Walking for Weight Loss – Why It Works & How to Get Started

by | Updated: August 25th, 2021 | Read time: 4 minutes

Most healthy adults from the ages of 18 to 64 should aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This averages out to a daily minimum of 30 minutes, and when practiced consistently, can result in sustainable weight loss and overall better health.

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While there are many moderate-intensity exercises to choose from if you’re trying to move your body for 150 minutes each week, one stands out as being accessible and effective: walking.

A 2018 study from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and University of North Carolina Chapel Hill proved this. They found that those who walk at least 10,000 steps a day can increase their weight loss by 10 percent in 18 months.

If you’re ready to start using walking for weight loss here’s what you need to know.

Why walking for weight loss is effective

Walking is a cardio activity, which means it can help decrease your risk of metabolic syndrome, high cholesterol, hypertension, oxidative stress and cell inflammation, or type-2 diabetes—conditions that often cause excess weight—according to recent research. Not to mention, since walking is low-impact, the body can sustain it for long periods of time. You’ll be less prone to injuries that could restrict your movements or halt exercise altogether.

In terms of calories, walking is a heavy-hitter for being so low-impact. Harvard Health indicates that a person who weighs 155 pounds will burn about 133 calories after walking a 17-minute mile or 175 calories after a 15-minute mile. This rounds out to 239 or 350 calories respectively for a 30-minute workout. When paired with a nutritious diet that’s naturally low in calories, walking for weight loss can work.

Walking in nature can also reduce cravings for unhealthy foods. When walking outside, you reduce concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol in the salivary glands, according to Frontiers in Public Health. The less cortisol you produce, the less intense your cravings for foods high in sodium, fat and sugar will be, and the less abdominal weight you’ll, reports Current Obesity.

What to expect when walking for weight loss

As with any fitness routine, you won’t achieve noticeable results immediately. Walking for weight loss requires time, patience and consistency. However, if you commit to walking for a minimum of 30 minutes each day, in about two weeks, you can expect to see many health improvements such as lower blood pressure, more leg muscle strength and a boost in energy level, according to data from the University of California Berkeley.

To actually lose weight, you’ll need to walk between five and seven days a week at a moderate-intensity, or 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate, UC Berkeley continues.

To romote weight loss even further, you need to do a few things, according to the Department of Health and Human Services and UC Berkeley:

  • Increase the workout duration to 45 to 60 minutes daily.
  • Eat a healthy, whole food diet.
  • Practice full-body resistance training at least two or more days a week.

You can also expect to accelerate fat burn, which, in turn, helps you lose more weight, if you maintain a brisk pace of at least 100 steps a minute (or three miles per hour), according to researchers at the University of Massachusetts.

Calculate your number of steps and the speed at which you can walk a mile with a wearable pedometer or fitness tracker. This information will reveal how efficiently those current walking strides burn fat, so you can make adjustments as necessary.

No matter how you approach it, walking for weight loss is an incremental process. Focus on keeping the momentum and don’t expect to see results overnight.

How to practice walking for weight loss

If you’re ready to kick it into high-gear with your walking, you can maximize your effectiveness with these simple tips.

  • Start with 30 minutes of walking daily and aim to complete about two miles. If you’re unable to walk for a full 30 minutes without breaks, then schedule three 10-minute or two 15-minute walking sessions each day.
  • Maintain a brisk, vigorous pace that causes your heart rate to increase. For extra resistance, hold free weights in each hand.
  • Find opportunities to combine walking with other daily activities such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, commuting to work on foot, pacing back-and-forth while on the phone, or taking a walk on your lunch break.
  • As your cardio stamina and muscle strength increase, challenge yourself Walk on a steep incline or alternate your walking pace between moderate- and high-intensity intervals.
  • Choose foods that are both nutrient-dense and naturally low in calories such as fruits, vegetables, lean fish or poultry, eggs and certain whole grains. Limit your intake of artificial fats, sugars and carbohydrates too.

Walking could be the solution to your weight loss goals

The many benefits of walking can lead to sustainable weight loss over time. While not as intensive or strenuous as other aerobic workouts, if you stick with a consistent program, using effort, momentum, and diet to boost your walks, you might be surprised how effective walking for weight loss actually is.

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