Is Just Walking Enough to Lose Weight and Get in Shape?

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Is Just Walking Enough to Lose Weight and Get in Shape?

High-intensity interval training, kettlebells, CrossFit and other more extreme forms of exercise seem to get all the attention these days. But if you’re new to working out or are looking for something a little less intense, you may wonder: What’s wrong with a good, old-fashioned walking program?

The answer: Nothing! Walking is an excellent form of exercise that can help you build fitness and help you lose weight (so long as you are creating a calorie deficit, as with any form of exercise). In fact, it’s so beneficial that it’s worth adding to a healthy lifestyle even if you are already a regular, more advanced exerciser.

Walking is free and easy on the joints, and there’s no special equipment or skills needed to do it. It offers so many incredible health and fitness benefits, including boosting your immunity, strengthening your bones and even improving your sleep quality.

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Walking is also a simple way to get your weekly recommended dose of exercise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, and a brisk walk is a simple way to make sure you reach those guidelines.

Regular exercisers can use walking as a way to add more activity throughout the day. If you hit the gym often, but you’re sedentary for most of the day — as many office workers are — it may not be enough to stay healthy. One 2015 study found that a consistent 90-minute daily workout wasn’t enough to combat the ill effects of prolonged sitting. So even if you’re already following a regular workout plan, consider adding walks throughout your day. It’ll help break up long periods of sitting at a desk or in a car for improved health benefits without having to spend more time “working out.”

Once you’re a regular walker, consider adding a few additional elements to your plan. Including strength and flexibility training can help you gain strength and stamina, and they can also help you walk farther and faster — while staying injury-free.

In addition to regular aerobic exercise, the CDC recommends adults perform total-body muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days per week. After you’ve established your walking habit, include strength-training sessions on days you don’t walk to develop muscles that shape your body and protect your joints. You can even incorporate some of your strength training into a walk — check out this 30-minute walking and strength workout for some ideas on how to safely strengthen your body and stay low-impact at the same time.

Finally, once you’ve included a balance of resistance and aerobic training in your schedule, don’t forget the flexibility component. Stretching can improve your performance during your workouts, bolstering your strength, mobility and range of motion. Not sure how to begin stretching? Check out these 6 seated stretches for walkers that can be done easily at home using just a chair. Stretch sessions don’t require a lot of extra time or effort so you can add them into your schedule up to 7 days a week. Feel free to start with a more reasonable goal of of 2–3 weekly sessions.

The bottom line? Walking is a wonderful form of exercise and a great way to build a regular fitness habit, but if you limit yourself to only walks, you may be missing out on strong, shapely muscles and overuse injuries in the long term. Try adding regular strength and flexibility work to your weekly program once you’ve established a routine for best results and walking longevity.


  • DaDisplacedYooper

    Thank you Jessica! I lost 50 lbs in 11 months by walking. It took 5,000,000 steps to do it. Now at 2 years since I started this journey I am wholly committed to doing everything else you mentioned. I am bookmarking this MFP Blog for sure so I can share it with others to give them hope and courage to just get started.

    • Jessiemoon

      I’ve lost 30 in 4 months from just walking as well! I’ve begun incorporating a strength training dvd with kettlebells to change yo my routine, but the majority of my weight loss has been a result of good old fashioned walking and I’m so grateful! (I also altered my eating habits but not drastically)

      • April

        Nice job in 3 months

  • Michele Goodsell

    I have been walking 3 hours a day for a month and I have loss 15 pounds!!!!!!!! This is more than just weight loss, walking has relived stress, anxiety and depression. I feel a sense of peace; just me, my walking shoes, the sun and spirit.

    • iipostmvh

      Great job! I also started my my weight loss journey by walking 2 miles back and forth to work, always walking at lunch and of course my normal dog walking. I’ve since increased physical activity with interval walking/jogging, and karate, but I feel great. It’s so peaceful and a perk is I’ve lots weight and have increased my overhaul endurance. Good luck!

    • Tbone

      Congratulations Michele. So happy or you!

  • Kathy Bright

    Walking is also boring. Unless it’s a Jessica Smith walking video, which – having done a few on YouTube – I highly recommend.

    • danindub

      Pokemon Go is your friend 😀

    • Barb conklin

      I found walking boring until I got my I pod. It’s been my best friend. Along with map my walk and music I can walk 6 to 10 miles a day. I’m 73 so that’s not too bad for an old fart.

    • davedave12

      is Jessica a cousin of yours

    • greenandchic

      Really? I love walking! Then again, I’ve always lived in visually stunning areas/neighborhoods. You can’t beat the Berkeley hills or Laurelhurst Park in Portland.

  • Stacy Saunders-Pinney

    I lost over 30 lbs in 2 months just from walking and diet change. It did get boring so now when I walk on my treadmill, I watch Netflix! Sometimes I can walk almost 2 hr and not realize I just did almost 7 miles. Typically I do 4-6 miles a day and try to do those in 2 sessions because I have 4 kiddos. When I’m down more weight, I’ll begin to do strength training.

