How To Optimize Your Daily Walks For Weight Loss


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Looking for a simple, yet effective workout to help you achieve your weight loss goals? Take a walk (seriously). Walking for weight loss is an underrated activity that’s sustainable, enjoyable, and, for the most part, free (but full permission to splurge on those cute walking shoes and under-desk treadmill you’ve been eyeing).

“Walking is a great exercise because almost anyone can do it, at any time, without any equipment,” says Grayson Wickham, DPT, CSCS, founder of Movement Vault. It's also low-intensity and easy on your joints, Wickham says, which is helpful if you want to take it easy and avoid injury during your workout.

Whether you prefer going for a stroll in nature or cueing up a podcast and doing laps at the gym, there are many ways to reap the benefits of walking. Here’s what you need to know about walking for weight loss and helpful tips for getting your steps in, according to experts.

Meet the experts: Grayson Wickham, PT, DPT, CSCS, is the founder of Movement Vault. Susane Pata, CPT, is a certified group fitness instructor and content strategist for the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). Alissa Palladino, RDN, CPT, is a registered dietitian and personal trainer based in Atlanta, Georgia.

How much should I walk to lose weight?

Although you may have heard that 10,000 steps a day is the "gold standard" for walking, that number is somewhat arbitrary and may not be appropriate for everyone, says Alissa Palladino, RDN, CPT, an Atlanta-based dietitian and certified personal trainer. “Walking goals need to be tailored to an individual’s current fitness level, health status, and lifestyle,” she says. “You may want to set a lower or a higher goal for yourself depending on a variety of factors.”

Although it's hard to calculate the exact number of steps you need to lose weight, generally speaking, walking for 30 minutes per day should add up to roughly 100 to 200 calories burned, says Pata. "Doing 30 minutes worth of walking for seven days can create a weekly caloric expenditure of 700 to 1,400 calories. These numbers can add up in the long run and result in weight loss for someone who is overweight and was previously sedentary," she says.

To figure out how much walking you need to do to lose weight, it can help to identify your resting metabolic rate (RMR), which helps you calculate how many calories you need to burn for a calorie deficit. You can speak with a certified trainer or use an online calculator like this one from NASM.

12 Walking Tips For Weight Loss

1. Warm up and stretch beforehand.

"Stretching and activating specific muscles before your walk will help you decrease your chance of pain and injury during and after your walk," says Wickham. "If you have pain during your walk, this is your body telling you that you really need to start dedicating time to your joint mobility. Everyone should be able to perform a basic life task such as walking without pain."

Doing lunges before a walk can also help, he says. "Performing a set of 10 walking lunges every so often can help you build stronger legs, and gain muscle mass," says Wickham. "Gaining lean muscle mass will increase your resting metabolic expenditure, which means you will be burning more calories at rest. This all leads to increased weight loss."

2. Wear a weighted vest or backpack.

If you're looking for more intensity, a weighted vest or backpack will increase the demand on your body during your walks, says Wickham. "Typically, anything that makes an exercise more challenging will lead to an increase in calories burned," he adds.

3. Use an app or watch to track your steps.

Driven by numbers? Try tracking your steps with a mobile app or smartwatch. This can help you view your progress and stay focused on your movement goals. "Data tracking can help motivate individuals [toward] goals, accomplishments, and help make up for any deficits throughout the week," says Pata.

4. Alternate between walking and jogging.

You don't necessarily have to run to lose weight, but to amp up your walking workouts, try jogging or running slowly for as little as 10 seconds and then walk for two minutes (and repeat). "Adding in short jogs or runs during your walk will help you increase the intensity of your workout, which can help you accelerate your weight loss," Wickham says.

To get creative (and work your leg muscles), you can also practice walking backward, says Wickham. "Walking backward works your quadricep muscles more than walking forward, which can help you maintain healthy and strong knees." Just make sure you're in a safe environment for this (and be aware of other pedestrians).

