A 21-day fitness regime is debunking the myth that high-intensity workouts are the only way to burn fat and improve fitness.
Unless you’re training for an ultra marathon, the truth is that consistency is more important than intensity. Experts told Women’s Health that they adhere to the “80/20 rule.” Eighty percent of weight loss, the rule dictates, comes from making healthy changes to your diet; the remaining 20 percent comes from physical activity.
Making healthy changes to your regular eating habits will have the greatest impact of all. But a great exercise regime, which logically follows, is not easy to maintain if you are early on in your personal fitness journey. It’s important to keep things simple.
The “go hard or go home” training mentality, says The Hearty Soul, may be good for some situations, but “going hard” all the time could damage your overall health. Consistency is the magic word.
A 21-day walking plan that is currently doing the rounds has the potential to revolutionize exercise for the uninitiated. It is tailor made for achievability, and the overall benefits of walking are many. Walking helps maintain a healthy weight, prevents or manages various conditions (such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes), strengthens bones and muscles, and improves balance and coordination.
Walking is also a huge mood booster, not to mention walking outdoors allows one to take in the natural landscape, feel the wind on your sweating skin, and possibly even multitask.
But why 21 days? It takes a minimum of 21 days to form a habit, says Dr. Maxwell Maltz. “Many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve,” the doctor explained, “and a new one to jell.”
“Embracing longer timelines can help us realize that habits are a process and not an event,” Maltz continued. “In other words, it doesn’t matter if you mess up every now and then. Building better habits is not an all-or-nothing process.”
This simple 21-day walking plan was designed by Galina Denzel, certified personal trainer and co-author of Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well. Within the plan, “easy” denotes a walking pace that feels like a stroll; “moderate” denotes an increased pace that still allows you to hold a conversation; “fast” amps up the pace and talking should be tough.
Week 1 (starting slow)
Day 1: Start with 10 minutes of “easy” walking
Day 2: Walk “easy” for 12 minutes
Day 3: Walk “easy” for 15 minutes
Day 4: Walk “easy” for 18 minutes total; 9 minutes in the morning and 9 at night
Day 5: Walk “easy” for 20 minutes total; 10 minutes in the morning and 10 at night
Day 6: Walk “easy” for 22 minutes total; 11 minutes in the morning and 11 at night
Day 7: Walk “easy” for 25 minutes total; 13 minutes in the morning and 12 at night
Week 2 (moving into moderate)
Day 8: Walk for 14 minutes; 2 minutes “easy,” 10 minutes “fast,” and 2 minutes “easy” cool down
Day 9: Walk “moderate” for 16 minutes
Day 10: Walk for 18 minutes; 3 minutes “easy,” 12 minutes “fast,” and 3 minutes “easy” cool down
Day 11: Walk “moderate” for 20 minutes
Day 12: Walk for 22 minutes; 4 minutes “easy,” 14 minutes “fast,” and 4 minutes “easy” cool down
Day 13: Walk “moderate” for 24 minutes
Day 14: Walk for 26 minutes; 5 minutes “easy,” 16 minutes “fast,” and 5 minutes “easy” cool down
Day 15: Walk up and down stairs or hilly terrain for 15 minutes; cool down with 2 minutes “easy” walking
Day 16: Walk “moderate” for 25 minutes
Day 17: Walk up and down stairs or hilly terrain for 17 minutes; add 2 minutes “fast” walking
Day 18: Walk “moderate” for 27 minutes
Day 19: Walk up and down stairs or hilly terrain for 17 minutes; cool down with 3 minutes “easy” walking
Day 20: Walk “moderate” for 30 minutes
Day 21: Walk “fast” for 25 minutes; cool down with 8 minutes “easy” walking
Joel Snape, an editor of Men’s Fitness magazine, extolled the virtues of this regime to Healthy Food House. “Walking might seem unglamorous next to more calorie-intensive and sweat-buffed commuter options like cycling and running,” he said, “but it comes with several key advantages.”
“It’s low intensity, which means it’s easy on the joints, and because it raises your heart-rate without sending it thudding through your chest,” he added, “it’s also more likely to relieve stress than cause it.”
Are you thinking of giving this 21-day walking plan a try? It might just be the perfect way to kickstart a new regime.