The number of calories you burn while walking depends on your speed, the terrain and your size. According to Harvard Health Publishing, a slow, 2-mph pace burns 204 calories per hour for a 180-pound person. But if that same person doubles their speed to cover 4 miles in an hour, she can burn 409 calories. Take the walk uphill for the entire hour and burn 490 calories.
Running is another option for weight-loss exercise. You can cover a lot more ground with a speedy run than you can with a walk, even if it’s at a brisk pace. Running requires more energy, too, so it elicits a higher calorie burn. For example, a 185-pound person running a 10-minute mile (or 6 mph) burns 444 calories in 30 minutes. So, if you’re looking to save time with your workout, crank up the speed from a walk to a run to maximize your efforts.
Any physical activity that burns calories helps with weight loss. What makes walking valuable is its ease and accessibility. Walking isn’t super stressful on your body, so it’s perfect for almost all fitness levels. Most people can walk, and they don’t need more than a pair of supportive, well-fitting shoes to get started.
If you’re new to physical activity, start gradually with just 10 to 15 minutes of walking a day. Slowly increase the amount of time you spend walking and pick up your speed when you feel more comfortable doing so. Walk outdoors if the conditions permit; if you need to head indoors due to weather, lack of acceptable sidewalks or trails or because of personal preference, choose a treadmill, a shopping mall or an indoor track.
Your enthusiasm for walking for weight loss may be great at first but sticking to an ambitious walking routine can be a challenge. August 2014 research published in Obesity Facts found that women prescribed 30 minutes of walking per day were able to stick to the routine pretty consistently. But when the prescription increased to 60 or 90 minutes per day, the women were less able to keep up with their walking routine. The women in this study who walked for 60 to 90 minutes per day also compensated by slowing down other activity, so the extra walking had less impact on their actual daily steps.
Thirty minutes of walking a day may be best for weight loss. You’re more likely to stick to this routine and keep up with other activities that burn calories. A modest 30-minute-per-day walk may yield slower weight-loss results compared to more lengthy daily bouts, but you’re more likely to achieve long-term weight loss (and maintenance) and stay committed to exercise.
In addition to walking, add two strength sessions per week. This involves at least one set of an exercise for each major muscle group. Muscle-strengthening helps hone your ability to do day-to-day activities, such as to move furniture or carry grocery bags. Adding muscle also improves your walking stamina.
Strength training also slows the loss of muscle that can occur during aging and weight loss. When you lose muscle, your metabolism decreases, which makes it harder to lose weight. And introducing strength training into your routine also benefits your posture and, in some cases, your flexibility, which can help you lead a healthy, active life.
Put in the walking work and you’ll see results, but don’t have unrealistic expectations. It’s possible to lose significant weight by walking 30 minutes most days of the week, but if you have 20 or more pounds to lose, it may take several months to see results. Be patient with small progress and know that you’re losing weight in a healthy way that can be sustained for the long-term.
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