Is Walking to Lose Weight Effective?

By Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
December 21, 2022

Key takeaways

  • Brisk walks can be an effective way to support weight loss.

  • Consistency is important. Walking 5-7 days a week for 45-60 minutes at a moderate intensity is necessary for most people to burn enough calories to lose weight.

  • You can increase walking workout intensity by adding weights, walking for longer distances, or walking on an incline.

Walking regularly is a low-intensity activity that supports health and can help with weight loss. In this article, we’ll explore how walking can promote a healthy body weight and tips for making the most of a walking workout program.

Can I Lose Weight by Walking?

Walking can improve weight-loss efforts in comparison to trying to drop pounds with diet alone

The amount of walking a person needs to lose weight depends on many factors. However, walking for 30-60 minutes as part of a daily routine has been shown to support overall weight-loss goals.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests 300 minutes of moderately intense exercise each week. That breaks down to about 45 minutes per day or five days of walking one hour each day.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise per week to maintain a person’s weight, with more time and intensity required to lose weight. 

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Tips for Walking

The following tips can help you plan an effective walking program to support weight loss.

Check the weather

Before you head out for a walk, check the weather to ensure that you are prepared for temperatures, precipitation, and other factors. If you have allergies, pay attention to pollen counts or air pollution that could make it challenging to complete an outdoor workout.

Many malls and other large public buildings have programs that allow you to walk indoors. YMCAs and other fitness centers may also have walking tracks available for planned walking programs.

Dress in layers & reflective clothing

If you plan to walk outdoors, wear a few light layers of clothing so that you can easily shed them if you feel warm or add them if you get cold. Wear something with reflective stripes, as well as bright colors, so you are easily visible to vehicles and other pedestrians. Even if you are on a walking trail or sidewalk, always remain aware of your surroundings.

Wear the right shoes

A walk can quickly turn painful if you develop blisters. Choose shoes that properly fit and wear socks to prevent chafing and sweating. If you have flat feet, you may need insoles that support proper arches to prevent cramping. You don’t need expensive shoes for walking exercise, just make sure they fit your feet well, have sturdy soles, and won’t easily fall off your feet.

Stay safe in your surroundings

While many parks and outdoor places to walk are safe, take precautions and remain aware of your surroundings. 

  • Always make sure that someone knows your walking path and schedule in case of an emergency.
  • If you have a smartphone, keep it on and with you. Utilize the “find my phone” and share your location with a trusted person. 
  • Consider carrying keychain pepper spray or another safety device, which can be used as a defense against persons or stray or wild animals. 

Hydrate

Take water on your walks. Even if you do not plan to be gone long and the weather is not hot, hydrating during exercise is important. If you sweat a lot or the weather is very hot, follow your workout with an electrolyte drink to support better recovery.

Set a goal

There are many types of goals you can set for walking exercise. The important thing is to choose a goal that is meaningful and realistic for you. Some types of goals you can set include:

  • Tracking your daily number of steps
  • Walking a specific distance or number of laps
  • Exercising for a specific amount of time

Set a goal that is achievable and continue to revise it as you get in better shape and adapt to your program. Perhaps you want to walk for 1 mile per day, and after a month, that becomes 2 miles, and so on. By revising your goals, you’ll continue to increase motivation and improve the overall impact of your walking exercise program.

Focus on form

Walking with good posture can improve your body’s calorie burn. It can also decrease how much pain you are in after your walk. Walk with your back straight, and take steps that are as long as comfortable. Try to avoid shuffling and pick your feet up with each step. Breathe deeply and keep your arms comfortably at your sides or swing them as you walk for balance support and increased energy burning.

Walk at a brisk pace

If you are walking for weight loss, you want to maintain a brisk pace. This should not be so much that you can’t catch a breath, but if you can easily converse with someone, you may not be walking fast enough. The quicker your pace, the more energy your body uses, which translates to more calories burned.

Swing your arms

Swinging your arms at your sides while you walk can increase the energy that your body uses during the workout. This can make your walk have more pronounced full-body effects.

Add weights

Research shows that using weights during walking workouts can help burn more calories per session. The safest way to add weight is to wear a weighted vest. If you are new to walking exercise, get into a good routine and establish a baseline pace before adding weight.

Walk on an incline

Walking on a treadmill with an incline or on a hilly outdoor path can increase how much energy the body burns to get through the workout. This can lead to more calories burned and increased muscle building as the body adapts to the terrain. You can also get similar benefits by doing stair walking a few times per week.

Motivate yourself to walk

If you have trouble sticking to a routine, consider asking a friend to join you on your walks. Or if they live in a different location, they can be an accountability partner. You can also join weight-loss walking groups on social media, or community centers may have group walking workouts that could help you establish a regular habit.

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Walk outside

If walking on a treadmill feels boring, outside workouts can keep things interesting and give you the added benefit of fresh air, natural sunlight, and a change of scenery. These can have additional mood-supporting benefits.

Stretch your body

Before and after walking workouts, stretch your back, arms, and legs to prevent injuries and improve flexibility.

Takeaway

Walking is a great way to support weight loss and overall health. If you are new to a walking program, start with a reasonable goal and slowly increase your distance and/or pace. If you need guidance, ask a medical provider. They may refer you to resources, a physical therapist, or personal trainer who can individualize a program based on your specific needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you lose belly weight by walking?
Walking can support overall weight loss, including belly fat loss in people who are overweight.
How much do I need to walk to lose weight?
A person’s age, body weight, and other health factors affect how much walking is needed to cause weight loss. However, the overall recommendation for walking weight loss is 300 minutes per week. This breaks down to walking one hour for five days each week or 45 minutes every day.
How long should you walk in a day to lose weight?
Walking for 45-60 minutes per day at a moderate intensity may support weight loss.
Can I lose weight by just walking?
Walking can be an effective way to lose weight. In order to shed pounds, you need to walk for about 45-60 minutes per day at a moderate intensity level. Consistency is an important factor in utilizing walking for weight loss.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 15 years experience. He received his Undergraduate and Graduate degrees from William Paterson University and his doctoral degree from Drexel University. He has spent his career working in the Emergency Room and Primary Care. The last 6 years of his career have been dedicated to the field of digital medicine. He has created departments geared towards this specialized practice as well as written blogs and a book about the topic.

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