When you think of the best types of exercises for your health, high-impact activities like running or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) might come to mind. But you don't need to go all out to improve your fitness or burn serious calories. All you need to do is put on your sneakers and go for a walk.
Walking offers a ton of physical benefits — like maintaining a healthy body weight, improving your overall heart health and fitness and strengthening your muscles and bones — according to the Mayo Clinic. (Not to mention the many mental health advantages, like easing stress and anxiety, for instance.)
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Plus, walking can help you meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) recommendation of getting 150 to 300 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each week to maximize your overall health.
If you're looking to pay attention to the number of calories you burn during exercise, you can burn 500 calories with this activity. Ahead, we offer tips on how to burn 500 calories walking if that's your goal, plus a sample workout.
An Important Note on Burning Calories
Reducing physical activity to nothing more than calories can lead to disordered exercise behaviors. You can be sure you're making the best choices for your health when you prioritize workouts you enjoy — like walking — on a regular basis.
First, Here's How to Estimate Calories Burned
While how many calories you've burned is based on variables including your age, body weight, exercise intensity and exercise duration, you can use a formula to calculate your energy expenditure during your walking workout, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).
This formula involves using METs (metabolic equivalents of a task), which estimate the amount of energy you use during exercise compared to your resting metabolism. You can use this list compiled by the NASM, which tells you your amount of METs depending on your walking speed.
The formula: Exercise duration (in minutes) x (METs x 3.5 x weight in kg)/200) = total calories burned
If this seems like a lot of work (we totally understand!), there are many free online tools, like this physical activity calorie counter from the American Council on Exercise (ACE), that can help you figure out the number of calories you burned during a specific activity, like walking.
How to Burn 500 Calories Walking
As we mentioned above, the number of calories you burn walking (or doing any other activity, for that matter) depends on a few factors, including body weight and walking speed. As a general rule, a person who weighs more will burn more calories during the same workout as someone who weighs less because it requires more energy for a heavier body to function versus a lighter one, according to the Mayo Clinic.
How far you'd walk to burn 500 calories in terms of steps or miles will vary from person to person. See below for a breakdown of how much walking you need to do to burn 500 calories, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
If you weigh 125 pounds, here's how long you need to walk to burn 500 calories: You'd need to walk at a pace of 4 miles per hour for about 111 minutes. You could also burn 500 calories walking at a pace of 3.5 miles per hour for 125 minutes.
If you weigh 155 pounds, you'd burn 500 calories walking 4 miles per hour for 90 minutes, or walking at a pace of 3.5 miles per hour for about 100 minutes. Boosting your walking speed up to 4.5 miles per hour means you'll expend 500 calories in just 81 minutes.
If you weigh 185 pounds, you'd burn 500 calories in 75 minutes walking at a pace of 4 miles per hour, and expend the same number of calories walking 3.5 miles per hour for about 85 minutes.
Walking vs. Other Exercises
Although walking is easy on your joints and an excellent cardiovascular workout, walking burns significantly fewer calories than other cardio activities like jogging or swimming.
While a 155-pound person expends 500 calories walking 4 miles per hour for 90 minutes, the same 155-pound individual burns 500 calories in just 45 minutes jogging at a pace of 5.2 miles per hour — and expends 500 calories in as little as 40 minutes swimming the breaststroke, per Harvard Health Publishing. Therefore, swimming — which is also easy on your joints — is a higher calorie-burning alternative to walking.
But with all that being said, if you like walking more than running or swimming, don't force yourself to do those activities! As you can see, you can still burn 500 calories while walking — and you'll enjoy the workout more.
A 500-Calorie Treadmill Walking Workout
You can do the following workout on a treadmill if you have access to one at home or at a gym. If you don't have a treadmill, you can do this outside as well. A running watch or another activity tracker may come in handy to track your speed.
- Start with a warmup of 5 minutes at 2 mph at a 0 incline setting to get blood flowing to your muscles and let your heart rate rise gradually.
- After you feel you are warmed up, increase your speed or raise the incline of your treadmill a few degrees to create a pace that challenges you, but won't fatigue you.
- Experiment with 1 minute of brisk walking, light jogging or a higher incline followed by 5 minutes or more of relaxed walking.
- Finish your workout by decreasing your speed by 0.5 mph and incline by one degree each minute until your heart rate is close to normal.
If you're wondering how to burn the most calories on a treadmill and want to make this workout harder, you can walk faster (or run) and increase the amount of time you're upping your speed and incline for.
12-3-30 Treadmill Workout
A treadmill workout made popular on social media, the 12-3-30 workout involves walking at an incline of 12 at 3 miles per hour for 30 minutes. Depending on factors like age and body weight, your 12-3-30 workout calories burned may or may not equal 500 — meaning your calorie estimate may be less. However, this is still a great workout that will help you boost your cardio fitness and build muscle.
- Harvard Health Publications: "Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights"
- Mayo Clinic: "Walking: Trim your waistline, improve your health"
- CDC: "How much physical activity do adults need?"
- NASM: "METABOLIC EQUIVALENTS FOR WEIGHT LOSS: WHAT ARE THEY & HOW TO CALCULATE THEM"
- ACE: "Physical Activity Calorie Counter"
- Mayo Clinic: "Metabolism and weight loss: How you burn calories"