5. Create a fun walking playlist.

Sometimes, all it takes is the right song to pump you up. Playing uplifting tunes while you're out and about can make your walking experience more enjoyable. To fully immerse yourself, Pata suggests creating a workout playlist of your favorite songs that lasts the length of the walk. It'll fly by before you know it!

6. Don't forget your water bottle.

Drinking water is an important part of weight loss, so don't forget to bring your favorite bottle along. "Staying properly hydrated is key for optimal health," says Wickham. "The healthier and more hydrated you are, the better your weight loss journey will be." Not to mention, the H2O will keep your energy up and help you log more miles.

7. Use a food tracker.

If you're already taking stock of what you eat with a food diary app, it may be helpful to jot down how many calories you're burning by walking. This helps keep you aware of your actions and how it measures up against your weight loss goals, says Pata. That said, counting calories isn't the healthiest option for everyone, so be mindful of choosing a method that works best for you.

8. Stay consistent.

To reap the full benefits of walking for weight loss, you have to commit to walking at a regular schedule, whether that's once a day or a week. "Health is a lifestyle, not a quick fix," says Wickham. "Find ways that you can add in your walks that will help stay consistent. The more often you walk, the more weight loss you will have." Pro tip: Take the stairs instead of the elevator, get off the bus or train a few stops early and walk home, or invest in an at-home treadmill to get your steps in.

9. Purchase a good pair of shoes.

Next, treat yourself to some nice sneakers that you only use for walking, Pata says. "This creates a 'get-in-the-zone' attitude when you put them on and [encourages] an enjoyable walking experience." From walking shoes for flat feet to podiatrist-recommended options, there are plenty of pairs to choose from.

10. Schedule and map out your walks.

Penciling in your workouts will make it that much more likely that you'll follow through with your goals. "You know what they say...schedule it or you won’t do it. Choosing one time every day to perform your walks will help you stay consistent," says Wickham. "Prioritize your walks and plan around them to ensure you get them in every day."

"You can use Google Maps to plan out your walking route so that you know exactly where you will be walking and the distance you will be walking," Wickham adds. Just be aware of your surroundings, practice safety, and share your location with someone you trust just in case—especially if you're walking solo.

11. Weather-proof your walks (and have a backup plan).

As a general tip, have the right apparel on hand for rain, cold, or hot weather, says Pata. This will help you stay prepared and less likely to miss a walk session due to less-than-ideal conditions.

To make sure you still exercise on bad weather days, have a rainy-day back-up plan, like keeping a bag packed for the gym or going to the nearest mall to do some laps, Pata recommends. You’ll be less likely to forget working out altogether if you have a plan B in place.

12. Invite a friend or family member on your walks.

Asking someone to keep you company while you get some steps in is a great way to maintain relationships—and it will help keep you consistent with your walks, says Wickham. You can even suggest coffee and a walk, Pata says, which is a great way to be social and get movement in at the same time.

If you can't be in-person, schedule a catch-up call with someone while you walk. “Besides rekindling or maintaining relationships, [a phone call] will make time go by more quickly and the walks may begin to become enjoyable over time,” says Pata.

How much weight can I lose from walking?

The short answer? It depends. An individual can typically burn up to 5,600 calories a month from walking alone, which is roughly 1.6 pounds, according to Susane Pata, CPT, a certified group fitness instructor and content strategist for the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). However, the exact number is dependent on a person’s individual calculations that take weight, level of conditioning, and training capacity into consideration.

It also depends on whether or not you're in a calorie deficit, in which you burn more calories than you consume, Wickham says. Any type of movement you engage in throughout the day can help you increase your overall calorie expenditure, he says—but since walking doesn't burn quite as many calories as, say, running or sprinting, you'll probably see more weight loss progress if you combine your walking routine with other high-intensity workouts.

"For example, if you only have 30 minutes to exercise and your goal is to burn the most calories during your 30 minutes, walking isn’t the best choice to accomplish this goal," Wickham says. "You will burn far more calories if you increased the intensity of your exercise with things like jogging, lifting weights, sprinting, a HIIT workout, or some combination of these."

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