If you're walking to lose weight, there may be no "magic" number of minutes, strides or miles you must complete to burn excess fat. Some studies show that you can lose weight and increase your level of physical fitness by simply walking 10,000 steps a day. However, your results also depend on the amount of energy behind your pace.
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Benefits of Walking
A comfortable pair of walking shoes and a stretch of open terrain may be all you need to get in physical shape -- and to lose or maintain weight. The American Council on Exercise states that this no-cost fitness program yields other health advantages as well, such as lowering your blood pressure, reducing your risk of diabetes and keeping your blood cholesterol levels in check. Depending on the length of your stride, 10,000 steps will carry you about 5 miles.
The University of Alberta published results of a walking study in the March 2010 issue of "Journal of Physical Activity and Health." A total of 128 inactive adults were randomly assigned to various groups. One group engaged in a fitness program four days a week; another group was given pedometers and assigned a walking program that involved taking 10,000 steps each day; and the last maintained their existing level of physical activity. After six months, researchers found that body mass index and waist circumference was reduced in all groups; however, only the fitness group noticed a change in rate of perceived exertion, or RPE. Researchers concluded that supervised training sessions yielded the best results when it came to reducing RPE and blood pressure; however, they further noted that "not other fitness and health-related variables compared with a pedometer-based walking program matched for total energy cost."
If you want to lose weight, the amount of energy you put into physical activity matters. According to Harvard Medical School, research shows that some people who walk 10,000 steps each day don't exert themselves enough for the activity to meet "moderate" criteria, while others who don't make this goal exercise at just the right intensity -- according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, walking on a level surface between 3 mph and 4.5 mph is considered a moderately exhaustive physical activity. Harvard states that walking energetically for 30 minutes is better for your cardiovascular system -- and better for weight control -- than taking 10,000 steps at an easy amble.
The U.S. Surgeon General and American College of Sports Medicine recommended that healthy adults put in a half hour of moderate-to-intense aerobic activity at least five days a week, but preferably as many days as you can. And, according to ACE, walking 10,000 brisk steps a day is consistent with these guidelines. However, Harvard Medical School reports that 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day might not be enough if you want to lose weight, citing data from the Institute of Medicine which suggests that an hour of exercise is better at burning up surplus calories. In addition, regardless of how many steps you take per day, you won't lose weight if your calorie intake still exceeds expenditure; so eat a healthy diet and watch your portion size.