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Walking for weight loss: Tips to get started

There are lots of benefits to walking, including weight loss.

Walking For Weight Loss: Tips to Get Started | Juniper

There are lots of benefits to walking: it’s a great stress reliever, it can lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health, and it has the potential to enhance your sleep quality. It’s also free and doesn’t require you to be a total fitness junkie to get started [1][2].

But, can you also use walking for weight loss?

You absolutely can. You might think you need to hit the gym for an hour every day to shed unwanted body fat, but in actual fact, you can lose weight by walking.

Here’s how.

Does walking help with weight loss?

It certainly does!

Weight loss can be summed up as burning more calories than you consume (this is known as a calorie deficit). In other words, it’s about cutting the number of calories you get from food and drink (perhaps by adopting a healthier diet) and upping the number of calories you burn, through exercise [3].

While it was previously thought that you needed to do high-intensity physical activity to lose weight, more and more research is emerging that proves walking’s weight loss powers.

In a 2022 study on post-menopausal women, the researchers found that both fast (6.6km per hour) and slow (5.5km per hour) walking resulted in overall fat loss. Interestingly, in overweight or obese participants, slow walking was found to be more effective for losing weight [4].

Another study by Harvard found that walking can actually offset the effects of the genes that promote weight gain. The study assessed 32 different genes that contribute to obesity and found that, among participants who took a 1-hour brisk walk each day, the obesity genes were halved [5].

That being said, there is some research indicating that walking alone won’t necessarily help you lose weight. Like any weight loss approach, it needs to be combined with lower calorie consumption to enter an effective calorie deficit and lead to fat loss [6].

How many calories can you burn while walking?

Now that we’ve nutted out the basics of walking to lose weight (ensuring calories out is more than calories in, or entering a calorie deficit), how many calories can you actually burn by taking a walk?

A brisk 30-minute walk will burn around 150 calories [7]. 

However, many variables can affect how many calories you use during a walk — like your weight, sex, the speed you’re walking, and whether you’re adding any resistance, like going uphill, walking through rougher terrain or wearing a backpack.

As an example, though, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) estimates that someone weighing 90kg who walks briskly (5.5km per hour) for 30 minutes will burn around 170 calories. If they walk at a fast pace (8km per hour) they could burn up to 400 calories in half an hour.

On the other hand, the ACE estimates that someone weighing 60kg will burn 113 calories on a brisk 30-minute walk and 269 calories at a fast walking pace [8].

Obviously, these numbers could be vastly different depending on those variables we mentioned earlier.

How much do you need to walk daily to lose weight?

Most experts recommend sticking to a weight loss rate of around 0.5-1kg per week [9]. It’s also advised that you don’t overdo your calorie deficit, and instead drop your daily energy intake by about 250 calories and increase your daily energy output by 250 calories [8].

This results in a calorie deficit of about 500 calories every day, or 3500 each week — which also happens to be the number of calories required to lose 0.5kg of your body weight or the recommended amount [10].

Coming back to walking, this means you’ll need to walk briskly for at least 30 minutes every day to lose weight. Ideally, though, you want to try and build your stamina and fitness and work your way up to longer and more challenging walks — be it through a faster pace or by increasing resistance.

You can also aim for a certain number of steps. One study found that doing around 10,000 steps every day — with about 3,500 of those at a moderate-to-vigorous intensity — is linked with improved weight loss [11].

Tips to start walking for weight loss and increase the burn

Ready to hit the pavement? Here are some tips to get started and make your walks more effective.

Get your heart rate up

A faster pace won’t just improve your calorie burn, but it also offers several other health benefits. It helps boost your heart rate, in turn delivering oxygen and blood to your muscles, decreasing your cholesterol, and even lessening your risk of cancer and heart disease [12][13].

Walk at a speed that works to elevate your heart rate, like a brisk pace, or try walking uphill or upstairs to increase resistance.

In saying that, if you’re new to exercise, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with starting at a slower speed and sticking to flat ground. Work within a range that works with your current fitness level and see if you can build the pace and resistance over time.

You also don’t want to work your heart too hard, as this may overexert it. Slow down if you’re struggling to breathe or your chest feels tight.

Try using light weights

We know that increasing resistance can help you burn more calories through walking. It also builds muscle, which is important for boosting your metabolism and using energy when you’re not exercising.

To up the ante on your walks, try adding light hand weights — these could be small dumbbells, a couple of bottles of water or even some bags full of groceries. You can also add extra weight by wearing a backpack or weighted vest.

Create a walking plan

If walking is a new form of physical activity for you, you might find a walking plan beneficial. This allows you to work within your fitness range and build up to a faster speed and intensity over time.

For example, you could kick things off with a 15-minute walk 3 days per week, and continue that for a few weeks. Then, you could lengthen each walk by 5 minutes and try to add more days to your walking regimen. Eventually, you might find you can handle a 1-hour walk on most days of the week.

If you need a hand developing a walking plan, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional who can create a tailored strategy suited to your fitness level and weight loss goals.

As part of Juniper’s Weight Reset Programme, you get access to a team of weight loss professionals, including health coaches, who can help you establish an effective walking plan. 

To make your weight loss journey even more effective, you can also link up with dietitians who can guide you through appropriate dietary changes and, if suitable, access breakthrough medication that helps suppress your appetite and improve your metabolic function.

Easy ways to increase your walking step count everyday

The great thing about walking is that it’s really easy to incorporate into your day. In fact, you can even up your step count by undertaking several routine activities — this is known as incidental exercise.

Here are a few ways to do so:

  • Suggest a walking meeting with colleagues
  • Go for a walk on your lunch break to grab some food
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Walk to work instead of taking the bus or train (if it’s feasible, of course!). Alternatively, get off a couple of stops early
  • Take the longer route when you’re walking somewhere
  • Clean the house — tasks like vacuuming, mopping, and wiping down surfaces can all raise your step count.

Tips to make walking more enjoyable

If walking workouts feel a little dull, there are lots of ways to make them more enjoyable. Here are just a few:

Walk with a friend

If you’re planning to catch up with a friend anyway, why not meet for a walk? You may find that you’re focusing more on chatting than walking, making the whole experience much less drab.

Can’t meet up with a friend in person? Give someone a buzz and you’ll still reap many of the same benefits of hanging out IRL (including eliminating boredom).

You could also consider joining a walking group, which is a great way to make new friends.

Listen to upbeat music

The right music can make you feel more motivated to maintain a brisker speed. Put together a playlist of high-energy songs to help you keep up the pace.

Play your favourite podcast

In a similar vein, a podcast provides a great distraction from your walk. Plus, you can choose an episode of a particular length (say, 30 minutes or an hour) and walk long enough to ride out the entire thing — this will help if you’re trying to increase the duration of your walks.

Walk in new environments

Rather than circling the same block every day, head to new locations to keep your surroundings fresh and interesting.

Ideas include a nearby forest or national park, the seaside or the coast. Alternatively, simply venture to a new neighbourhood to explore the local scene.

Give yourself an exciting destination

You might find that walking for the sake of walking doesn’t give you much incentive to keep going. 

If you’re more inspired by getting to a particular point — especially if that point is an exciting one — don’t hesitate to use it as motivation. You could walk to get coffee first thing in the morning, to the shops to get some groceries or to a cafe to meet a friend.