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Why walking just might be the best exercise

T HESE four inspiring readers began their weight-loss journeys by putting one foot in front of the other, with amazing results.

LORAH CHETCUTI “The camaraderie of a walking group is very motivating”
WHEN Lorah Chetcuti turned 40 she decided to do something about her weight. Just 18 months later, she’s lost 51kg and completed a 100km walk.
2016: 120KG
EXERCISE: A mix of walking and personal training sessions each week.
DIET: Followed a tailored nutrition plan and kept a food diary
“I’ve always gained weight, lost it, then put it back on.
Keeping it off has always been a real struggle, as has reaching a goal weight.
I’ve never hated exercise, though, and have always given things a go, but my nutrition has never been right - I like to eat and I ate the wrong things for so long.
My 40th birthday in July 2016 was my turning point. I didn’t want the weight issue to carry through into my 40s, and I just needed to do something about it. So, I started walking whenever I could - when my two boys had soccer training during the week, I’d do laps of the park, and on Sundays I’d do a long walk with a group of girlfriends then have a healthy breakfast.
I also started having a few personal training sessions each week.
Food-wise, I used an app through my personal training program that tells you what you should eat for your height and weight - but I still had the odd treat - and the weight started to fall off.
The Sunday walking group helped build the fundamentals of my fitness, and the friendships I made were with like-minded people. It’s all about feeling good, understanding each other’s weaknesses and supporting each other.
In October 2016, when I was about 110kg, a friend told me about the Great Wall of China Marathon, which was on her bucket list. I said, ‘If you do it, I’ll do the half marathon (21km)’ - so we signed up. We went to China last May and I did it in just over four hours, fast-walking and slow-jogging most of the way. For me, it was just about having a go.
Then my trainer told me about the 100km Oxfam Trail Walk in Sydney last August, and I signed up for that, too, with other girls from the PT program.
We trained weekly in the lead-up and walked the trails to get familiar with the track. The actual event took us 42 hours, with no sleep. It was really hard. Our bodies were tired, our feet ached, and our minds struggled - but we got there. And I was still 95kg then, so I was carrying a lot of weight.
The other girls really got me through.
At one stage, we were ready to give up at the next checkpoint, but we talked each other through it and kept going.
Our trainers waited at every stop to encourage us - they were even at the finish line when we got there at 3.30am on the Sunday morning. With people like that there to support us, we couldn’t give up. It was really emotional when we finished. We were all overtired and hallucinating, but we’d made it. Despite saying never again, we’ve signed up again this year! And this time we want to do it in 35 hours.
I lost 25kg in my first year of weight loss, but after doing the Oxfam walk, I got really serious about my nutrition.
That helped me lose another 25kg over the following few months - and last December, I reached my goal of 70kg.
Now, when I’m buying clothes and out and about getting compliments it feels unreal and, physically, I feel great.
My family is very supportive - they’re inspired by what I’m doing and proud that I’ve achieved results and that motivates them to be healthy, too.
I’m now trying new events and keep surprising myself at how well I can do.
In a recent triathlon, I came fourth in my division. I’d never imagined being able to do one before, let alone in a good time.
In June, my goal is to do the Big Red Run, a 250km race over six days through the Simpson Desert in central Australia.
My trainer is coming along for support but I’m doing the walk on my own. It will be a hell of a challenge, but I’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other.”
“I love the social side of walking with friends. We’d make it special each time and go out for a healthy breakfast or a coffee afterwards - it’s a great time to catch up, and a lot of the conversation revolves around health and fitness and lifestyle. That camaraderie is very motivating.”
“It’s amazing to see someone’s jaw drop”
AFTER swapping burgers and booze for walking shoes, David Maddison, 30, dropped 30kg and saw his career take off.
2007: 100KG
EXERCISE: Daily walking, plus some running.
DIET: Cut out all junk food, alcohol and sugary drinks; now has them on occasion and eats a balanced diet.
“In 2007, at the age of 19, I weighed 100kg. I wasn’t stressed, and my size never impacted my self-confidence - I guess I just didn’t realise how big I was. I was working a casual job at a supermarket while studying at university, and I had no consideration for what I ate - I’d go to McDonald’s before my 9am lecture, buy a giant sausage roll from the cafeteria, and then have a schnitzel and chips and a jug of beer for lunch.
One day, while sitting in the back of a lecture theatre, things started to crystallise.
There had been a series of triggers: I didn’t have the energy to study; I’d seen photos of myself with friends that made me think, I’m the funny, fat guy of the group. All of that led to an epiphany as I realised that maybe I could take my job and grades to the next level by getting into shape.
The first step was to cut out alcohol, fast food, soft drinks, juices and snacks, and stop going out for dinner. I knew kilojoules existed, but it wasn’t until I researched them that I realised how much energy you need to expend to burn them off.
So that’s when I started walking.
I couldn’t run at that time and I didn’t want to go to a gym or a personal trainer, so I walked around campus, got off the bus earlier on my way to work, and started going walking with my parents and the dog.
At first, I was doing 3000 steps a day, but after three months, I’d lost 20kg and was doing 10,000 steps a day. It gave me the confidence to do more, so I started running, which helped me lose even more weight. I’d catch up with friends, and it was amazing to see their jaw drop when they saw me.
Once I became healthier, I really began to shine. My grades picked up, I found a new job and by 2010, I’d moved from Adelaide to Sydney, completed a masters and travelled.
It took me eight years to lose 30kg, but I’ve kept it off. Now, walking is part of my everyday routine, and the time that I use to collect my thoughts. It’s not always perfect, but I can’t ever imagine going back to my unhealthy lifestyle.”
“Use a step counter to set a benchmark for how many steps are in your typical day, then set small incremental goals for how much you’d like to increase that by each day. Do this by making small changes to your lifestyle, such as walking to the next train station.”
