While walking has an incredible number of health benefits, exactly how much weight you lose depends on how much you weigh, how fast you walk and the nature of the terrain you walk through or the incline of your treadmill. And as with any other form of exercise, how much you lose depends primarily on how well you control your diet.
Generally speaking, the faster you walk, the more calories you burn. Therefore, you can use a brisk, hour-long walk every day as part of a program to lose between 2 and 3 pounds per month.
Benefits of Walking
Sure, walking burns calories and helps you lose weight. But there's so much more to it! When you walk at a fast pace — say of 3.5 mph or more — you're doing aerobic exercise. It works the big muscles in your lower body, which need lots of fuel. Walking an hour a day also pumps up your breathing and heart rate, so your blood can deliver oxygen and fuel to your muscles and carry away waste.
Walking at least 30 minutes a day at a moderately intense lowers your risk for many health conditions, including viral illnesses, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and some types of cancer. Though it's easier on your joints than running, it does still have some impact on your ankles, knees, hips and spine, which strengthens your bones and reduces your risk for osteoporosis.
Walking to Lose Weight
The more you weigh, the more you burn walking for an hour. So a person who weighs 125 pounds burns 240 calories walking for an hour at 3.5 mph, but a 185-pound person burns 356 calories.
To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume. There are two ways of achieving this calorie deficit: consuming fewer calories and increasing your physical activity. That said, a starvation diet isn't the key to losing weight.
You'll get the best results by adjusting your diet to focus on nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and high-quality protein, and adding in lots of walking. Simply put, the more calories you burn — resulting in a larger caloric deficit — the faster the weight comes off.
As a rough estimate, you will lose 1 pound of weight for every 3,500 calories you burn beyond what you consume. Since the 185-pound person walking an hour at 3.5 mph burns 356 calories per day, if you're not eating more calories than you need to stay healthy, that amount of walking can equal roughly one pound of fat loss every 10 days. That's about 37 pounds a year without making any other changes.
If you want to see the weight come off a little more quickly, there are three things you can change:
1. Improve Walking Speed
Any kind of activity, even a leisurely stroll, burns calories, but the faster you walk, the more you burn. A 155-pound person burns 298 calories at 3.5 mph, 334 calories at 4 mph and 372 calories at the brisk pace of 4.5 mph. Walking one hour daily, this translates into 2.6 pounds per month at 3.5 mph, 2.9 pounds per month at 4 mph and 3.2 pounds per month at 4.5 mph.
2. Terrain and Incline
If you walk through hilly terrain, you burn more calories while going uphill than if you walk where it's flat. You can also increase the intensity and burn of your treadmill workout by walking on an incline. A 170-pound person who walks at a 3.5-mph pace burns 259 calories, but can boost the burn up to 408 calories walking uphill. This translates into a weight loss of a little less than 1 pound per week.
3. Count All Calories
Walking can enhance your health and improve your profile, but you won't see much weight loss if you don't also watch your calories. A few sodas, snacks or super-sized portions at the dinner table can more than make up for those calories you walked off. Load up on vegetables, avoid high-calorie and fatty foods and eat a balanced, properly portioned diet to assure that the weight you lose walking is lost for good.
What Do You Think?
Are you currently trying to lose weight? Or has walking helped you lose weight in the past? Do you prefer walking outside or on a treadmill? Do you think you'll change the way you walk for exercise after reading this article? Share your thoughts, stories and questions in the comments below!