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Weight Loss and Walking: A Comprehensive Guide

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedNovember 28, 2023

Walking is one of the simplest and most accessible forms of exercise. It requires no equipment besides a good pair of shoes and can be done anywhere. But did you know that walking regularly can also help you lose weight?

One study showed that pedometer-based walking programs resulted in modest weight loss. On average, participants lost 0.05 kg per week during the interventions, with longer programs leading to more weight loss.

While the weight loss from walking alone may be modest, incorporating a regular walking routine into a comprehensive weight loss plan can amplify its effects. The calories burned from walking combine with other diet and lifestyle changes to promote more significant weight loss.

In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know about weight loss and walking and how to maximize calorie burn in different ways. You'll also find sample walking plans and tips to add variety to your routine.

🔑 Key Takeaway

  • Walking briskly for 30-60 minutes per day, 5-7 days per week, can help you lose weight when combined with a calorie-controlled diet.
  • Heavier individuals and those who walk faster will burn more calories per hour spent walking.
  • Interval training, walking on an incline, adding resistance, and pumping your arms can all maximize calorie burn during walks.
  • Beginners should start with short, 10-15 minute walks a few times a week and gradually increase duration and frequency.
  • Consistency with your walking routine is essential - schedule walks and find an accountability partner.
  • Walking helps create a calorie deficit and preserves muscle mass and metabolism during weight loss.
  • Walking can help overweight and obese individuals lose body fat with a calorie-restricted diet.
  • Making walking a regular lifelong exercise habit provides sustainable weight loss results and numerous health benefits.
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Calories Burned While Walking

Walking provides numerous health benefits and can help you burn calories to aid weight loss or maintenance. The number of calories you burn while walking depends on several factors:

  • Your weight: Heavier individuals burn more calories walking at the same pace as lighter individuals.
  • Walking speed: Faster walking burns more calories per hour. You'll burn around 100 calories per mile at a stroll of two mph, while at a brisk four mph pace, you can burn about 130 calories.
  • Terrain: Walking up hills requires more effort and burns more calories.
  • Distance covered: The more miles you walk, the more calories you burn.

As a general estimate, a 180 lb person walking at a moderate three mph pace would burn around 300 calories per hour. Walking faster or farther each day will allow you to burn even more calories.

How Walking Helps You Lose Weight

When you burn more calories than you consume, you create a calorie deficit that forces your body to burn fat stores for energy. This causes weight loss over time.

Walking is an easy way to burn extra calories and enhance weight loss. Studies show that walking:

💡 Did You Know?

The ability to walk depends on the coordinated function of multiple body systems, including the nervous system, muscles, bones, and cardiovascular system. Proper walking requires balance, reflexes, sensation, strength, and integration of many processes. Even minor impairments in these systems can rapidly disrupt a person's walking ability and impact daily activities. The complexity of walking makes it vulnerable to dysfunction.

Sample Walking Plans for Weight Loss

Ready to get started on a walking plan for weight loss? Here are some sample plans to follow for beginners and experienced walkers:

Beginner Walking Plan

If you're new to walking for exercise, start slowly with short 10-15 minute walks a few days per week and gradually increase your duration and frequency over several weeks. This allows your body to adapt without injury or burnout.

A beginner plan might look like:

Intermediate Walking Plan

For experienced walkers, aim for 30-60 minutes of brisk walking 5-7 days per week. Focus on maintaining a pace that keeps your heart rate within the target zone, typically between 50% and 85% of your maximum heart rate. To calculate your target heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For example, if you're 40, your target heart rate range would be between 90 and 153 beats per minute (BPM).

An intermediate plan to lose weight might look like:

Adjust the speed and frequency based on your current fitness level, schedule, and weight loss goals.

How to Maximize Walking for Weight Loss

Once you've established a regular walking routine, there are several ways to maximize the calories burned during your walks to boost your weight loss:

1. Incorporate Interval Training

Interval training involves alternating short bursts of intense walking with recovery intervals. This type of high-intensity interval walking enables you to burn more calories in a shorter time.

Try adding 1-minute fast-paced intervals every 5 minutes during your walk. Over time, aim for longer and more frequent intense intervals.

2. Walk on an Incline

Walking up hills or on an inclined surface increases the resistance your muscles have to work against. This results in more calories burned.

Set your treadmill to a 3-5% incline to simulate hilly terrain, or find routes in your neighborhood with plenty of hills.

3. Use Resistance

Adding resistance via ankle weights, wrist weights, or a weighted vest or backpack forces your muscles to work harder with every step.

Start with a lightweight vest or wrist weights (2-5 pounds) and gradually increase the weight over time as you get used to it.

4. Pump Your Arms

Increasing your arm swing and pumping your arms more vigorously as you walk engages your upper body muscles more. This results in a more significant overall calorie burn.

Focus on swinging your arms faster while maintaining good form. You can also hold light hand weights for a further boost.

5. Increase Walking Speed

The faster you walk, the more calories you will burn per hour.

Gradually build your walking pace until you walk at 4-4.5 mph for maximum calorie burn. This will take some time and training to achieve.

6. Lengthen Your Stride

Taking longer, sweeping steps engage your glutes and hamstrings more, burning extra calories with every stride.

