Today, we’re going to be going in-depth with how much walking for weight loss.
If you’ve been thinking about doing some extra walking to lose weight and leverage the power of walking to get leaner, we’ve got you covered.
But first, let us warm you up with some interesting numbers…
In order to hit the public health recommendation of getting in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day, it’s been shown that this translates to roughly 8,000 steps a day.
Walking a mile or 1.6km burns approximately 100 calories depending on your gender and weight. To burn even more calories, try walking on hilly routes or routes with slight inclines.
It’s also been shown that bumping your steps up to around 10,000 steps per day is most effective for not only losing fat but also keeping that fat off in the long term.
Walking burns belly fat. According to this study, obese who walk for 50 to 70 minutes 3 times per week for 12 weeks, on average reduce their waist circumference by 1.1 inches or 2.8 cm and lost 1.5% of their body fat.
Another study estimated that to maintain a stable weight, you should walk at least 150 minutes per week. However, if you’ve lost a lot of weight, you may need to exercise more than 200 minutes per week to prevent yourself from regaining it.
Health Benefits Of Walking
- Is great for people who are trying to lose weight.
- Is great for the elderly diabetic.
- Is great for people with heart-related problems.
- Is the easiest way to increase physical activity and improve fitness.
- Is popular and accessible to all with minimal risk of injury.
- Doesn’t require any training special skills, expensive equipment, facilities, or clothing.
- Can be done at a variety of intensities and speeds individually or in a group.
- Improves the health of muscles, bones, and joints.
- Prevents osteoporosis as it is a great weight-bearing exercise.
- Regular walking also results in better reflexes and reaction time.
- Increases the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen.
- Helps to reduce body fat.
- Lowers blood pressure.
- Improves blood sugar and cholesterol levels thus improving your heart condition.
- Gives you a feeling of a high due to the production of better endorphins.
How Much Walking For Weight Loss (Numbers & Pictures)
Determine Your Average Step Count
The first thing to do is determine your baseline.
You can do so by looking at the data from your smartphone, your Fitbit, your Apple Watch, or any fitness tracker that you’re using.
See how many steps you have been getting per day on average over the course of the last two to three weeks.
That number might shock you. You might get 4000 steps a day like I used to get when I had a sedentary job. So, that was my baseline.
If you’re in that situation, you don’t want to suddenly set that target to be 15.000. Set that target to be 7000, 8000, or something closer to that 4000 because the difference between 4000 and 8000 steps per day is just taking a walk after each meal.
So, a 10-minute walk is ∼1200 steps, which easily adds up to that 7000 to 8000 range.
That becoming your baseline, you can scale from there.
You can go up to 10.000. Or, you can be a little more strategic about it. You could keep some days that are very busy days for example at 8000 and then set up one or two long walks throughout the week to increase your average.
That long walk might be on Saturday or Sunday listening to your favorite podcast or your audiobook.
Make that part of your lifestyle. It’s important to be specific. You don’t want to be wishy-washy and just saying I’m going to walk more. You want to specifically state:
- When it’s going to happen.
- How it’s going to happen.
- Who it’s going to happen with.
This is how it becomes real and a part of your calendar or schedule.
The other thing is you do want to adjust all your walking trackers to give a notification for when you’re missing those steps.
That little nudge can sometimes mean a difference between you actually doing it or not doing it.
So, how many steps a day you really need to start losing some weight?
The number that pops into most people’s heads is 10,000 steps a day as that’s usually used as the ideal benchmark to aim for.
But this idea of 10,000 steps a day was actually just simply a marketing tool that was used for the sales of the first developed pedometers in Japan.
It actually didn’t have any scientific backing behind it at that time. But research now shows that it actually does have some validity to it.
But it seems that 10,000 steps a day is actually a good general number to strive for in terms of overall health and long-term weight management.
Without going over it in-depth and boring you with the math, when you crunch the numbers, you’ll find that an average 180lbs individual can expect to burn roughly 60 calories per 1000 steps when walking at a moderate pace.
If you’re doing 6000 steps a day on average, you’re going to be able to burn 60 more calories for every 1,000 additional steps you take per day.
So, by increasing your daily step count from 6000 steps to 8000 steps a day, theoretically, you’re going to be able to burn off an extra pound of fat a month.
But if everything goes fine and you decide to step up from 6.000 to 10.000 steps a day, again theoretically, you’re going to double that and burn off an extra 2lbs of fat a month.
A study randomly assigned subjects to either just a low-calorie diet or the same low-calorie diet plus brisk walking.
The walking consisted of a total of 3 hours of added walking per week. Or in other words, an added 25 minutes of walking a day, which would equate to roughly 2,000 to 3,000 added steps per day.
After 12 weeks, the walking group lost around 3lbs more fat than the non-walking group. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s such an easy thing to implement into your routine that can both kick start and considerably speed up the fat loss process for you.
