Does Walking Help You Lose Weight? Here’s What the Experts Say |

Does Walking Help You Lose Weight? Here’s What the Experts Say

Walking is a natural, everyday movement that most people do to get around and accomplish their daily tasks. Because of how easy and accessible walking can be, you may not have considered it a powerful tool for health and weight management. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Walking is an excellent way to balance nutrition and physical activity. Plus, combining the two is more effective for weight loss than using either strategy alone.1 Walking also lowers blood pressure, regulates blood sugar, boosts your immune system, improves heart health, reduces stress and anxiety,2 and burns calories.3

Ahead, learn more about how walking is a low-impact, low-stress, and accessible format that can help you lose weight and improve your mental and physical well-being.

The Calorie-Burning Power of Walking

Exercise helps your body burn more calories by increasing the amount of energy you use—a key component in creating the calorie deficit necessary for weight loss.4 (To create a calorie deficit, you must use more calories than you consume.)5

“Walking is a great way to get more active and decrease sedentary time during the day,” says Shannon O’Meara, MS, RD, a registered dietitian at Orlando Health. “Typically, most people are not active enough, which is why doing something like walking can help lead to weight loss.”

Walking for at least 30 minutes daily, five days a week, is a great start. But if you’re not used to walking consistently, you can begin with shorter or less frequent walks and build your way up.6

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a person weighing around 154 pounds can burn approximately 280 calories by walking at a moderate pace of 3.5 miles per hour for an hour.7 Amp up the pace to a vigorous 4.5 miles per hour, and that same person could burn around 460 calories in an hour.

You don’t have to walk fast or at an intense pace to get the benefits of walking for weight loss, though. Sometimes, a slow or moderate pace is ideal, especially if you are stressed, tired, or new to exercise and feel better about easing into activity.

Factors Influencing Weight Loss

Note that many factors affect weight loss. These include:

  • Metabolic rate: Everyone burns calories at different rates based on age, genetics, and muscle mass.
  • Dietary habits: The types and amounts of food consumed significantly affect weight loss success by impacting appetite and calorie consumption.
  • Lifestyle: Stress level and sleep quality can also impact weight loss.
  • Consistency and intensity: The regularity and intensity of your walking routine can influence how quickly you see results.

How to Adjust Intensity and Duration of Walking for Weight Loss

If you want to maximize the calorie-burning potential of your workouts, consider adjusting the intensity and duration. Mike Masi, PT, DPT, says the number of calories you burn while walking depends on your body weight, pace, total steps, and incline. “Increasing the speed, distance, or incline could significantly boost calories burned over the total walking distance, which makes a treadmill a handy piece of exercise equipment in this scenario,” he says.

Increasing the intensity of your exercise, such as walking briskly or using a weighted vest, can significantly boost the number of calories you burn during each session. For instance, walking at a brisk pace of 4.5 miles per hour burns considerably more calories than walking at a moderate pace of 3.5 miles per hour. This is because your body requires more energy to sustain higher-intensity activities.

Similarly, extending the length of your walks means your body expends energy over a longer period, leading to a higher overall calorie deficit. Gradually lengthening the time you walk can also accelerate weight loss by increasing your total calorie burn. “To keep it simple, I like to have my clients track their total daily steps,” says Masi. “A step goal makes the total activity way more practical.”

Striking a balance between intensity and duration is vital to avoid burnout and injury. Generally, the more intense your efforts, the less time you can sustain them, and vice versa.8 Gradually increasing both aspects of your exercise routine can help your body adapt safely and make your efforts more sustainable.9

How Fast Can You Lose Weight From Walking?

Masi says an attainable and sustainable rate of weight loss will be different for everyone. “Most people have the best weight loss success with a shallow weight loss curve [of about] one-half to one pound per week. For relatively sedentary people, this can be kickstarted with a walking program.” 

Tracking Your Progress

Tracking your weight loss and walking progress will help you see how far you’ve come and where you can adjust your efforts to continue seeing results. Masi uses a fitness tracker to track steps, using a seven-day average. “The average is helpful in that if I fall short of my goal on one day, I can track how I make up for it before the week is over.”

Masi adds that tracking and measuring your body weight also helps ensure you’re reaching your weight loss goals. He suggests weighing yourself at a consistent cadence and recording the data points in an app or on your phone. “Understand that weight loss is often not a linear journey, so the more data points you have, the better you’ll be able to see the whole picture,” explains Masi.

