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A Guide To Walking For Weight Loss

When it comes to exercise and weight loss, what do you picture – long sweaty runs and high intensity classes?

Although high intensity exercise is great for burning calories and improving your cardiovascular fitness, it isn’t the only type of exercise that can aid weight loss. Walking is often overlooked in the fitness world but its benefits, both to overall health, and weight loss efforts, cannot be understated.

If you want to know more about how walking can benefit weight loss, from the calories burned walking to how often you should walk for weight loss, keep reading.

What are the health benefits of walking?

Before we dive into walking for weight loss, let's look at some of the benefits walking regularly has.

  1. Walking combats ageing and can add seven years to your life

    How's that for a benefit? Research presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) followed 69 subjects between the ages of 30 and 60, and found that moderate exercise, including brisk walking, yielded anti-ageing benefits that could extend life by 3-7 years per person.[1]

    While this anti-ageing affect extends to other forms of workouts, simply going for walks is enough to get this benefit. Getting up for a regular walk might just keep you younger, and alive, for longer.

  2. When you're walking, you're not sitting - and that might save your life

    It's a little-known fact that sitting for extended periods of time is one of the unhealthiest things you can do to yourself.

    A 2015 meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that sitting for 8 or more hours a day increased Type II Diabetes risk by 90%, and also significantly increased the risks of heart disease, various cancers, and all-cause mortality (in other words, your overall risk of death).[2]

    That's all pretty horrifying stuff, especially considering that so many of us spend our days sitting in front of a PC or TV screen.

    But at least if you get your evening gym session in you won't have to worry about all that, right?
    Nope, afraid it's still a problem. According to the American Heart Association, your gym session isn't enough to offset the harm done by all that sitting around.[3]

    Fortunately, though, there is a straightforward way of fighting back against those health risks. You guessed it; it's by getting up and walking around.

    One 2015 study from the US found that getting up and walking around for even 2 minutes each hour could extend your lifespan by up to 33% compared to those who stay seated.[4]

  3. A short walk each day may be enough to promote fat loss and keep the pounds off

    HIIT sprint training is a great way to shed pounds, but just because you don't break a sweat on a short walk doesn't mean it's not doing a good job of promoting weight loss, too.
    One study comparing the effects of a 30-minute daily walk (plus diet), a 60-minute daily walk (plus diet), and dieting alone, concluded that the 30 minute and 60 minute walks both yielded roughly the same benefits for weight loss. Blood pressure was also lowered, in addition to various other health benefits.[5]

    In this study, both lengths of walk were found to be superior for weight loss and overall health than merely dieting alone.

    What's more, research has shown that there's a clear correlation between low-level physical activity throughout the day and a healthier BMI -- with women who averaged 60 minutes of moderate physical activity each day gaining significantly less weight over an extended period of time than those who didn't.[6]

    The conclusion? Walking is good for you! Not only can going for a daily walk be the perfect complement to your overall fat loss efforts, but it may even prevent you from getting to the point where you need to shed the pounds in the first place.

How much do you need to walk to lose weight?

If your goal is to lose or manage your weight, you're likely interested in just how much walking you need to do each day.

While there is no one size fits all answer for this, adding in 30-60 minutes of moderate to fast walking on top of your current activity can burn around 100 -- 400 calories[7] depending on your weight. Doing this every day can help to create a calorie deficit, which will aid weight loss.

If you want to create a calorie deficit, starting by looking at how many calories you need to consume to maintain your current weight, and then look at either increasing the calories you burn or reducing how much you eat to create a deficit. For best results, we recommend both increasing activity and changing your diet.

We have a guide all about how many calories you need to be consuming to lose weight, which is an excellent starting point for weight loss.

How many calories can you burn from walking?

How many calories you burn by walking depends on several factors - for example, your weight (if you're heavier, you'll be burning more calories), speed (a faster walk will have a larger impact than a slow stroll) and environment (a hilly walk will work your muscles more than a flat one). 

