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I’ve been walking and losing weight, but hit a plateau. What should I do?

A personal trainer shares four ways to break past a plateau and get the scale moving again when weight-loss stalls.
Young woman walking in a public park.
Adding speed intervals to your walks can help increase calorie burn and boost your metabolism.urbazon / Getty Images

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I initially saw results with a walking routine, but now my weight loss is stagnant. What should I do?

We’ve all been there: you start a workout routine and start seeing weight-loss results, but a few months in that progress starts to stall.

Many people in our Start TODAY community start a walking routine and see promising results really quickly — pounds coming off, increased energy, better sleep and a happier mood.

But as with any workout routine, results can slow or stagnate altogether as our bodies adjust. That doesn’t mean that you should give up walking! Instead, it’s time to change it up.

Change in our routine, whether it be a new eating plan, workout program or wellness habit, can kickstart our bodies to respond. In terms of fitness, if you’ve been sedentary for years and then start exercising, your metabolism is stoked and your body responds to being worked in a different way than before.

This is one of the reasons why you may see weight loss initially by starting a new routine, like adding walking to your daily life. After a while your body may get used to it and therefore a new baseline is set. In order to get into weight-loss mode again, the body needs another wake-up call to push past that plateau.

4 habits to break past a weight-loss plateau

These are some of my go-to tactics when my clients feel their progress is slowing and they stop seeing results from a walking routine. Don’t feel that you have to implement all of these strategies at once. In fact, I encourage you to only pick one of them and give it 2-3 weeks to see results. If you don’t see any change, then move on to the next one. 

Add intervals

Once you’ve established a solid walking routine, play with the speed at which you walk to shake things up! Interval training helps to increase your calorie burn during and after your workout is complete and can help boost your metabolism. If you’ve been walking for 20 minutes a day at a moderate pace, try walking for 1 minute fast (as quickly as you can) and then 1 minute at your regular moderate pace. Alternate for 20 minutes total, and see if you notice the scale moving again after a few weeks.

Start strength training

Another way to mix up your fitness routine is to add strength training. Recruiting your muscles to work harder with strength exercises is a great way to speed up the metabolism and ignite weight loss, not only during the workout, but after too. This is because muscle burns more calories at rest than fat. Simply add 10-20 minutes of strength-training exercises before or after your walk. You can even add strength training to your walk by carrying light dumbbells or water bottles or stopping every 5 minutes to perform a body-weight exercise like squats or tricep dips on a park bench.

Take a look at your diet

The saying “you can’t out-exercise a bad diet” is true. So take a look at your diet, and be honest with yourself. The default is to look for areas where you’re making less-than-healthy choices, which is certainly something that can derail your weight-loss efforts. But it’s sometimes what we’re not eating that’s the problem. Many of my clients are not eating enough calories and this can affect your metabolism. When the body isn’t getting enough fuel, it can go into hibernation mode and hold on to whatever fuel you give it instead of burning calories! If you’re not sure what you should be eating, I always recommend people work with a nutritionist to figure out what a healthy day of meals and snacks looks like for you. In addition, upping your servings of vegetables and protein throughout the day can help improve overall health, curb cravings and aid in weight loss.

Address other lifestyle factors like sleep and stress

Are you only sleeping four hours a night? Are you in a hyper-stressed state all day long? Both of these are examples of lifestyle factors that can hinder weight loss. Sleep and stress can have a huge impact on our metabolism, weight and our ability to commit to a healthy diet and fitness routine. You may be surprised at how paying attention to your wellness routine as a whole, beyond diet and fitness, can get the scale moving again. In fact, Start TODAY member Kathy Woods learned this firsthand. After losing 70 pounds, she hit a plateau. She made some changes to her routine that helped her reduce and cope with stress and finally got the scale moving again, losing five pounds in two months!