How To Increase Your Daily Step Count Daily
Although 10,000 or even 8000 steps a day for many of you may seem daunting and out of reach especially if you’re at home most of the day or just sitting at the office, this really isn’t the case.
You can make it so much easier by simply tying it into existing habits that are already part of your daily routine.
Walk After Each Meal
After breakfast, lunch, and dinner, make it a habit to go for a 10-minute walk immediately after.
If done for three meals a day, this alone will add on average a whopping 3,500 steps to your step count.
More Water, More Walking
Keep yourself well hydrated and drink more water throughout the day, which will result in more trips to the washroom.
This will help you get your steps in because you’re frequently having to get up off your chair to use a washroom.
Although that may not sound like much, but with three to five extra trips to the washroom throughout the day, this can easily add up another 400 steps or so to your step count.
Home Jumping Jacks
Pick a hallway or doorway in your home and set a rule so that every single time that you pass that hallway, you immediately do 20 jumping jacks.
Assuming that you don’t forever avoid that hallway and pass through it let’s say five times a day, that’s easily another 200 steps if we assume an equivalent of two steps per jumping jack.
If you tally all that up, that’s easily an additional 4500 steps added up to your step count.
Using our previous assumption of roughly 60 calories burned per thousand steps, you’ve just managed to increase your metabolism in your daily energy expenditure by 270 calories a day, which would then theoretically result in an additional half a pound of fat being burnt per week from those changes alone.
So, while the goal of hitting something like 10,000 steps a day may seem intimidating and unrealistic at first, it becomes a lot easier and in reach for you to hit when you apply the tips I went through.
Monitor Your Steps
I would also highly recommend that you actually purchase some kind of pedometer or use either the health app on iPhone or Google fit on Android.
The idea is to get into the habit of monitoring your average steps as this will provide a ton of motivation and accountability to help you hit your goal steps.
As a result of implementing all of that, you’ll be able to take advantage of the often-underestimated power of walking and experience the many benefits that it has to offer.
On that note, just keep in mind that for the best results, these additional steps you’ll be taking need to be paired with a solid nutrition plan and regular weight training routine.
That really is what’s going to speed up the process for you and set up the foundation for your long-term success.
Talking about nutrition…
Weight Loss & Nutrition
Ultimately, what is going to lead us to fat loss is accountability with our nutrition.
I think some people are looking for a hack where they can do a few things to lose weight without having to track their diet.
But let’s be honest, these trackers are inaccurate and we overestimate the amount of calories that we need.
Unless you are accountable for your daily intake of calories, you’re very unlikely to be successful.
Does that mean you need to track everything you eat for the rest of your life? Absolutely not.
Sometimes you don’t realize just how calorie-dense things are because they say things like “healthy”, “low fat” or “high protein”.
But until you actually plug them in, write them down, and be accountable to yourself and look at your calories, then you can determine where you need to make some adjustments and understand why you’re not losing body fat.
It’s not that you need to run or walk longer or more, it’s that you actually need to pay attention to how many calories are going into your body.
Walking vs Running For Weight Loss
Research showing running is not the best for weight loss
Most people don’t look at walking as legitimate to lose weight, burn fat, and maintain a healthy weight.
I used to think the same way.
Usually, when we picture someone doing whatever it takes to lose weight, we don’t imagine somebody walking. Instead, we usually picture someone running as hard as they can on the treadmill covered in sweat.
But, is running the best method for fat loss?
One study that I found talked about the adaptations and the changes that occur.
When they reviewed more than 55,000 runners’ histories, they found some pretty interesting data. Part of this data is very positive. With running, you have 45% less risk of heart disease, which is amazing.
But what I found more interesting were the studies that showed that the problems with running outweighed some of the benefits and that perhaps there’s a better way to handle it.
In that study of over 55,000 people, they found that people that ran more than 20 miles a week were the ones that ran into an issue. 20 miles might sound like a lot of distance in a week, but it’s actually not that much time.
As we try to lose body fat, what happens is our bodies adapt to the process of running and we become more efficient. So, we’re going to have to either increase the intensity or increase the duration.
I found another study talking about 79% of long-distance runners who experienced an injury to their lower extremities.
A lot of people who run to lose weight think that because they’re running, they’re burning more calories and start to eat a little bit more.
I found an interesting study of normal weight individuals that were asked to go for a run and burn several hundred calories. They actually tracked how many calories they burned by using machines.
Then, they were set up and said “we would like you to estimate how many calories you burned by eating”. The participants ate three to four times the amount of calories that they burned during the run.
So, I think the logical fallacy here is that some people love to run but they think they’re burning far more calories than they are.
Therefore, they actually don’t lose weight and don’t lose body fat.
Don’t get me wrong. You are going to get some benefits from running outside of weight loss and there are going to be cardiovascular adaptations that benefit us in the long run.
But when it comes to losing body fat, I feel like walking is much superior to running.
Do I believe that walking and sprinting are superior to moderate-intensity steady-state or jogging for fat loss and long-term health as far as having more lean body mass? Absolutely.