“I wish I’d done this 10 years ago”
NATALIE D’Angelo weighed 127kg until a life-altering moment prompted her to make a change. The now 34-year-old mum of two started walking - rain, hail or shine - and is now 54kg lighter.
2016: 127KG
EXERCISE: Walked 7km daily for four months, then switched to a combination of walking and gym workouts.
DIET: Overhauled her portion sizes and food choices with the help of a nutritionist.
“I’d always been overweight and struggled with my weight - when puberty hit I started getting bigger and it got worse as the years went by. I gained the most weight after my son was born four years ago. I tried every diet possible, but it was so hard and I’d get confused by all the different information and advice that’s out there.
The turning point came when we went to Sea World as a family in December 2016. My daughter wanted to go on a ride with me, and I knew we couldn’t as our combined weight had to be under 120kg, and I was 127kg. That absolutely devastated me and I knew I had to do something about it.
The day we flew home, my husband went to work and I went straight to the shops and stocked the fridge with the healthiest food I could find, then began researching weight loss.
I started experimenting with meal replacement shakes for a few months.
I’d have a shake for breakfast and dinner, and a lunch of protein with salad or veg as my main meal.
In terms of getting active, I chose walking because I knew it was proven to help with weight loss. I also knew I wasn’t capable of anything strenuous, and walking was the lowest-impact activity I could think of. Also, there was no way I was stepping into a gym the size I was. I was too embarrassed.
We live near the Bay Run, a 7km walking track in Sydney’s inner-west, so I’d walk it every night with my husband, Sebastian, who came with me for moral support. We’d leave the kids with my in-laws and just go, come rain, hail or shine, literally - one night there was an electrical storm and a forecast of hail but we still did it, we just walked faster!
He and I had the best talks on those walks; it brought us closer together.
Plus, I started losing weight - first 5kg, then another 5kg - and that really kept me motivated. Before when I’d lost any weight, I’d reward myself but I scrapped that. You have to do it for the right reasons - because you really want to change.
By March 2017, I’d lost 20kg, and so had Sebastian. I felt so much better, but I wanted to lose more - when I compare photos from then to now, I think, how did I feel so good when I feel so much better now? I didn’t want to do shakes forever, so I visited a nutritionist, who was great and got me eating proper food again.
Soon after that, I made another big decision - to join a gym. I started doing personal training with Vision PT in April and I haven’t looked back. I used to hate exercise, but I’m a different person now.
I still walk several times a week, and I’m now at the gym by 5.30am every day.
I do a mix of classes, personal training and my own workouts, and that’s all pushed me to lose another 30kg. I’ve gone from 127kg and a size 22-24, to 73kg and a size 10-12. The other day a stranger complimented me, saying what great legs I have. That’s never happened before and it really gave me a boost.
I work in the legal industry, but this weight-loss experience has been so positive I’m thinking about doing a PT course so I can help people the way I’ve been helped.
It’s so easy to make excuses and say ‘I wish I could be one of those people who gets up at 5am to exercise’ - but if I can, you can! I just wish I’d done this 10 years ago. I can’t believe I waited this long to get active. I’m trying to inspire my kids to be the same, so we’re outside at the park or walking at every opportunity.
You only get one life and you need to invest in yourself and do what’s right for you. It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it.”
“The moment I knew I was going to do something about myself, I started putting it on Facebook and Instagram so people knew. It’s easy to exercise or diet, but if no-one knows, then you can easily fall off the wagon. I wanted family and friends to keep me accountable, so I was very open about what I was doing.”
“I never thought this could happen to me”
FOR Dan Ross, 39, giving up soft drinks was the start of a healthier and happier life - and 32kg of weight loss.
2017: 114kg
NOW: 82kg
EXERCISE: 6km walks five times a week, plus a weekly PT session
DIET: No soft drinks, plus less fatty and carb-heavy meals.
“For years, it wasn’t unusual for me to drink 2.5 litres of Coke Zero a day. It was normal to eat a burger for lunch a few times a week, and a frozen pizza and a bag of chocolates on Friday night. The only exercise I did was walk the five minutes between home and the train station. While I knew what was healthy and unhealthy, I wasn’t doing anything about it.
But on January 1, 2017, when I weighed 114kg, I challenged myself to give up soft drinks for a year, and start walking. It hadn’t come from nowhere - the year before, I’d started eating healthier. I’d lost several kilos, gained a few back, but now I was in the right mindset to take it seriously.
My wife was really supportive, too.
The plan was to get under 100kg through my diet, then start walking. It took me six months of no soft drinks and lots of meal replacement shakes but by July, I was just under 100kg, I didn’t want another shake ever and I was ready to up my game.
I bought new sneakers, plotted out a 6km walking route and started setting my alarm for 4.40am. I walked 6km five times a week, and felt fitter within weeks. I used a step counter to make sure I hit my daily goal of 10,000 steps - and I wasn’t happy unless I went over it. Yes, sometimes I’d hit the snooze button but then I’d feel so guilty I’d make up for it.
I started eating smarter, too. Breakfast was porridge or eggs and toast; lunch was a sandwich; dinner was more veg, more fish and less pasta - I used to have a lot.
In September I added a weekly personal training session - I’d never heard of ‘core work’, but that and weights have really helped. It’s now eight months since I started walking, and 14 since I quit soft drinks and I’ve lost 32kg. I still walk most days and my new challenge is to run 5km.
My wife has loved my transformation.
She’s become more active, too.
The dream now is to get below 80kg.
I never thought this could happen, but I’ve changed so much, anything is possible.”
“Sort out your mindset. Know your goals and use incentives along the way. And when you walk, include a hill to really get your heart rate going.”
Originally published as‘How we walked off 170kg
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