  • MarkO

    Exercise will do essentially nothing for weight loss. It’s all about the diet. Exercise is great for all the other health benefits, but its weight loss impact is minimal.

    • davedave12

      i think about 80/20 diet/exercise

  • danindub

    And if you ever needed a reason to go for a walk, there’s Pokemon Go… 🙂

    • davedave12

      if you are looking at your phone hem you probably are not moving fast enough to do any good — get your heart rate to 125 — or use the internet to figure out what your heart rate should be for cardio

      • you know nothing dave

        You’ve obviously never played pokemon go. You don’t need to always look at your phone; in fact, it has a feature that’ll vibrate when a pokemon pops up on your phone. Plus the fact that there’s a time limit to when a pokemon de-spawns, you sometimes really need to run to find stuff.

        • davedave12

          never will

      • LittleGirlLost

        I lost 2 pounds in the first 2 weeks of playing Pokemon Go. For people who live sedentary lifestyles even getting out and walking at all is an accomplishment. I used to not be able to walk very far with out getting winded. Now that I have Pokémon Go, I walk on a daily basis.

        • davedave12


  • greenandchic

    I love walking, but I’ve never though of it as an activity for weight loss. I walk on my “rest days” from lifting weights and HIIT.

  • disqus_fFpGV5ONBa

    Be sure to mention the necessity of taking care of your feet. Good, well-fitting shoes, socks and insoles are needed if one relies mostly on walking to create a calorie deficit. Blisters and plantar fascitis are common ailments for folks who walk a lot. These can destroy an excercise regime.

  • Chris Grotkopf

    I started my walking exercise program (10,000 steps per day) on January 1st, and I have lost 40 pounds so far! I am watching what I eat and I have stopped drinking soda. Also, just this past Saturday I completed my first 5k – I walked some, jogged some – but I did it!

    • Justice

      You are awesome. We’ll done.

  • Randy Clark

    I don’t know where you all live, but walking isn’t “peaceful” or “restful” or “a great way to meditate and relieve stress” where I come from. It doesn’t get below 100 degrees until after 8pm for one thing, and then you have the dog owners who don’t leash their dogs, and the traffic, and fumes…
    I’ll stick with the bike in the gym – but thanks.

  • Nari Soundar

    I walk in arboretums, near rivers on trails and also in some heavy pedestrian downtowns.. so nature or people both are fun to watch!

  • Walt Corey

    Frankly I, sort of, disagree. While walking, or any exercise, is extremely good for you, weight loss is not one of the reasons. ref:
    Fung J, Obesity Code, pgs 53-56
    Ross R., Janssen, Medical Science, Sports Exercise, 2001 June;33 (6 Suppl):521-527.
    Westerterp KR, Speakman JR; Obes (Lond) Aug 2008, 1256-1263

    Furthermore the Calories In – Calories Out theory of weight loss has, largely, been debunked.

  • robinbishop34

    A regular walking routine coupled with calorie restriction are the best way to get into shape and lose weight.

    Always remember that weight loss comes either from a calorie deficit, OR burning off enough calories through exercise to CREATE a calorie deficit. In other words, if you are not changing your diet at all, and beginning a regular walking routine causes you to finally lose, then you are simply burning off an over-consumption of calories.

    This may seem like common sense to some, but too many people believe the ONLY way to lose fat is through exercise which is untrue. I encourage people to regularly walk for the overall mental/physical benefits, but understanding your maintenance calories, and adopting a (simple) deficit plan made up of the proper proportion of macros will yield faster results and a much better body. It also allows a person to finally understand the mechanics behind controlling their weight w/o all the completely UNNECESSARY ups/downs, “platueas,” etc.

  • CalistogaKid

    No question about it. I did.

  • Debbie

    I started walking in 1/16 and I lost 50lbs. I walked briskly 4 miles with a 20lb weighted vest, 3lbs ankle weights and wrist weights. I also hired a nutrionist as my weight was topping 250lbs. Now I’m down to 195 as of today and I switched to a 40lbs weighted vest as my body got used to the 20lbs weight vest and I’m doing 5 miles. My goal is 150lbs, my blood pressure is under control now, good thing I was a former usps letter carrier in NY so I’m used to walking, if you eat right and exercise it can be done, that’s why I’m using the weighted vest to burn off more calories, i.e. Strength training.

  • Teacher Tom

    About 10 years back I realized I was overweight (fat). I started to walk. I walked 6 miles/day for 6 months. About 3 months in I started a little strength training. I dropped 40 lbs by the time I started lifting. I am now 62. I still walk about 3 miles most days and weight train.

  • sherrie

    I walk all the time at work.but when im not working i walk 2miles back and forth on the salt trail it reveal alot of stress.l just like the outdoor when the sun is shining.