Whether you head outdoors for a brisk walk or get in some steps on the treadmill, walking offers a wide variety of health benefits. This form of low-impact exercise gets your body moving, it offers a solid energy and mood boost, and you can easily work it into your day—whether you enjoy walking early in the morning or while taking afternoon work calls. Now, if your current fitness goal is weight loss, you’re likely wondering how experts would address the question, “Can you lose weight by walking?” But before we fully dive into that topic, let’s touch upon some additional benefits of adding more walking to your day.
Walking for exercise can lower your risk of stroke and heart disease, and research shows this form of physical activity can improve health issues such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure; it can also decrease your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. In addition, walking can help strengthen your bones and muscles and enhance your balance. Suffice it to say, the list of benefits goes on and on. If you’re curious about the benefits of walking for weight loss, keep reading to hear what the experts have to say. And when you’re finished, be sure to check out The Best 5-Minute Daily Walking Workout for Women To Lose Weight.
Can walking help you lose weight?
Walking is a stellar cardiovascular exercise to add to workouts if you want to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. “Walking is an effective tool for weight loss due to its ability to burn calories and contribute to a calorie deficit,” explains Cassie Costa, NASM-CPT, C4 Energy brand ambassador. “When combined with a healthy diet, walking regularly can assist in shedding pounds. It enhances your metabolism, allowing you to burn fat even after your walk. Moreover, walking helps control appetite and cravings, making it a valuable component of a weight loss journey.”
Dr. Stacie Stephenson, a recognized leader in functional medicine and bestselling author of Glow: 90 Days to Create Your Vibrant Life from Within, certainly agrees that walking can aid in your efforts to shed weight, “but maybe not in the way you think.” Going on one brisk walk won’t burn a ton of calories. “However, walking and weight loss are linked in more subtle ways,” Dr. Stephenson says. “[The calories you burn per mile] can really add up over time, if you walk regularly—if you walk just a mile a day six days a week, you’re burning about 540 calories a week, 2,160 calories per month, and nearly 26,000 calories over the course of a year.”
Dr. Stephenson thinks it’s even more effective how walking makes you feel—healthier and more confident that you have a better handle on your overall wellness. “It can help you to commit to other health-promoting habits, like making better dietary choices, sleeping better, and having more confidence that you are able to achieve your goals,” Dr. Stephenson adds. “All those other things, especially food choices, are what really make a difference in weight loss, but adding walking can be just the energy boost and mental health tweak that you need to be consistent and committed to your goals.”
How much should you walk each week to lose weight?
The general rule of thumb, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, is to get in at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per week, which can be brisk walking for 30 minutes per day, five days a week. There’s some research linking 10,000 steps per day to weight loss, however, other research shows walking for four miles (which is around 8,200 steps) can be beneficial for weight loss and overall health.
“In my opinion, those are minimums if weight loss is your goal—start where you are, but try to work up from there because the benefits will accrue,” Dr. Stephenson tells us. “I recommend about an hour of moderate exercise on most days, and at least 10,000 steps, although you can break that up between walking and other activities. If you quit moving for more than two days in a row, your benefits will begin to decline, so regularity is the key. Try to get some kind of movement in six days a week, if you can.”
When it comes down to it, how long and how often you should walk for weight loss can be unique to the individual, from fitness level to comfort level. However, there are certain healthy habits you can include in your daily routine to maximize your weight loss efforts.
“How you eat, sleep, and stress are even more influential for weight loss, so walking should be seen as an adjunct to your weight loss efforts, rather than the only change you make,” Dr. Stephenson tells us. “Also, exercise can make you hungrier, so it’s easy to completely erase the calorie burn you get from walking, just by eating a little more. The energetic and mental health benefits of walking are what will really help you lose weight.”
In addition, gradually working your way up to more steps is a smart idea, and as Dr. Stephenson pointed out, be consistent! Whether you establish an invigorating morning walking routine, get some steps in on your walking pad during the workday, or enjoy an after-dinner walk to clear your head (or all of the above), consistency is king.
What is an effective walking workout for weight loss?
If you need some inspiration to curate a solid walking routine for weight loss, look no further. Take some inspiration from Costa, who tells us, “To initiate a walking routine for weight loss, start with a 30-minute walk at a moderate pace. This can be done three to five times a week. As you progress, consider incorporating intervals of brisk walking or uphill walking to intensify the workout and increase calorie burn. Variety is important, so mix outdoor walks with treadmill sessions to keep your routine engaging. Always begin with a warm-up and conclude with a cool-down to prevent injuries and improve flexibility.”