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Over the past few years, walking and staying active have honestly become trendy. Hitting a certain number of steps for the day and corporate walking challenges have helped to improve daily physical activity. In fact, the US Department of Health and Human Services advises that adults should move more and sit less throughout the day, and they urge that some physical activity is better than none. If you are trying to manage your weight, walking can be a useful weight management tool. Here’s everything you need to know about walking for weight loss, including our tips and tricks for maximizing your stride.
Research continues to show that overall regular exercise is beneficial for your health, but walking itself has several benefits which include:
- Improving heart health: We know that heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, so keeping our hearts top of mind should be a priority. Research suggests that walking can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and also improve longevity.
- Promoting mental health: Taking care of yourself, mind and body, is so important when it comes to wellness and holistic health. Walking regularly can improve a person’s cognition and also help decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Combating obesity: Obesity puts us at risk of several chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and even certain cancers. Research shows that walking is decreased in obese individuals and also declines with weight gain. Staying active is imperative to help fight obesity and manage your weight.
- Maximizing your NEAT: Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (a.k.a. NEAT) is essentially the energy expended for anything besides formal exercise and sleep. Walking, doing the dishes, cleaning the house, and just general movement throughout the day all contribute to your NEAT. If you are walking for weight loss, NEAT can be a great tool for helping you achieve your goals. Over time, NEAT really can build up and is what I attribute to helping me lose the last five pounds of my 30-pound weight loss journey. Going for a walk a few times a week can lead to you burning upwards of 200 calories. When all is said and done for the week, that can add up to a substantial caloric deficit with just minimal effort.
Walking for Weight Loss Tips
- Check the weather: The last thing you want is to get caught in a rainstorm in the middle of your walk (which has happened to me several times, so learn from my mistakes). I like to take a look at the weather report in the morning to see when the best time for my walk would be. If I normally walk at around 5 p.m. but the weather report expects rain, then I may reschedule my walk for lunchtime. And always carry a charged phone with you just in case the weather takes a turn and you need someone to pick you up.
- Hydrate: If you're heading out for a long walk, you'll want to make sure that you are hydrated. Try to stay hydrated during the day and drink two cups of water at least 30-60 minutes before your walk so it's out of your system (and you won't have to use the bathroom). When you return from your walk, make sure to down a glass of water to rehydrate the body. Avoid any sugary sodas or electrolyte drinks; if you’re walking at a moderate intensity, water will do just fine to rehydrate the body.
- Get the right gear: Toss away the old flip-flops and opt for a good pair of sneakers. This will help with posture during your walk and can also reduce risk of injury. Plus, if you have the right sneakers on, it can help improve your stride and make walking a longer distance more comfortable.
- Focus on form: Walking itself doesn’t take much skill and is very natural, but certain posture and form cues can help enhance your walk. Focus on keeping your chin up and shoulders square. Your core should be activated and your back should be nice and straight. Most importantly, your glutes should be engaged with every step and try to think about tucking your butt inward. You'll want to land on your heels and roll forward to push off of your toes with each stride.
- Pick up the pace: Walking in intervals is a great way to help you burn more calories and keep your walk interesting. When it comes to walking, there are three different types of paces: stroll (similar to window shopping, about a 3/4 difficulty on a scale of 10), brisk walk (making an effort here, about a 4/5 difficulty), and power walk (on a mission, about a 5/6 difficulty). Warm up with a stroll, then aim for a brisk pace throughout your walk, and push to a power walk pace every five minutes to get your heart rate up. See how long you can maintain a power walk pace for and then try to increase it by a few seconds every time you go out for your walk. Power walking for weight loss can make a big difference in your overall health.
- Set a goal: How far can you walk in 30 minutes or in 1 hour? In order to optimize your walking pace, try to aim for 1.5 miles per 30 minutes and 3 miles per hour, which is a brisk pace of about 20 minutes per mile. If you can’t commit to walking for a full hour or 30 minutes, do what you can, anything is better than nothing and can contribute to your daily steps tremendously.
- Walk on an incline: If you’re indoors, a treadmill will allow you to manipulate your incline and that can enhance the caloric burn of your walk. If you’re outside, try to opt for a hilly area to optimize your walk. Research suggests that increasing incline can enhance the intensity of the workout while also reducing impact on the legs and joints.
- Walk with a friend: An accountability buddy can help you stay on track and make that daily walk non-negotiable. Try to find a friend, family member, or co-worker who will go for a walk with you a few times a week to keep you motivated and change things up.
Walking Calorie Calculator
Curious to see how many calories you burned on your walk? Carrying your phone with you and connecting to one of the apps below can give you an idea, but certain walking calorie calculators are available on the web to provide an estimate as well. Your calorie burn will vary greatly depending on several factors, including your weight, distance walked, incline, and terrain.
Walking for Weight Loss Apps and Resources
If you’re going for a walk by yourself, you’ll want to make sure you keep entertained and have something to look forward to. Here are a few of our favorite walking apps and audiobooks to get the most out of your walking time.
- Human: Tracks your steps and movement, focusing on active minutes rather than steps and helping you set challenges along the way.
- Peloton Digital: Offers several on-demand guided walking classes, as well as virtual scenic routes.
- ROAD ID: If you're concerned about safety while out for your walk, this app allows your friends and family to track you while you're out for a run and offers other safety features.
- Charity Miles: Turns your steps into money for charity and the app donates 25 cents to a charity of your choice for every walk/run mile you complete.
- Pacer: This pedometer built into your smartphone is great for keeping track of steps and activity throughout the day.
- Audible: Makes your walks educational by listening to an audiobook that can help pass the time and keep you engaged.
- Spotify: Offers a wide variety of music options, playlists, and podcasts to enjoy while you're out on your walk.
- Walk Your Way to Better Health: This walking plan from our sister magazine Prevention comes with a preloaded Mp3 player, dozens of walking workouts, and 140+ healthy recipes.