Walking for Weight Loss: Everything You Need to Know
By Christina Lyon
Losing weight can feel like a sacrifice. Most meal plans and diets ask you to give up your favorite treats and spend your evenings doing hardcore high-intensity exercises at the gym. Yes, physical activity is necessary for weight loss. But it doesn’t have to be dull and grueling.
What if I told you that weight loss could be as simple as taking a stroll?
That’s right: walking can aid in weight loss. Plus, it’s a great way to get outside, soak up the sunshine, and revel in the fresh air.
Studies have found that a regular jaunt around the block can help reduce body fat and shed pounds (even inches) from your waistline. It may not seem like much, but those steps can add up to some serious calorie burn. And when coupled with a healthy diet, walking can be an incredibly effective weight-loss strategy.
So, how does walking help you lose weight? Let’s dive in.
Can you really walk for weight loss?
The answer is a resounding yes! Walking can help with weight loss and maintenance. Sick of peeling yourself off the floor after a HIIT workout? Say goodbye to workouts that leave you deflated.
For starters, walking is a great way to burn calories and belly fat. You don’t need to sweat it out in a Zumba class or run a marathon to torch calories; simply walking at a moderate pace can help you expend energy and shed pounds.
In fact, according to Harvard Health Publishing, a 155-pound person will burn approximately 149 calories by walking at a moderate pace (3.5 miles per hour) for 30 minutes. And the more body weight you have to lose, the more calories you’ll burn.
Not only does this simple form of exercise burn calories and combat obesity, but it also gets your heart rate up—both of which are essential for weight loss.
A daily walk offers other overall health benefits like:
- Reducing your risk for heart disease
- Lowering your blood sugar and blood pressure
- Easing any joint pain
- Boosting your immunity and energy
- Improving your mood
- And even extending your life
So, if you’re looking for a weight-loss strategy that’s low-impact and easy to stick to, walking is a great option. All you need is a good pair of walking shoes and a consistent walking routine and you’re ready to reap all the benefits of walking.
How much should you walk for weight loss?
The old phrase “calories in, calories out” applies no matter what weight-loss strategy you’re following. In order to lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit, meaning you’re burning more calories than you’re taking in each day. But you can’t necessarily walk your way to weight loss; you need to be strategic about it.
To figure out exactly how much you need to walk in order to lose weight, start by first determining the number of calories you need to burn.
Your personal calorie deficit depends on your starting weight, your weight-loss goals, and your current activity level. If you’re not sure how many calories you should be eating each day, plug your info into an online calculator like this one.
As a general rule of thumb, you need to burn 3,500 more calories than you take in order to lose one pound. So, if you’re eating 2,500 calories a day and want to lose one pound a week, you need to burn an extra 500 calories each day.
The most potent plan to lose weight is by leveraging both nutrition and aerobic exercise to reach that deficit. For example, you could try cutting 250 calories from your diet and walking to burn off an extra 250 calories each day.
But remember: the amount of walking needed to lose weight varies from person to person and depends on factors like weight, age, fitness level, walking pace, and diet. The more you weigh, the more calories you’ll burn—and, as a result, the more weight you’ll lose.
Reaching 10,000 steps (which is about 5 miles) a day is a great goal to aim for, but don’t get discouraged if you can’t hit that number right away. Start with a brisk 30-minute walk, five days a week, and gradually increase your speed, distance, and frequency from there.
Adding a few extra steps each day can make a big difference over time.
Track Your Calories Burned As You Walk
Of course, all of the numbers I’ve shared so far are just estimates. The only way to know for sure how many calories you’re burning is to track them yourself.
There are a few different ways to start tracking your walking program:
- Use a fitness tracker: If you have a fitness tracker like a Fitbit, Garmin, or Apple Watch, it will likely have built-in step tracking capabilities. Start wearing your tracker every day and see how many steps you naturally take. Then, once you have a baseline number of daily steps, aim to add a few hundred extra steps each day until you reach your weight-loss goal.
- Use an app: If you don’t have a fitness tracker, no worries—you can also use your smartphone to track your steps. There are plenty of great step-tracking apps available for both iPhone and Android devices.
- Wear a pedometer: A pedometer is a small, inexpensive device that counts the number of steps you take. If you don’t have a smartphone or fitness tracker, a pedometer is a great option for tracking your steps. Amazon’s bestseller is only $24.
In addition to counting your steps, you can use an app or a wearable to track the calories you burn during a walk. Just enter your weight, age, and gender into the app or device, then hit start and let it do its thing.
No matter which method you use, be sure to track your steps for at least a week so you can get an accurate idea of how many you typically take. From there, you can start increasing your step count each day until you reach your weight-loss goals.
Find Your Favorite Activity & Setting
The best part about this kind of low-impact cardio is that you can do it anywhere, anytime. No gym membership is required. And the more you enjoy your walk, the more likely you are to stick with it and see results.
We’re more motivated to be active when we do activities we enjoy in locations that make us feel good. So, if you hate the treadmill, don’t force yourself to walk on one just because you think it’s the best way to lose weight.
Instead, try different walking activities and settings until you find something that feels good to you. Here are a few ideas you can experiment with:
- Find a walking buddy: A walking buddy can make your walks more enjoyable. Plus, they can even help you stick to your weight-loss goals. Ask a friend, family member, or coworker to join you for regular walks.
- Make it a group activity: If you have trouble finding a walking buddy, try joining a walking group. You can find groups that meet up regularly in almost every city. This is a great way to make new friends and get your steps in while you catch up on the latest buzz and news happening in one another’s lives.
- Explore new routes: If you’re getting bored with your regular walking route, mix things up and try a new one. Walking in a new location or walking uphill can help you stay interested and motivated. Parks, nature trails, and even city streets can make great walking routes.
- Listen to music or audiobooks: True crime podcasts while burning calories? Yes, please. Music and audiobooks can be great motivators when you’re trying to lose weight. Listening to a good playlist or podcast you enjoy will make the time fly by! It may even give you a little extra pep in your step.
- Add some strength training: Want to walk and build muscles simultaneously? Wear some ankle weights or carry hand weights on your walk. This will help you burn more calories and build muscle tone.
- Up your walking speed: If you usually stroll, try picking up the pace. Power walking and brisk walking can help you burn more calories and may even help you lose weight quicker.
Once you find a walking routine and setting that you enjoy, stick with it. The key to weight loss is finding a workout that you can commit to long-term.
Walk Every Day, and Watch the Pounds Melt Away
Walking workouts are a great way to lose weight! It’s simple, low-impact, and free. Take it as an opportunity to get in touch with your surroundings, watch the birds, and people-watch, take in the scenery, and get your heart rate pumping.
Plus, walking can be done anywhere, anytime. So, if you’re looking to shed a few pounds, start adding some extra steps to your day. With a little effort and consistency, you’ll reach your fitness goals in no time!
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