Work on lengthening your stride to cover more ground with each step. Be careful not to overstride, though, as this can compromise form.

7. Add Walking Breaks

Look for opportunities to walk throughout your normal daily routine. Taking regular short walking breaks will also contribute to your calorie burn.

Aim for a 10-15 minute walking break during lunch, after dinner, on phone calls, during TV commercial breaks, or between tasks. It all adds up!

Tips for Sticking to Your Routine

Starting and sticking to a new walking routine takes commitment and perseverance. Here are some top tips for making your walks a lifelong habit:

  • Schedule walks in your calendar so they become ingrained as a regular part of your day.
  • Find an accountability partner to walk with several times per week. You will be less likely to skip your walk if someone awaits you.
  • Track your steps using a fitness tracker or pedometer. Setting daily step goals helps provide motivation.
  • Join a walking group for social encouragement, advice, and new route ideas.
  • Mix up your routes to beat boredom. Explore new walking trails or paths through your neighborhood.
  • Listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks to quickly pass the time.

Sticking to a consistent walking plan takes dedication but pays off with improved health, fitness, and weight loss!

Adding Variety to Your Walking Routine

While walking briskly on flat terrain is effective, adding some variety keeps things interesting and provides a more comprehensive workout. Try incorporating these walk variations:

1. Walking Lunges

Lunges engage your glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings while burning extra calories. Try adding:

  • 10-15 walking lunges every 5 minutes during your walk
  • Three sets of 20 walking lunges before or after your regular walk

2. Backward Walking

Walking backward works slightly different muscles while challenging your balance and coordination.

Aim for short 50-100 foot intervals of backward walking throughout your forward walks. Be careful of uneven terrain.

3. Lateral Walking

Walk sideways by leading with your right foot, then step your left foot to meet it in a sidestep motion. Repeat leading with the left foot.

Lateral walking engages your inner and outer thighs in a new way. Do this for 30-60 second intervals during walks.

4. Walking with Resistance Bands

Include resistance bands around your thighs or ankles to intensify the activation of your leg muscles, especially during lateral walking (shuffle) and other leg workouts.

While the effectiveness may vary during regular striding or walking, incorporating resistance bands can still offer additional challenge and engagement for your leg muscles.

Start with very light resistance and work up as your strength increases.

5. Hiking on Trails

Hiking up and down trails builds lower body strength while increasing calorie burn. Find trails with steep inclines for an intense workout.

Aim for at least one dedicated hiking session per week in addition to your regular walks.

6. Walking Stairs

Walking up stairs engages your glutes, quadriceps, and calves through a broader range of motion.

Seek out stadiums, tall buildings, or bleacher stairs for intense stair-walking intervals.

🗒️ Related Articles

For more weight management topics to learn about, check out these comprehensive articles:

The Bottom Line

Combined with a calorie-controlled diet, a regular walking regimen can help you lose weight and keep it off long-term. Start slowly and work your way up to brisk walking for 30-60 minutes per day, 5-7 days per week.

Vary your routes, speed, and walking intervals to keep it challenging. Consistency is vital, along with gradually increasing the duration and intensity of your walks as your fitness improves.

Walking is a sustainable lifelong exercise routine with numerous health benefits. Stay motivated by tracking your progress and knowing every step gets you closer to your weight loss goals!

FAQs on Weight Loss and Walking

What are the benefits of walking and jogging for weight loss?

Walking and jogging are excellent forms of aerobic exercise that can help with weight loss. When done regularly, walking and jogging burn calories and boost your metabolism. Jogging in intervals interspersed with brisk walking is an incredibly effective calorie-burning workout.

How does walking combined with Pilates for weight loss promote weight loss?

Walking and Pilates for weight loss are a powerful duo for weight loss. Walking is a moderate cardio activity that burns calories and helps create a calorie deficit. Pilates builds lean muscle mass, which boosts metabolism, so you burn more calories throughout the day. The combination of the cardio from walking and the strength training of Pilates for weight loss tones and shapes the body while promoting fat loss.

What are the benefits of pairing yoga and walking for weight loss?

Yoga and walking for weight loss together make an effective weight loss plan. Walking provides aerobic exercise that burns calories, and yoga builds lean muscle mass and flexibility. Yoga also helps reduce stress which can aid weight loss. Combining a 30-to-60-minute walk several days a week with yoga classes 2-3 times weekly will boost metabolism, burn fat, and sculpt a strong, lean physique.

What are the benefits of combining weight training and walking for fat loss?

Weight training helps build lean muscle mass, while walking is a great form of steady-state cardio. The combination of the two works synergistically to help burn fat. Weight training boosts your metabolism and increases calorie burn even after your workout. Walking also burns calories, and the extra muscle from weight training helps your body burn even more calories during your walks.

What is the connection between weight loss and walking?

Walking and weight loss go hand in hand. Regular walking helps burn calories and fat, which leads to weight loss. The more steps you take, the more weight you can potentially lose.

Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
Virtual weight loss solution
A personalized GLP-1 medication program (eg. Wegovy, Ozempic), delivered to you via our partner Korb Health
Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
  • Free consultation; program starts at $269/mo
  • Checkmark Inside Circle.Customized online program and wellness coaching
  • Prescription medications and supplies shipped to your door