Walking is a great way to shed pounds and get healthy. But don’t take our word for it. The four women below offer proof that walking can have a major payoff: Each lost at least 100 pounds thanks to the low-impact exercise. Read on to learn about how they got motivated and find out tips for getting active yourself.
I needed a size 22, and I panicked
Nancy Rushing, 40, grew up in a meat-and-potatoes family where eating large portionsand being a little pudgywas the norm. But three years ago, at 259 pounds, she was shopping for jeans and realized she had gone up yet another size. Getting to a size 22 was my breaking point, she says. Her plan: Join Jenny Craig to learn about healthy eating, and start walking.
How she did it: Nancy started walking at home (in Arlington, Texas) on an old treadmill she got from her aunt. To stay motivated, she watched musicals like Hairspray and High School Musical as she walked. Twice a week, she also walked the halls and stairs at the school where she teaches.
The payoff: Nancy shed a total of 100 pounds in 14 months, and two weeks before she turned 40 in April, she ran her first 5K. Now when she hits the mall to go jeans shopping, its much more fun. Not only are there more choices, but clothes tend to fit on the first try, she says.
I saved my own life
For her 50th birthday, Peg Williams gave herself a trip: six days at the Cooper Wellness Program in Dallas. I weighed 270 and even my fat clothes didnt fit. At Cooper, Peg was diagnosed with pre-diabetes, dangerously high blood pressure and high LDL (bad) cholesterol.
How she did it: Peg learned how to make simple lifestyle changes like replacing high-calorie foods with lower-calorie ones, eating breakfast, and upping her fruit and vegetable intake. She also resolved to make walking a priority. Peg travels for work, so she started seeking out treadmills in hotel fitness centers and stopped scheduling meetings before 9 a.m. to allow time for workouts.
The payoff: Peg started losing weight slowly, but within 21 months she was 130 pounds lighter. Now 52, Peg walks for 45 minutes to an hour six times a week. The best part: She no longer needs blood pressure medication, and her cholesterol and blood sugar levels are under control. It was never about getting the weight off quickly, she says. It was about creating a new, healthier lifestyle.
Walking was better than surgery!
When Susan Hegarty, 42, clocked in at 439 pounds in 2005, she knew she was in trouble. She turned to gastric bypass surgery, which enabled her to lose 80 poundsbut within 10 months she regained it all. I dont think I was ready to commit to keeping the weight off, she says. After struggling for several more years, Susan hit rock bottom in 2008, when she was turned away from an amusement park ride because she couldnt fit in the seat. I knew right then and there that I needed to change my life or I was going to die, she says.
How she did it: Her first step was to start walking around her neighborhood in Easton, Pennsylvania, though she could barely go half a mile. I had horrible pains in my back and legs, sweated terribly, and was always very out of breath after walking a couple of blocks, she says. Yet she stuck with it and eventually joined a gym, adding strength training to her program. At the same time, she scaled her food intake way back. Food used to be my coping mechanism for everything in life, but thats changed, she says.
The payoff: Susan whittled 261 pounds off her frame in just two and a half years. She still wants to lose another 30 pounds and plans to use walking to get there. When I was heavy, I carried a lot of shame and self-loathing, says Susan. Being active has given me the confidence to develop relationships including one with a very special man who Im marrying next year!
I was too fat to exercise
When Diane Shaw, 54, caught wind of the American Heart Associations Heart Walk in 2002, she thought it would be a good team-building activity for her colleagues at the San Francisco Bay area transit company where she works. She planned to help raise money, but at 310 pounds she assumed shed skip the three-mile walk. I couldnt even walk a few minutes without getting out of breath, recalls Diane. I was worried that I just couldnt handle it. But when her teammates told her they wouldnt walk unless she joined them, she resolved to get into shape for the event.
How she did it: When Diane first started walking on a treadmill in the exercise room at work, she was only able to go for 7 minutes at a time. I wondered how in the world I was ever going to walk three miles, but I didnt want to let my team down, says Diane, who was also motivated by a family history of heart disease and high blood pressure. Around the same time, she started keeping a food diary and paying close attention to nutrition labels. Two months later and 15 pounds lighter, she proudly crossed the finish line with her coworkers.
The payoff: Diane lost a total of 110 pounds in three years. After that first charity event, she stuck with her walking routine and also signed up for circuit-training classes at her workplace. Shes now a regular at the Heart Walk, having done it nine times. She also completed a 39-mile walk for breast cancer in 2008. I feel so much better than I did in my 20s; no one believes how old I am, she says.