Walking at 3.5mph for 30 minutes is estimated to burn approximately 100 calories for someone weighing 125lbs, and 160 calories for someone weighing 185lbs, however this could be more or less. Rather than focusing on calories burned walking, a better approach is to aim to walk a certain amount each day at a moderate to fast pace, and combine this with a calorie deficit if your goal is to lose weight.

Not sure how much walking to aim for? Start with looking at your current activity and setting a goal from there. While 10,000 steps per day has been shown to boost health and weight loss[8], it's not feasible for everyone every day as it takes an average of 1 hour 40 minutes to complete. Setting achievable goals will help to keep you motivated so you get the health benefits of walking! If you can only commit to 30 minutes a day, do your best to hit that goal every day. Learn more about how to set fitness goals with this guide.

Is walking better than running for weight loss?

We've covered here all the main reasons walking is great for you - but if you're looking to lose weight, is running a better option? Well, as with many fitness-related questions, there's no straight answer here - it very much depends on your needs, goals, physical ability and enjoyment. 

Running is a fantastic way to boost your cardio fitness, improve your mood, burn calories and strengthen your body, and many people look forward to their daily run as a chance to take some time out for themselves and their own personal wellbeing. But, as we've discussed, all of these benefits can also come from walking too. 

When considering whether walking or running is better for weight loss, it's worth considering the following:

  • How long do you have? One of the key differences is the speed with which you can gain results - running burns approximately double the amount of calories that walking does, so a brisk walk may have the same benefits as a run, but you'll need to walk for longer to achieve them.

    For example, a 30-minute run may burn the same number of calories as an hour-long walk, so if you're tighter on time, perhaps a run could be more beneficial.

  • Are you prone to weak or sore joints? While running can help to strengthen your muscles and joints, it's a high impact exercise and actually places stress on your knees, hips, and ankles.

    If you have an injury or weakness in these areas, then walking may be far more comfortable and gentle for you. People with higher body mass may find running harder on their joints and prefer walking.

  • Do you actually enjoy running? If you're hoping to build a decent fitness routine and lose some weight, consistency (for both exercise and diet) is key. So the form of exercise that will provide the most benefits is the one you're most likely to stick to.

    Running may not be for you, in which case committing to hitting your walking steps each day is going to be much better for helping you reach your goals. And vice versa of course - if you get a bit bored walking, but love the endorphin rush of a run, then that could be the better option for you.

Walking and strength training for weight loss

If you're looking to lose weight and get fit without high impact cardio like running or HIIT, then you could try integrating some strength training into your fitness routines. You can start with equipment-free bodyweight or calisthenic exercises and work your way up to dumbbells, barbells or weights machines at the gym. Walking and strength training complement each other well for weight loss - you'll be keeping your overall fitness levels up and burning calories with the walking, while the strength work will help you build muscle, tone up and boost your metabolism. 

You can learn more about getting started with weight training here.

3 tips for walking more

There are many ways of fitting a walk into your daily routine so that you can begin reaping the benefits immediately. Ideas include:

  • Ditch the car

    The first and most obvious way to get more walking done is to commute by foot if you live within walking distance of your job. Failing that, you can still add some walking to your regular commute by parking a bit further away from your office and walking the rest of the way, or by walking to a nearby café, park or restaurant to enjoy your lunch, instead of hanging around the office or catching the bus into town.

  • Make it a daily event

    If you have a busy family life, consider adding a regular walk in the afternoon, when everyone's home, and take your kids or partner along with you. That way you all get some exercise together while enjoying some bonding time.

  • Start the day with a walk

    Prefer to spend some alone time first thing in the morning? Why not go out for an early morning walk in a safe area! You'll get the day started with a clear head, and you can enjoy listening to the sounds of the world waking up around you. If you'd prefer, you could load an audiobook or playlist onto your phone and let your imagination carry you along.

For more tips on how to sneak movement into your life, check out our Wellbeing articles. If you're ready to take your fitness to the next level, then find a gym near you and start working out today. You can even speak to one of our expert Personal Trainers, who will be able to guide you through your fitness journey.

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