If you're looking to add some low-intensity activity into your life, walking is an easy-yet-effective exercise with many health benefits. But is walking 10 miles a day a good approach to lose weight?
Quick Facts About Walking 10 Miles a Day
- Walking at a brisk pace, you would burn approximately 750 to 1,100 calories, according to the American Council on Fitness (ACE).
- Is it safe? Yes and no — it depends on your fitness level and how many calories you’re consuming daily. You could be overdoing it.
- While walking has amazing health benefits, walking 10 miles a day is not the best approach for weight loss. Keep reading to find out why.
Effects of Walking 10 Miles a Day to Lose Weight
Walking is the most popular exercise among adults, according to the National Institutes of Health — probably because it requires nothing but your legs and costs nothing but your time.
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Walking keeps the heart strong, which decreases your risk for cardiovascular disease while improving muscular endurance and bone strength, ultimately leading to a reduced risk of osteoporosis, per the Arthritis Foundation.
Furthermore, walking can help lower blood pressure and heighten your mood, and in no time, sleep can also be improved, leading to increased energy levels. So, what about weight loss?
Benefits of Walking 10 Miles a Day for Weight Loss
First things first — to try to safely lose 1 to 2 pounds weekly (the recommended amount), you need to create a calorie deficit of approximately 500 to 1,000 calories a day from your typical diet, per the Mayo Clinic. And because it's not so easy to cut all those calories out of your daily diet, walking could help out, because it's a cardio exercise — and cardio burns calories.
If you're actually walking 10 miles, you could be burning up to about 1,100 calories daily, depending on your weight, pace and incline. (This physical activity calorie calculator from ACE can help you get a better approximation.) Depending on how much you eat, you may reach the desired calorie deficit range without having to significantly change your eating habits. (But keep in mind that healthy eating habits are crucial for maintaining weight loss.)
Cons and Potential Risks of Walking 10 Miles Daily
Of course, with all the benefits mentioned above, there are drawbacks and potential risks that come with walking 10 miles a day that ultimately don't make it a great approach for losing weight.
1. Risk of injury: Are you really ready for those 10 miles? In other words, would walking that much be overdoing it physically for your current fitness level? Balance and increasing your activity gradually is key when it comes to working out, which means not being overly ambitious when you start a new exercise program. Walking 10 miles daily can increase your risk of soreness, injury and fatigue, according to the Mayo Clinic — especially if your body isn't ready for it physically.
2. Risk to your mental health: It can also get you too focused on the numbers if weight loss if your sole goal. Some people may develop a compulsion with having to walk 10 miles or having to burn X-amount of calories each day, according to a March 2017 article in Psychological Research and Behavior Management. (Note that this can happen with any type of exercise.)
2. It's not magic. As stated before, walking 10 miles a day and burning that many calories might aid in weight loss, but you also need to eat a healthy, balanced diet and watch your calories. You can very easily put back half or all of those calories burned by mindlessly snacking or eating a heavy meal. And sometimes, it just may not be the right exercise for you. Everyone reacts differently.
"For most people, exercise alone does not generate a significant amount of weight loss," obesity medicine physician and nutrition expert Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "It typically causes weight stability and maintenance. For many people, they can eat well and exercise and still have severe obesity because their brain is defending a high set-point for weight as it tells them to eat more and store more."
3. Time: The amount of time it takes to walk 10 miles a day is a big factor. If you're walking at 4 miles per hour, which is considered very brisk (that's a 15-minute mile), 10 miles would take you 2.5 hours. A slower pace would obviously take you longer. If you have time to kill — great. But everyday responsibilities can get in the way, making a 10-mile walk a not-so-time-efficient way to burn calories.
4. Adapting: Exercise routines that are the same day after day may cause you to hit a plateau (and get bored!). "If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you," says Laura Chapman, NASM-certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist at Arforse in Freehold, New Jersey.
She says that your body has the ability to adapt to everything — like the number of calories you consume as well as the amount and type of physical activity you do. If you consistently do the same cardio regimen (i.e. long-distance walking), your body will develop a tolerance, which makes it more efficient but also decreases caloric expenditure. You won't see the progress you're looking for until you make a change or level it up.
Maximize Shorter Walks for Weight Loss
Shorter, more strategic walks may be the way to go if you want to walk for weight loss. Shorter jaunts lower your risk of injury from overdoing it and demand less time from your day, and you can maximize them in several ways to make them more effective for weight loss.
Adults should be getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity cardio throughout the week, according the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. However, if you have weight loss in mind, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends around 250 minutes or more. That's about 50 minutes of walking five days per week.
In order to get the most out of your shorter walks, try to:
1. Walk faster: The faster you move, the more calories you burn, according to ACE.
2. Walk on an incline or uphill: This causes your body to work harder, according to the Cleveland Clinic, which burns more calories. The calorie burn is almost doubled when you go from a flat surface to a 12 percent incline on a treadmill, for example.
3. Do interval walking: Incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into your walks by including include several bursts of high-intensity activity followed by lower-intensity recovery times, according to the ACSM. You can alternate power walking every 2 to 3 minutes with a 1-minute moderate recovery pace for 30 to 40 minutes total. This type of workout will burn more calories than a steady-paced activity.
- National Institutes of Health: "The Benefits of Walking"
- Arthritis Foundation : "12 Benefits of Walking"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories": Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"
- Mayo Clinic: "Walking: Is it Enough For Weight Loss?"
- Psychological Research and Behavior Management: "Compulsive Exercise: Links, Risks and Challenges Faced"
- Fatima Cody Stanford, MD
- Laura Chapman, NASM-certified personal trainer
- Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: "Active Adults"
- American College of Sports Medicine: "Starting a Walking Program"
- Cleveland Clinic: "What Is the 12-3-30 Workout? And Does It Work?"
- American College of Sports Medicine: "High Intensity Interval Training"