We walked off three stone in four weeks! How five Mail readers beat the bulge by walking 5,000 steps a day
- Sports scientist Joanna Hall teaches a way to walk that aligns the body
- The technique can help alleviate back pain and help shed the excess pounds
- Five Mail readers were chosen to take part in a four week walking challenge
- Each shed pounds and has seen an array of other health benefits
It’s a unique challenge: lose up to 10lb simply by walking every day. Two months ago, The Mail on Sunday asked readers to try. Fitness guru Joanna Hall promised it was possible – if you followed her guidelines on how to walk correctly.
Hundreds contacted us to say they were willing to give it a go, and five volunteers were chosen. Each had an initial training session and a series of medical checks at BMI The London Independent Hospital.
They were tested again after four weeks of walking 5,000 steps a day – and the results were extraordinary.
Here, they chart their journey, while cardiovascular epidemiologist and obesity specialist Dr David Ashton, consultant cardiologist Dr T. W. Koh and GP Dr Jonty Heaversedge give their analyses.
Five volunteers – pictured from left to right, Kerry Mclvor, Tony Butterworth, Barbara Carter-Dunn, Kathryn Davis and Diane Green – took up the four week challenge and saw extraordinary results
THE WALKACTIVE CHALLENGE
The volunteers first learned Joanna’s Walkactive technique, which promises postural, functional and cosmetic improvements. Each read her book, watched her DVD and took part in a one-day workshop with her.
For the first three days, each volunteer had to note their average number of steps. They then had to walk a minimum of 5,000 steps a day using Joanna’s technique. This could be broken into three or four walks and included normal walking around.
Each wore a pedometer to measure their progress and, in weeks one and two, they also did three ‘pace walks’ – fast enough that they were lightly out of breath.
Learning the technique: Volunteer Tony Butterworth and Kerry Mclvor pictured with fitness guru Joanna Hall
The length of the walk depended on individual fitness levels. In weeks three and four, they did four pace walks.
There were also daily abdominal exercises that involved drawing the stomach muscles upward and inward and holding for various lengths of time.
They were also asked to not eat carbohydrates after 5pm.
‘I CAN’T BELIEVE THE DIFFERENCE IT HAS MADE’
Sales manager Kerry McIvor, 42:
lives in Nottingham with her two children, aged 18 and 20. Kerry says:
‘In January I had the most miserable holiday of my life.
was in Lanzarote with my boyfriend, but at 12st 2lb I was the heaviest
I’d ever been.
‘My thighs rubbed together, I covered up during the day,
and I didn’t want to go out at night.
we got back from holiday, I took up rugby and watched what I ate but I
still couldn’t lose my muffin top or those last stubborn pounds.
the Walkactive technique was odd at first but I quickly mastered it:
shoulders back, neck long, with a long stride pushing from the toes, and
arms swinging almost at right angles. ‘I’ve been walking every morning and have tried to do another 20 minutes at lunchtime and in the evening.
‘I’ve lost my muffin top and my back fat. My size 14 clothes fit perfectly, and I have had countless compliments. I can’t believe the difference it has made to me both mentally and physically.’
Koh says: ‘Kerry’s resting pulse rate has gone down – this occurs with
regular exercise – and means that her heart is working less hard and
functioning more efficiently.’
Dr Ashton says: ‘Kerry has done well to lose 5lb. The measured blood variables show no significant changes, but one would not expect there to be any given the modest weight loss and short duration of the study. ’
Dr Heaversedge says: ‘Kerry is well on her way to a normal BMI. We know that steady weight loss is much more likely to be sustained. She has already lowered her risk of heart disease and diabetes by reducing her waist size.’
Banished the muffin top: Kerry Mclvor, 42, pictured left, has lost 5lb in four weeks after taking up the walkactive challenge while Tony Butterworth, 65, right, walks five miles every morning and no longer feels pain in his joints
‘I WALK FIVE MILES EVERY MORNING’
Tony Butterworth, 65:
Tony lives in Halifax, West Yorkshire, with his wife Jocelyn, 58, a nurse. They have two grown-up children. Tony, a retired NHS administrator, says: ‘I’ve always considered myself to be a reasonably active person.
‘My older grandchildren, who are aged nine and seven, think I exist to play football with them. But I put on weight in 2005 and started to worry about my health.
‘I was diagnosed with two slipped discs so exercise that wasn’t going to hurt my joints sounded ideal. I started at 5,000 paces and built up. Now I walk five miles every morning and I thoroughly enjoy it.
‘When I saw my results written down in black and white, I was thrilled. I leap out of bed in the morning, I have more energy and I’m a stone lighter. There is no pain in my joints, and I’ll be carrying on.’
Dr Koh: ‘The drop in Tony’s resting pulse rate would need to be measured over a period of time to show a sustained decrease, but it is potentially good news. His cholesterol has gone up, but without the breakdown of how much is ‘‘bad’’ and ‘‘good’’, it is difficult to draw conclusions.’
Dr Ashton says: ‘The loss around Tony’s waist is impressive. It is fat that is strongly associated with heart disease and type 2 diabetes. His reductions in glucose and pulse rate are consistent with increased physical activity.’
Dr Heaversedge says: ‘At the start, Tony was obese but now is approaching a healthy BMI. It is unsurprising that his joint pain has lessened. Walking correctly can ease joint pain by strengthening muscles around them.’
