How Much do You Really Need to Walk to Lose Weight?

Marc Lindsay
by Marc Lindsay
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How Much do You Really Need to Walk to Lose Weight?

Regardless of age or fitness level, a dedicated walking program coupled with proper nutrition can be an excellent way to lose weight. To do it right and reach your goals, you’ll need to make sure you’re walking far enough, at the right intensity and paying attention to your diet.

Here’s what you need to know and how to get started:

WALKING DURATION AND WEIGHT LOSS

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), individuals should aim to participate in a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day or 150 minutes per week. While this can help you get on track in terms of cardiovascular fitness and combating other health conditions, if you’re looking to lose weight, you’ll probably want to do a little more.

For individuals who are obese and trying to lose weight, or anyone looking to keep the weight off, the ACSM recommends bumping this number up to 200–300 minutes per week (3.3–5 hours). Breaking this down, a one-hour walk 4–5 days per week will be sufficient to achieve your weight-loss goals. Any additional time you spend exercising on top of this adds to your overall calorie burn and fitness level.

WALKING INTENSITY

Not all walks are created equal. It’s important to make sure your heart rate reaches a moderate-intensity level during your walk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), moderate-intensity exercise is defined as an activity that raises the heart rate to 50–70% of your maximum heart rate.

If you decide to up the intensity — either by adding resistance training in the form of weights or including short periods of running — exercising at a vigorous activity level (70–85% of your maximum heart rate) requires the duration of your walk to be cut in half to achieve the same benefits. In other words, a 60-minute moderate-intensity walk is the same as a 30-minute walk/run at a vigorous intensity level.

The most accurate way to measure intensity level is to use a heart rate monitor, but you can also keep track of perceived exertion. On a scale of 0–10 (0 is sitting, 10 is the highest exertion possible), moderate intensity is a 5–6, and vigorous activity begins at 7.

TRACKING MEALS

Calculating and recording your daily steps, mileage, time and exercise intensity is all important when you’re trying to lose weight. But the last part of the equation — nutrition — is equally crucial. Logging your food intake with MyFitnessPal as well as your workouts can help you get a more accurate picture of the quantity and types of foods you’re consuming. That way you can make informed decisions regarding smarter portion sizes and where you can cut excess calories to find a healthy deficit that allows you to lose weight and keep it off.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Start by walking a little more than you normally do each day until you can do an hour or more 4–5 times per week. If you keep to a brisk pace and pay attention to your nutrition, you’ll set yourself up for effective weight loss.

About the Author

Marc Lindsay
Marc Lindsay

Marc is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and is a certified physical therapy assistant. An avid cyclist and runner of over 20 years, Marc contributes to LAVA, Competitor and Phoenix Outdoor magazines. He is the former cycling editor for Active.com.

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12 responses to “How Much do You Really Need to Walk to Lose Weight?”

  1. Avatar Mike says:

    Why use the 0-10 scale? To my knowledge, the 0-10scale is used solely in clinical populations as Borg intended. Isn’t it more appropriate to use the 6-20 scale for apparently healthy populations? Also, you fail to mention that those people living with obesity should not increase the time and intensity of physical activity if they have comorbid conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc.
    The major issue with exercise prescription in various populations is the vast amount of misinformation being regurgitated to the masses by individuals who are not educated to do so. Simply exercising for 20 years does not make someone an expert in prescribing exercise. Please, read the research (not magazines, hearsay, or what you do) before telling people how to become physically active or prescribing physical activity. In addition, if you are going to use the ACSM guidelines, make certain you are doing so correctly.

    • Avatar Dan Dougherty says:

      So where should an obese person with history of a heart attack, pre-diabetic, high blood pressure go to get the right information? I need to lose atleast 100 pounds. How do I figure 50-70% of my maximum heart rate?

      • Avatar usa anon says:

        see your doctor — call your health insurance carrier ans see if they offer anything such as coverage for medical weight loss clinics

  2. Avatar usa anon says:

    the answer is —- a s-load of walking ———— an hour of walking 5 days a week would really eat into my TV time — however if you are not in shape to run or do HIIT classes, walking is a great way to start

    • Avatar Abrech says:

      If you’re concerned about TV time, you could always march in place while watching TV. I’ve incorporated this daily for at least 1 hour as well as walking a brisk 30 minutes during lunchtime. Doing this has definitely helped me get in better shape and lose weight.

  3. Avatar Barbara J Gardner says:

    I walk at least 5 miles 2 or 3 times a week along with weights. I cannot walk at a brisk pace because of my knees but I walk up and down at least 5 very tall hills , I am losing weight but not fast enough. Please help. What else can be done?

    • Avatar Briana says:

      I wouldn’t worry about losing weight fast enough. If you see progress, keep doing what you’re doing because that’s an accomplishment right there. Don’t try and rush the process. That way, when you do reach your goals, a healthier you will last longer because of the time you put in to succeed.

    • Avatar Oxrugger says:

      Barbara
      A few tips
      Don’t over hydrate. A little sip every mile should do and only little sips afterwards
      have a small protein snack with low carb 30 mins prior to walking and then try to avoid eat for an hour after finishing exercise. Let the body have time to demand to use up calories from storage rather than what is in the digestive system.
      Lastly avoid drinking when eating. wait say 30 mins until after food to have a drink of any type. This means the stomach acids are not diluted and are more efficient.
      Kia kaha

  4. Avatar SayNo2Caging says:

    If you go to a park to walk ride a bike and leave the car at home. It’s easy to reach moderate/maximum heart rate on a bike and get a good low impact warm up.

  5. Avatar Suzanne Elvidge says:

    This article suggests walking with weights but links to an article that says you shouldn’t walk with weights

  6. Avatar Sara says:

    Article’s fine… but the FONT on this web page is brutal! I seriously can’t read that…it’s way too opaque on desktop (fine on mobile). UX fail.

  7. Avatar Bowen says:

    I lost 40 pounds in 7 months from walking 1 – 2 hrs a day and eating less junk food.

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