Study: Slow Walking Actually Helps Women Over 50 Boost Weight Loss + Burn Fat Faster

In a hurry to walk off weight? Then you might want to slow down, say University of Michigan researchers, who tested different walking speeds to see which helps women over age 50 the most. They found a slower pace actually boosted fat burn. Women like Stacy Dodson back them up. “I was so heavy when I started, it was like I was carrying two 50-pound bags of dog food everywhere I went. I had to start slow.” Yet she found herself slimming down quickly. “Now I know it helped me lose more,” says the 93-pounds-slimmer Florida mom, 53. Read on for more of her Stacy’s story — and to learn how much slow walking can help you.

Why slow walking is good for weight loss

In that University of Michigan test, volunteers who walked a bit farther at a slower pace burned 2.73 times more fat — basically tripling fat burn — compared to subjects who pushed harder for a shorter distance. “Our bodies use different fuels at different speeds,” explains lead scientist Katarina Borer, PhD. “Go gently, and the difference in fat burning is dramatic.”

Most of us have been taught that when we work harder, we get bigger and better rewards. That’s not always true with walking. “The first goal for many older women is to get rid of that extra fat we put on as our hormones change,” notes Borer. “For that, walking more moderately has advantages. Especially if you’re someone who hasn’t exercised much lately.”

“It has to do with how much oxygen is needed to burn fat,” she says. When an activity leaves us breathless, we’re not getting enough oxygen for the body to readily convert flab on our bellies or hips into fuel. In fact, if we huff and puff hard enough, “we no longer have the ability to use fat,” Borer says, adding that we’ll almost exclusively burn blood sugar. Now, sure, some of us want get rid of excess blood sugar. Luckily, slower walking helps with that too as it simultaneously shrinks waistlines.

Related: Physical Therapists: More Than Half Of Us ‘Walk Crooked’ — How That Sets Us Up For Falls, Joint Pain + How To Fix It

How to get best results with slow walking

A slower walk doesn’t mean going in slow motion. Think of it more as a pleasant pace, suggests Borer. It should get your blood pumping but make you feel energized, not fatigued. And you want to breathe easily and be able to carry on a conversation throughout.

How long should you stroll? As you might expect, Borer’s research shows that the longer you go at a fat-burning pace, the more fat you burn. “The ‘magic formula’ in some of my studies, one that seems to work well but still be manageable, is going three miles or about 6,000 steps in 50–55 minutes,” says the pro. Ideally, walk four days a week.

A nice bonus: “Those who are less active to start with stand to see the most benefits when they begin incorporating any movement,” says Borer. And perks of slow walking extend far beyond weight loss, with studies showing it can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, ease arthritis, boost immunity and deepen sleep. “Walking is an all-natural medicine,” says Borer.

Related: We’ve Tried Every Walking Accessory to Make Our Walks Better at Fat Burning, and This One Is the Winner

When it’s okay to speed up

The extra fat burn we get from slow walking levels out after about 15 weeks as we become more fit, says Borer. At that point, your body will probably want to speed up a little. And she encourages you to go for it. Because once fitness has improved, we get enough oxygen to burn fat even as we walk at a peppier pace. “And going faster” — walking those 3 miles or 6,000 steps in 40–45 minutes — “is proven to help block bone mineral loss in postmenopausal women. So that’s a very good thing.”

Related: Women Over 50 Are Losing 100+ lbs Without Dieting Just By Walking First Thing In the Morning

How to feed your muscles for slow walking

Walking will help you burn fat no matter what you eat, says Borer. But for best results, it’s key to get enough protein. This ensures your body can maintain and build lean, metabolism-boosting muscle as you slim down. A Duke study found aiming for 100 grams of protein a day while keeping overall calories moderate helped double weight loss in walkers over age 50.. Borer says it’s also smart to avoid processed foods, which tend to cause fattening and energy-draining blood-sugar spikes.