Also, take measurements of your waist, hips, arms, legs, and other areas of interest with a seamstress tape, says Masi. “This is to track general body composition changes, which can sometimes occur without any change in the number on the scale.”

Other Benefits of Walking

Walking offers numerous health benefits. The good news is that these benefits also support weight loss by making it easier to prioritize and maintain your lifestyle. Here are some of the more significant benefits.

Improves Cardiovascular Health

Walking regularly strengthens the heart and improves circulation, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) such as high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. It’s a heart-healthy activity that can improve cholesterol levels, boost heart rate, and increase oxygen flow throughout the body.

Boosts Mood and Improves Mental Health

Walking has a positive impact on your mental health. It can help reduce anxiety, depression, and negative mood, in part by releasing endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Increased blood flow and blood sugar regulation also support better moods and mental well-being.1011

Additionally, getting fresh air while walking can further boost your mood and reduce stress. Outdoor workouts might motivate you more than indoor ones, so try walking outside and see if it helps you stick to your habits.12

Promotes Stronger Bones and Muscles

Regular walking helps build and maintain healthy bones and muscles by increasing bone density. This can help prevent osteoporosis and fractures.13 Walking also strengthens your leg and abdominal muscles, and when combined with good posture, it can also strengthen your back muscles, reducing the risk of back pain and other muscular problems. Just remember that you’ll need to add muscle-strengthening activities to get the benefits of exercise for your bones and muscles.

Enhances Sleep and Energy Levels

Walking can increase your sleep quality by deepening your sleep and helping you fall asleep faster. It also boosts your energy levels. By improving your circulation and increasing the oxygen supply to every cell in your body, you will feel more alert and have more energy.1415

Influences Weight and Metabolic Health

Walking helps create a calorie deficit necessary for weight loss and improves insulin sensitivity. This can be beneficial in managing and preventing type 2 diabetes. Regular physical activity like walking also helps regulate blood sugar levels. It can be a vital factor for weight management and metabolic health—especially for those who have diabetes or are at risk of developing it.16

Provides Social Benefits

Walking with friends, family, or a walking group can provide social benefits, such as improved relationships and a sense of community. It also can be a great way to connect with others while taking care of your physical health and can even boost your motivation to stick to your walking routine.17

Lifestyle Factors to Support Walking for Weight Loss

Other lifestyle factors, including nutrition, sleep, and stress management, must be considered to sustainably and effectively support your walking for weight loss routine. Each of these variables affects the other in different ways, and when one aspect is a struggle, it can make the others more challenging as well.

Pay Attention to Diet and Nutrition

Diet is just as important as increasing your physical activity when trying to achieve weight loss, according to O’Meara.18 “Improving your diet and consuming more whole foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can aid in weight loss efforts because these foods are lower in calories and higher in vitamins and minerals compared to processed or fast foods.”

Prioritize Quality Sleep

Also, don’t overlook quality sleep as part of your weight loss plan. It is vital for recovery, hormonal balance, and overall health. Poor sleep can disrupt appetite-regulating hormones, increasing feelings of hunger and cravings. And, not getting enough sleep can cause you to struggle with your diet and weight loss efforts.

Reduce Stress

Chronic stress can lead to weight gain or hinder weight loss by making everything else feel more difficult and increasing the chances of eating due to emotional upset.19 Stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in hobbies can help reduce stress levels. In return, lower stress levels reduce the likelihood of stress-induced eating and improve overall well-being.

Weight Loss is Different for Everyone

Weight loss goals are personal, and how you achieve them will differ from how someone else might achieve them. There is no single solution that can work for everyone.

“If you have been trying to lose weight and have been unable to, the best thing to do is work with a registered dietitian and your physician,” says O’Meara. Look for dietitians certified in obesity and weight management (CSOWM) or physicians certified in obesity medicine (ABOM).

The inability to lose weight can be affected by medications, underlying medical conditions like insulin resistance, or altered metabolism due to a history of dieting, disease, or even menopause, explains O’Meara.

“It’s important to remember that there is not one diet or medication that can help everyone lose weight,” she says. “Working with trained professionals like registered dietitians can help you determine what will work best for you.”

Bottom Line

While walking effectively contributes to a calorie deficit and promotes weight loss, it’s also part of a larger equation. Set realistic goals and track your progress so you can adjust your plan as life’s curveballs come your way. If you find yourself unable to stick to your walking plan and overall weight loss habits, reflect on what you can tweak or prioritize to meet your goals.

Leave a reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here