Lose Weight by Walking Slowly

It seems logical that the faster you move, the more calories you will burn and the more weight you will lose. But if you're obese, that logic doesn't hold true.

Obese people will actually burn more calories by walking a mile at a leisurely stroll than they will at their normal walking pace. In fact, doctors from the University of Colorado at Boulder now recommend a leisurely walk combined with a low-impact cardiovascular activity as the best formula for obese people seeking to get into shape and stay healthy. In addition, those who walk at 2 miles per hour rather than 3 miles per hour reduce the loads on their knee joints by up to 25 percent, significantly lowering the risk of arthritis or joint injury.

Why is it better to move more slowly? Research leader Ray Browning found that the number of calories burned per pound of body weight is similar for obese adults as normal-sized adults walking at the same speed. Because obese people generally have heavier legs, wider stances and swing their legs in a wider arc, the researchers expected the cost of walking for obese people to be significantly higher. But it wasn't. "This was a surprise," Browning said in a news release announcing the study findings. "The subjects probably are unwittingly altering their posture and walking with straighter legs, conserving calories in the process."

When people gradually become obese, they also seem to become particularly graceful, according to researcher Rodger Kram. "There appears to be some sort of a physiological drive for them to minimize the amount of energy they expend," he said.

The study: Twenty men and 20 women were tested on treadmills and sidewalks, half of whom were of normal weight and half classified as class 2 obese, meaning they had a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 to 40. A 5-foot 4-inch tall woman with a BMI of 30 weighs about 175 pounds, while a 6-foot man with a BMI of 30 weighs about 225 pounds. The special treadmill used allowed researchers to take measurements of the loads placed on the left and right feet while the volunteers were walking.

The results: Brisk walking dramatically increases the knee joint forces, which can lead to a variety of problems including joint injuries and arthritis, while slower walking reduced these injuries and burned more calories.

The study findings were presented to the American College of Sports Medicine meeting in Nashville and published in the journal Obesity Research.