Slow walking success before and after: Stacy Dodson, 53

Before and after photos of Stacy Dodson who lost 93 lbs with slow walking
Doug Scaletta

Stacy Dodson has always struggled with weight, and as she entered her 50s, “I was morbidly obese, prediabetic, needed a CPAP machine, got winded just tying my shoes. I felt horrible,” recalls the Florida mom. “I wanted to lose weight, to be healthy, to smile again.” Confessing this to her pal Suzanne, they agreed to buddy up. “We started taking slow walks after work. My calves got sore, but emotionally I felt great.”

Gradually the pair went farther, adding solo walks in the mornings. After four months, Stacy joined WeightWatchers to get a better handle on her diet. She found that when she began building most meals around unprocessed, protein-and-fiber-rich ‘zero point’ foods, her results actually tripled. “I lost 15.2 pounds that month.”

All told, she’s shed 93.3 pounds in 13 months. (Suzanne also hit her goal.) And while Stacy, 53, goes faster now, “walking slow took me a long way,” she says. “Try it for yourself and see!”

Slow walking success story: Karen Smithson, 62

Last summer, Karen Smithson saw a photo of herself and did a double take. Though she looked in the mirror every day, “somehow I just hadn’t realized how much I’d let myself go,” says the former high school principal, 62. Always one to take swift action, “I committed to walking every morning for 15 minutes.” What wasn’t so swift: her pace. “I didn’t push myself to go a certain distance. I just wanted to get my heart rate up,” she shares. “In the beginning, it didn’t take much.”

She began posting daily Instagram videos of her walks in the pretty Texas countryside, never going too fast to talk about her experiences and offer encouragement to others. “I asked a few friends  to follow me for accountability,” she recalls. Fast-forward eight months: Over 48,000 folks are tracking her progress on @choosing_to_reset. Many say Karen has inspired them to walk for better health too. “It makes my heart so happy,” she smiles.

Not only has Karen gone from a tight size 12 to a comfy size 8, she now easily walks for an hour a day and has the stamina for strength training. “I have muscles for the first time in my life!” She also has blood work so good, “my doctor messaged me to ask what I was doing to get my cholesterol down.” Karen’s advice to anyone hoping to follow in her footsteps: “Don’t worry about being perfect. Just start moving. That’s all it takes to see some really amazing changes!”

4 ways to turbocharge your next slow walk

To walk off fat to the max, experts suggest a free app that tracks both food and activity. Aim for four 6,000-step or 55-minute moderate-paced walks per week. Use the app to get 100 grams of protein daily while keeping overall calories down (this protects metabolism-boosting muscle during weight loss). To amp up results even more, include any (or all!) of the following in your menus.

Iced green tea

In a Tufts study, overweight walkers sipping about 32 oz. of the drink a day burned 25 times more fat than diet soda drinkers.

Old-fashioned pickles

Refrigerated pickles made with saltwater brine (not vinegar) are rich in probiotics shown to help burn 12x more fat during exercise.

A salmon supper

Canadian scientists say 3 grams of fish oil a day (from a supplement or 6 oz. salmon) blasts up to 27% more fat.

Bonus: This smoothie will boost your burn

Slow Walk: Banana smoothie with a paper tube and mint. Bananas are whole and cut on a gray background

Simple, delish and packed with burn boosters like MCT oil, which is proven to rev fat metabolism by 11% when we’re active.


  • 1 cup green tea or coffee, cooled

  • 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

  • 1 frozen ripe banana, in chunks

  • 1 Tbs. flax or chia seeds

  • 1 Tbs. MCT oil

  • Cinnamon to taste


  1. Blitz all ingredients. Add healthy sweetener, if desired.

Serves 1, 347 calories, 15 grams of protein

For more on walking, click through the links below!

Women Over 50 Are Losing 100+ lbs Without Dieting Just By Walking First Thing In the Morning

Pain Doctors Share Natural Ways to Dodge Lower Back Pain When Walking