With winter on its way out and spring’s arrival just around the corner, you may find that you’ve stalled a bit when it comes to working out. Maybe you’re sick of your usual indoor routine or perhaps it’s not quite warm enough to get out on your favorite trail. We’re with you! That’s why we’re excited to feature fitness expert Leslie Sansone, creator of the Walk at Home Fitness Program that promotes walking as a sport for life.
Her low-impact workouts, which have been featured on TV and in publications such as Woman’s Day and Dr. Oz’s The Good Life, offer effective (and fun!) ways to be active and burn calories while going easy on your bones and joints. Best of all, you can do them from the comfort of your home!
Here, Leslie tells us how her walking workouts (more than 100 DVDs) get you excited to exercise (really!), when you’ll start seeing results (we were shocked!), and why she follows the diet she does. Plus, an amazing success story that proves how walking can really change your health journey — even when your family history predicts a different outcome.
1. You are so inspirational. You even have a Walk Fan Club! Do you have any particular success stories from someone who used your DVDs to help improve their health, particularly diabetes or heart health?
Stories of inspiring people who have turned their health around is my favorite topic! I have to say, I am spoiled when it comes to receiving these success stories, but I’ve learned that when people feel better, they live better and they want to share that. There’s one scenario that really hit home, though. I was recently in the doctor’s office with a family member that is “trending” toward Type 2 Diabetes and the physician actually prescribed walking 10,000 steps a day for 90 days before turning to drugs — a challenge! (The doctor didn’t know my profession; just that I was a concerned family member.) I can’t wait to see the results when we go back in 90 days, because I know walking works. If you’re wondering why I couldn’t motivate this family member to walk more, it’s because my family is like everyone else’s — they don’t always choose what’s best for mind, body and soul, even if I’m encouraging them to do so. So here’s hoping the doctor’s prescription does the trick. I commend all the amazing doctors that first challenge their patients in this way!
Then there’s Eleanor from New Jersey, who’s in her 60s and has a family history of heart disease. She thought she was destined for the same and, like her family members, had been taking cholesterol and blood pressure medication for years. When she read a report about how many diseases can actually be caused by unhealthy habits, she immediately started walking more. She walked away one drug, then two, then three, and now her only medicine is walking. Her health care expenses these days? Walking shoes. Her doctors cheer her on! “It’s amazing what walking can do,” she told me.
2. You talk in your videos about being positive. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Do you have any suggestions on how to stay positive, especially if someone is struggling with health issues or has a lot of weight to lose?
I can definitely relate to that. Staying positive every hour of the day is a challenge and, the truth is, life just isn’t like that. There are so many forces around us that can bring us down. My advice: Put your armor on as early in the day as you can. Physical activity stimulates the most powerful chemicals in our brain to boost our mood — endorphins! So, exercise before anything else can interrupt your positivity and your hopefulness. This is actually more important than dieting to lose weight. In fact, if you just diet to drop pounds, your metabolism slows down because your muscle mass decreases, which leads you to eat smaller and smaller portions just to maintain the weight loss. Frustrating, right? You need that exercise component, which keeps your metabolism going, your body full of energy, your systems (heart, lungs, etc.) in working order, and your mood elevated.
If your goal is to lose weight and be in better health, start walking. It’s so simple, but I’ve studied it for three decades and it really is a solution. You can always reassess your eating habits, but many people have told me that after they started fitness walking, they didn’t need to be so strict about their diet after all.
3. Do you have any special diet that you follow or recommend in addition to your exercise program to maximize health benefits?
I recommend foods that fuel good health: fresh, whole foods. Eat veggies, fruit, nuts, whole grains, lean proteins. If I had to describe my meals, most are Mediterranean-style: lots of fish, greens, olive oil, garlic, lemon. Just talking about it is making me hungry! Don’t get me wrong: as a girl with Italian roots, I wouldn’t miss spaghetti dinner on Sunday. We can still enjoy foods we love in moderation (in fact, the registered dietitian in my family agrees). I’ve found that people I’ve helped who start a regular exercise routine are more likely to make better choices at meal time. One good choice, like exercise, leads to another, like healthy eating!
4. You’ve been making videos for over 30 years. Has your exercise philosophy changed? Are today’s walking videos different in intensity or type of workout than when you first started?
Now that’s a new question for me! My fitness career started in 1980 when I was certified by a group called California Aerobic Dance — we have come a long way since then! But my certification sparked a love for all the ways we can be active and healthy. I started a fitness club to offer group classes, cardio and strength training equipment — all of it! And I studied the latest exercise science and trends to inspire the workouts I created. I still do. How can I use Pilates methods in a walking workout? How can I apply the science behind strength training in a cardio walking workout? My workouts have a core method that doesn’t change because it’s based on the science of how the body reacts to the challenge. But all the ways I create new challenges during the walks is why it’s been such a successful program.
5. For those people who are out of shape or haven’t worked out in a while, how long does it typically take to see results?
Instantly! I know what you’re thinking: How can that be true? It is. The second that you put one foot in front of the other in a purposeful way — at a brisk pace and with determination — you start the process of releasing endorphins (your “armor,” remember?) and you instantly start feeling better. Many people report that after just three or four brisk walks, spread out over a week, they start to see their belly lose its “puff” — that’s pretty quick!
6. How do you beat the boredom factor?
I take breaks from my normal routine. If the past few weeks have all involved morning workouts, I switch it up to a walk after dinner. If my walks have been more traditional — like an outdoor walk or a treadmill walk — I shift to my Total Body Walks DVDs, which incorporate more upper body and core muscle movements than traditional walks. I also love to ride my bike and being active in other ways, like playing “speed badminton” (there is such a thing!) with my sons.
7. A lot of people think they have to get their heart rates super high to get a good cardio workout. Do you think your walking workouts can provide the same benefits to heart health as a high intensity run or a spinning class?
You’re right that a lot of people — too many, in my opinion — believe that if their heart rates don’t reach 85 to 90 percent of their maximum capabilities, they’re not doing a real workout. Even though I knew you could still get results without pushing to that extreme, I used to aim for that level of intensity too. But walking can be a real workout. Sure, at a slow pace, it doesn’t challenge your body to get stronger, but a short, gentle walk is still burning calories and is better than no walk at all. A brisk walk burns calories, strengthens your heart and lungs and increases endurance. And a speed walk results in big calorie burn and a whole host of health benefits that impact blood pressure, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, heart health, bone health…the list is endless.
Lose weight just by walking with Leslie Sansone’s best seller DVD Walking the Walk (w/DVD): Getting Fit with Faith
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Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.