Have you ever found yourself Googling, “Can I lose weight by walking?” Perhaps that’s how you found yourself on this very article! The truth is, not all of us are cut out for the gym. Not all of us enjoy the gym and not all of us want to be gasping for breath, with sweat dripping from every orifice in order to lose some unwanted kilos. Then, there’s walking. No heavy weights involved. You can walk wherever you want, whenever you want. You’re not limited by anything (except maybe wet weather). You can walk on sand, on grass, on pavement, up a hill, down a hill… you can walk anywhere your feet take you. We all know walking is good for our body and mind (research says so!), but is it an effective way to lose weight? Yes, and no. Yes, if you do it right, and no, if all you mean by walking is a casual stroll to the coffee shop up the road and back. Let’s take a look at not only the health benefits of walking, but how you can start to lose some excess weight by simply putting one foot in front of the other.
How Many Calories Can You Burn Walking?
With a brisk walking pace, the average person can burn 100 to 300 calories in 30 minutes (depending on your weight) or 200 to 600 calories in an hour. By walking for 30 minutes or more at a time, some of those calories will be from stored fat. During the first 30 minutes of walking, your body is burning sugars stored as fuel. These are used up after roughly 30 minutes. If you’re walking longer than 30 minutes, your body releases fat from your fat cells and burns it for fuel. This stored fat is exactly what you want to lose, and it’s a good reason to build up your walking endurance so you can walk for more than 30 minutes at a time. If you walk most days of the week for at least 30 minutes, you can burn an extra 1,000 to 3,000 calories in total for the week. Adds up, doesn’t it?
How Long to Walk Each Day for Weight Loss
If you’re walking for weight loss, you want to aim for a brisk walk of 30 to 90 minutes most days of the week. You can walk more on some days and less on others, but the total time for the week should be at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours). What’s a brisk pace? If you have a heart-rate monitor, you want to be exercising at 60 to 70 per cent of your maximum heart-rate.
The Health Benefits of Walking
You could easily substitute the old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” by swapping the word “apple” with the word “walk”. Walking is great for your overall physical health, and your mental health too. It’s one of the easiest and most cost-effective forms of exercise and (and therapy!) It’s good for preventing conditions like heart disease and obesity, but it can also be a great tool in losing weight. For example, a study in the Journal of Exercise Nutrition and Biochemistry showed the positive effects that walking could have on burning fat and reducing waist circumference in obese females. The women walked between 50-70 minutes 3 days per week for a total of 12 weeks. After the study, they found that the study participants lost an average of 1.5% body fat and 1.1 inches around their waists.
So, if these women saw a drop in body fat with as little as an hour of walking, 3 days per week, imagine the weight loss you could experience if you upped the ante a little bit? Walking four or five days a week? Picking up the pace just a little bit? Trudge uphill? Check out some ways to increase the amount of fat you burn while walking.
Pace Makes a Difference
As with any type of aerobic exercise, pace makes a massive difference. You’re going to burn more calories walking at a brisk pace (you want to be slightly out of breath but able to maintain a conversation). You don’t need to run, but picking up the pace even just a little bit will give you even more fat-burning power.
Hills Are Your Friend, Not Your Foe
Walking on an incline is also going to help boost your body’s fat-burning abilities. If you’re walking on a treadmill, you can easily increase your gradient. If you’re outdoors, head to the hilliest and steepest street you can find. You don’t have to walk uphill for an hour, but certainly make it a part of your weekly walking routine. Stairs are a great uphill alternative, too!
How’s Your Form?
Are you guilty of having bad posture? I know I am. But when it comes to walking, as with most exercises, form and posture is key. When you’re walking, make sure your shoulders are back, and your abdominals and glutes are right. This will not only prevent you from gaining an in injury, but will also help build your strength and fitness.
Interval Power Walking
Just like with HIIT (high intensity interval training), doing interval power walks can really increase the number of calories you burn by walking. An example of interval power walking is as follows:
- Walk for 5 to 10 minutes to warm up.
- Pick up the pace and continue at an uncomfortable but sustainable walking pace for 20 seconds, before returning to normal.
You can repeat this across your whole walking session, or for as long as you can manage.
Mind Your Steps
We all have that one friend who constantly tells us when they’ve hit their 10,000 steps, and maybe we can learn a thing or two from them. There are plenty of studies that back the common claim 10,000 steps per day is what the average adult should be aiming for. However, for those in office jobs, hitting that target can be hard, which is why incidental walking is key. If you can, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk past your usual bus stop and go to the next one down the line. Take walking meetings at work instead of sit-down meetings. There are plenty of ways to reach the 10,000 steps target, you just have to think: “Can I walk that?” And, if the answer is yes, then do it!
Walking Weight Loss Plan
With all that said and done, here’s an example of a walking weight loss workout plan from Very Well Fit. As noted on their article, this workout is for those who enjoy longer walks. If you’d rather push your speed and go for shorter, faster walks, you can modify as needed.
- Sunday: 60 minutes at a brisk pace
- Monday: Day off
- Tuesday: 30 minutes at a brisk pace, plus a strength training workout
- Wednesday: 30 minutes at a brisk pace
- Thursday: 60 minutes at a brisk pace
- Friday: 30 minutes at a brisk pace, plus a strength training workout.
- Saturday: 30 minutes at a brisk pace, then 30 to 90 more minutes at an easy pace
According to Very Will Fit, depending on your weight and distance you walk, the above plan helps you burn an extra 2,000 calories per week for the average adult.