Dropped a dress size: Barbara Carter-Dunn, 72, has gone from between a size 18 or 16 to a size 14
‘I AIM TO DO 7,500 STEPS A DAY’
Barbara Carter-Dunn, 72:
Barbara lives in Blackpool with her husband Leonard, 82. She is an Avon lady. The couple have six children between them, as well as two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
She says: ‘I went to see my dressmaker last week. She sighed as she took my beautiful sea-green dress in yet again. In the past month I’ve gone from a size 16 or 18 to a size 14.
‘I was cock-a-hoop. I used to play tennis five times a week until I had a knee and ankle replacement two years ago.
‘I have been doing aqua-aerobics classes, but have generally felt unfit, overweight and a bit low. My incentive was a family wedding. I’ve been getting up and going for a walk every morning and I aim to do a total of 7,500 steps a day.
‘I’ve felt a twinge in my bad leg on a couple of occasions, but I’ve just been careful to take things more slowly. In the morning I’m energetic rather than lethargic. And for the family wedding? I felt fabulous!’
Dr Ashton says: ‘There is good evidence that mental wellbeing is boosted by exercise. A 2005 study showed that fast walking for 35 minutes a day, five times a week, had a significant influence on moderate to mild depressive symptoms.’
Dr Koh says: ‘Barbara should continue to exercise, so she may see more of a reduction in her blood pressure, which she can sustain.’
Dr Heaversedge says: ‘It is much harder to lose weight when you’re older. The body burns fewer calories because of reduced muscle mass, so Barbara’s weight loss of 9lb in four weeks represents a great deal of dedication.’
‘I DO 20 MINUTES ON A TREADMILL BEFORE WORK’
Diane Green, 60:
Diane works in accounts, lives in Romford, Essex, with her husband Dave, 57, a printer. She says: ‘In July I was on crutches for eight weeks following an operation. I gained 10lb.
‘My GP wanted to put me on statins to lower my cholesterol. When I told him what I was doing, he gave me until September to get it down through exercise.
‘For the past four weeks I have been walking for 20 minutes on the treadmill before work and for 40 minutes when I get home.’
Dr Koh says: ‘Studies have shown that exercise lowers cholesterol – it may improve its transport through the body to the liver, from where it can be expelled. She may need three months to achieve her ultimate aim. I imagine her GP would allow her the leeway as the downward trend continues.’
Dr Ashton says: ‘The reduction in resting heart rate means that she has improved her cardiovascular system.’
Dr Heaversedge says: ‘Her waist measurement has gone down by almost 4in, which reduces her risk of heart disease and diabetes.’
‘I SLEEP BETTER AND WAKE UP FELLING FRESH’
Kathryn Davis, 47:
Kathryn lives in Solihull, West Midlands, with her husband Richard, 58, and their two daughters, Ellie, 19, and Grace, 14. She works for Birmingham City Council.
Kathryn says: ‘I just hoped to lose a few pounds and get a bit fitter. I found it invigorating and quickly felt that I was sleeping better and waking up fresh.
‘I’ve managed to build up to 15,000 steps a day getting up early in the morning and going for a walk before the weather warmed up. In the evening I’d go for a walk where previously I’d take the car. I feel so much better, and I’m over the moon that my waistline has reappeared.’
Lowered cholesterol: Diane Green, 60, pictured left, has managed to lower her cholesterol level and lose nearly 4in from her waist while Kathryn Davis, 47, pictured right, has built up to walking 15,000 steps a day and says her waistline has reappeared
Koh says: ‘After four weeks of exercise Kathryn’s body fat is down by
seven per cent, her BMI by three per cent and her waist by 12 per cent.
These are all significant measurements. Imagine the impact after six
months or a year of such exercise.
‘Kathryn’s waist circumference – a measure of her abdominal fat – has also come down by 6in, which is significant.’
Ashton says: ‘Despite the fact that there is no change in any of the
measured blood variables, Kathryn clearly feels fitter and has more
energy than before starting her walking programme. The change in waist
measurement of 6in is much larger than one would have predicted.’
Heaversedge says: ‘This level of gentle activity is ideal for those who
are seriously overweight, who often find it difficult to participate in
WHAT THE TESTS SHOW
BMI (body mass index): A ratio of height to weight. Between 18.5 and 24.9 is normal, 25 to 30 is overweight and over 30 is obese. The higher the BMI, the greater the risk of arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and other problems.
Body fat percentage: The amount of the body comprised of fat, measured using hospital-grade medical scales. Men should score from 16 per cent to 21 per cent, and women between 22 and 31 per cent.
Cholesterol: A fatty substance vital for the normal functioning of the body. An excessively high level is a risk factor for heart disease and strokes. The reading should be below five.
Blood pressure: The force of blood against the walls of arteries. The higher it is, the more strain on the heart and the higher risk of heart attack, strokes and kidney disease. The normal range is between 90/60 and 140/90.
Pulse rate: A resting heart rate of more than 90 beats per minute is linked to heart conditions.
Waist measurement: Men should measure under 37in and women under 31.5in, according to the British Heart Foundation. Larger waist size is linked to the development of heart disease and diabetes.
- Joanna Hall’s Walkactive Programme: The Simple Yet Revolutionary Way To Transform Your Body, For Life is published by Piatkus at £13.99. A starter pack, which includes the book, DVD, a 25-minute audio- coaching session download and pedometer, is available from joannahall.com at a special offer price of £29.99 plus £3.50 P&P. For more information on Joanna’s method, visit mailonsunday.co.uk/walkactive.