Does that mean that there aren’t people out there that have great success with running and just love it as their passion and perhaps their bodies do better with it? Absolutely.
No one person is going to be able to tell you how you absolutely should do all things.
What I’m saying here is that perhaps the better approach to weight loss is less about just getting out hitting the pavement and beating yourself up running 5ks or marathons and more about paying attention to what goes in our mouth using our overall activity low intensity steady-state and perhaps some high-intensity exercise and resistance training to create the best possible outcome for us.
Overall, if running gets you excited and it’s what you love to do and it’s not just about losing a little bit of weight, don’t let this be a detriment to your enjoyment of strapping them up and getting out and hitting the pavement for a few miles.
The reason I really love walking over running for weight loss is because I’ve tried using HIIT cardio as my primary tool for fat loss, I’ve tried using low intensity steady-state and moderate-intensity steady-state and what I found was that walking at a nice pace perhaps on a slight incline was the best way I was able to burn calories.
Don’t Trust Wearable Digital Calory Trackers
A study done by the University of Stanford actually brought people into the lab and they tracked how many calories they burned.
It showed that while the trackers were very good at tracking heart rate, the best tracker was 27% off in estimating calories burned and the worst one was 93% wrong.
So, if you are using digital technology to tell you it’s ok to eat some more, you might be wrong.
Walking For Weight Loss – Myths
In this section, I must dispel a few myths and tackle a couple of misconceptions specifically related to walking for weight loss.
Walking is a primarily fat-burning activity
The first big myth that I’ve seen out there related to walking is this claim that we should prefer walking over other activities when it comes to losing body fat because walking is a primarily fat-burning activity.
Because it’s low intensity and during low-intensity activities, your body prefers to use fat as the primary fuel source.
This is actually correct. You will oxidize and burn more fat while walking compared to something like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) where you’re going to use glycogen and carbohydrate as the primary fuel source.
What’s incorrect is that fat burning is not the same thing as fat loss.
Fat loss is the process of losing body fat and getting leaner and that is determined by energy balance: calories in versus calories out.
You need to create a caloric deficit to enter fat loss. Walking helps with the caloric deficit, but the primary way of creating caloric deficit should be your diet. You can’t outrun, out walk, or out-exercise a poor diet.
A lot of people are doing 15,000 to 20,000 steps a day and they’re not seeing fat loss. The reason is their diet is not dialed in.
Walking targets belly fat
A lot of people believe that since walking is this low-intensity activity, it’s going to help you keep your cortisol levels down compared to running which will raise your cortisol level temporarily because it’s a stressful activity.
So, because walking is so low intensity and so good to reduce stress levels, you may want to think that it actually helps you mobilize the mid-section and remove stubborn belly fat, which is incorrect.
You cannot spot reduce body fat. This is genetically determined where you’re going to store the fat and in what order you’re going to release that fat from your body as you’re losing it.
There are people that will get very lean legs and still have that mid-section body fat covering the bottom row of their abs.
There are other people that are going to see their abs completely and their legs will still store quite a lot of body fat.
So, it’s genetically determined and there is no magic wand that can target the stubborn belly fat.
So, if you want to get abs or you want to get down to 10% body fat, you have to stay in a caloric deficit over a long period of time, which is what makes it hard to get these results.
Fasted walking is better for fat loss
This is not true.
How much fat you’re going to lose is determined by energy balance: calories in versus calories out.
It doesn’t matter when you do the walking as long as you do the walking. You can do all your steps in the morning if you like it, you can do it in the evening, or you can spread it around the day.
Walking after you’ve had a meal can help your digestion and help you with your energy levels.
It’s really about consistency. Consistency is your number 1 priority.
Can you get your 10k steps a day?
Planning your 10k and staying consistent about it steps a day, then you will really start seeing some incredible benefits from doing that.
Again, it doesn’t matter whether it’s fasted or not. As long as you do your walking, you’re totally fine.
Walking is the go-to activity for weight loss
Some people think that walking is so effective that it’s the only activity you really need to focus on when you want to get a lean body.
This is incorrect.
First and foremost, walking doesn’t build muscle. In order to get a lean athletic physique around 10 or 12% body fat, you do need resistance training to build and retain muscle.
Walking is not going to do that and it’s not going to lead you to a better body composition at your target weight. So, if you’re starting at 220 you want to go down to 160 pounds and you’re going to lose a ton of muscle in the process.
You’re going to end up skinny fat if you’re not incorporating resistance training. So, resistance training is super important.
Secondly, cardio is important.
Walking will not train your heart sufficiently compared to cardio. Adding a little bit of swimming, cycling, or running can really make a lot of difference.
Unless you’re completely out of shape, walking alone:
- Will not provide that stress to your cardiovascular system.
- Will not really yield those adaptations that will make your heart healthier.
- Will not really boost your longevity.
So there you have it. How much walking for weight loss is simple to do, but without a good diet, you won’t see the results you’re looking for.