Can you lose weight by walking? Any physical activity, including walking, burns fat and it can help you lose weight. And the quicker and faster you walk, the more calories you’ll burn. Whether you’re pounding the pavement or walking on one of the best walking treadmills (opens in a new tab)walking is a great workout for weight loss.
Walking, especially outdoors, has many physical and mental health benefits. A study published in Frontiers in Endocrinology (opens in a new tab) found that taking 7,500 steps a day (3,000 at a brisk pace) may be enough to prevent type 2 diabetes. And further research in Fronteirs in Psychology (opens in a new tab) found that exposure to natural environments and green spaces was associated with lower levels of stress and depression.
“Walking, especially in nature, uses just enough brain power to shut you down, which is why you can often walk somewhere and not think about anything, almost forcing mental relaxation,” says the personal trainer Rachael Sacerdoti, founder of It’s So Simple. (opens in a new tab).
“This makes it the perfect stable low impact exercise (LISS) and ideal for everyone – walking for a long time causes less damage to the body, calming the parasympathetic nervous system without overloading it.”
For safe and lasting weight loss, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (opens in a new tab) recommends people lose one to two pounds a week. Read on to find out how much walking you need to do to reach your weight loss goals.
Can you lose weight by walking?
“Walking is one of the best ways to lose weight because it’s low impact, which means there’s less stress on the joints and therefore less risk of injury,” says Lily Chapman, nutritionist for P3R FORM (opens in a new tab).
“The amount of calories you burn will depend on your personal stats such as your height, body weight, body fat percentage and the speed at which you walk. As a general rule, you will burn more calories if your heart rate is higher. higher, and a less fit person will generally have a higher heart rate and therefore burn more calories.
“Because walking is a more comfortable exercise than running or high-intensity interval training (HIIT), many people will be more likely to stick with the habit. In general, you need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight. If you burn calories by walking, you won’t need to restrict your diet too much, which means you’re more likely to be successful in losing weight in the long run.
A study published in the Nutrition review (opens in a new tab) found that “moderate walking ameliorates the effects of a low-calorie diet on fat loss.” Chapman says, “A calorie-restricted diet means the same thing as a calorie deficit, so this shows that walking can speed up the weight loss process when in a calorie deficit.”
How much walking do you need to do for this to be an effective weight loss tool?
A study of International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders (opens in a new tab) found that in two groups of women who walked 30 minutes a day or 60 minutes a day, both groups had “similar and significant beneficial changes” in their health-related variables (eg, weight loss).
“What this shows is that even a short walk each day is enough to make significant changes to your body fat, blood pressure, and even cholesterol levels,” Chapman says, and Sacerdoti agrees. “Walking is a great kickstarter activity, especially for anyone who has been inactive.”
“For best results, walking for an extended period of time at a faster pace than your normal walking pace will help you lose weight better. If long walking scares you, start with three 15-minute walks a day,” adds Sacerdoti: “Frequent short walks can also be beneficial, and if you walk after eating, it can help control your blood sugar.”
Are there ways to make walking more efficient?
The key to losing weight while walking is walking fast enough or with enough intensity to burn fat for energy. And the longer you take long walks, the more you burn stored fat, instead of the sugars your body uses for energy. One way to make walking more efficient is to add hills, climbs, or do intervals.
“Anything you can do to increase calorie expenditure is good,” says Sacerdoti. “Uphill walking is great for this, whether it’s an incline on a treadmill or a brisk walk up a hill – anything that gets your heart rate up a bit will help you burn more calories.In addition, walking on an incline reduces the impact on the legs and joints.
“Adding some brisk walking intervals, 5-10 minutes at a time, will also provide greater calorie burn. Weighted vests are good because they will make your body work harder, which means more calories burned, but make sure the weight is evenly supported so it doesn’t interfere with your posture – posture is very important to get the most out of your walk.
How can you fit more walking into your day?
Sacerdoti says: “Try to get off the train or bus one stop earlier, or walk the whole way to work if the weather is nice. Take the stairs every chance you get – that’s is also great for your glutes. Meet your friends for a stroll in the park and take lunchtime walks. Anything in nature will immediately boost your mood too, so it’s a win-win!”
As with any exercise, the key to being consistent is finding something that works for you. So mix things up with different types of walking workouts – intervals, hill climbs, short and fast and long walks on different terrains.
Sacerdoti adds, “As with any exercise, form is important. To get the most out of your walk, activate your core with your back straight, shoulders straight, and head held high.
“Engage your glutes with each stride, land on your heels, roll forward and push off with your toes. It’s important to stay hydrated and it’s definitely worth investing in a good pair of shoes to improve posture and prevent injury. And don’t forget to stretch when you return from your walk.
And if walking isn’t really your thing, don’t worry! Our pieces on ‘Does it Work for Weight Loss? (opens in a new tab)‘ and ‘Are exercise bikes good for weight loss? (opens in a new tab)‘ are great if you are looking for a suitable alternative to stay fit and healthy.
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