain”. And yet others think it is intensity and duration meaning that you must suffer to some extent and it must be for 30 minutes to an hour to count. None of these answer the question, what is the best exercise to lose and maintain weight loss?
The simplest and purest answer is walking. Human beings are designed to stand upright and walk. This is celebrated when we “take our first steps” usually around our first birthday. Then walking becomes perceived as worthless, easy, insignificant and clearly too simple a means to impart any benefit. It becomes a simple means of transportation across the shortest distance. We see it as no real benefit and often try to avoid it as often as possible.
If we can take a moving sidewalk, elevator or park closer to an entrance we do. We use a remote control rather than get up and change a TV program at the screen. Yes, I realize you may not know that is even possible. We ask someone else to get us something “while you are in there” rather than get up and walk to the kitchen and get it ourselves. We take a call at our desk sitting rather than on our cell and walk during the conversation. We take an elevator to the floor where we work so we can later go to the gym and use the stair master. Sounds silly but it clearly demonstrates how insignificant most of us think the benefits of walking are.
Regarding weight loss and weight maintenance, walking is the winner. It dominates all other forms of exercise. How many steps you take, consistently, every day translates into true weight control success. As a board certified Bariatric (weight loss) Medical specialist with over 30 years in practice, I know this is true and research backs this. I have always told my patients to wear a pedometer, smart watch, or use a cell app to track their daily steps. The goal depends on your caloric intake but for most people it averages ten thousand steps a day.
Furthermore, frequency means more than duration. Walking 10 minutes 6 days a week is better for weight loss than an hour once a week. It is also much easier. Yet people resist it because they simple do not believe it. I always smile and tell the nonbelievers “it’s not a religion you need to believe in, just do it and see the results”.
What pace or intensity of walking is the best for weight loss? The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (The CDC) differentiates exercise pace in 2 forms. Moderate pace is you can walk but not sing. Vigorous pace is you must stop in order to talk. What does this mean? As a weight professional doctor and someone who has lost 50 pounds multiple times and finally have been successful for years at keeping it off, I advise the following. Walking every day, consistently is important. Regarding intensity of pace, I have said for 30 years “Don’t walk like you are in the mall, walk like you are going to the sale!”