Walking can be a great exercise for weight loss if you do it in the right way. It’s important to keep in mind that walking is not a substitute for other forms of exercise. It’s important to get your heart rate up and challenge yourself with different types of workouts, so that you are getting the maximum benefits from each one.
However, walking can be an excellent part of your workout routine because it is something that just about everyone can do. It’s also easy to find time to walk during the day—whether it’s on your lunch break at work or after dinner when the kids are put down for bedtime.
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Is Walking A Good Exercise For Weight Loss
If you want to burn fat, you need to be exercising regularly, which should include strength training and getting in some effective cardio workouts. However, it’s ridiculously easy to get caught up in trying to figure out what the best workouts are to burn calories, slim down, and lose fat. After all, there are so many options and activities you can pick from: HIIT, circuit training, fitness classes, dancing, running, circuit training, etc.
It doesn’t get talked about a lot, but one underrated and overlooked activity that burns fat is walking. In many ways, walking can be superior to other cardio exercises, considering it’s low impact, less stressful on the central nervous system, and can be done for a long time and distance.
Of course, you want to be getting in your daily steps, aiming for at least 10,000, in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Even though you may have worked out for the day, if you’re still sitting for 6-8 hours, you’re considered sedentary, which has several health complications if you don’t counteract that inactivity.
So, whether you’re working out regularly or looking to make walking a primary activity in your life, throw in these walking workouts as part of your routine (either after your training session or on a separate day) to burn fat fast and see results.
Fast-Paced Walking Intervals
Begin walking as fast as you can for 30 seconds, then slow it down to an easier pace for 45 seconds. Once the 45 seconds are over, pick up the speed with a fast walk for 30, rest 45, and repeat. Alternate between the fast and slow paces for at least 15-20 minutes.
Incline Treadmill Walk
Hop on a treadmill and set the incline up to its highest level (usually 15 degrees). Pick a speed at which you can maintain a very fast walk (I like 3.0-3.5mph to start) and do it for 15-20 minutes. If done right, you should be working pretty hard towards the end of the session.
Stair Walking Workout
Find a place in your city or neighborhood that has a high amount of steps. Walk your way up to the top, then come all the way down under control. Once you’ve reached the bottom, rest 1-2 minutes and perform another round up and down. Aim for 8-10 rounds total.
Set a timer for 30 seconds, and alternate between the following activities back-to-back, aiming for 10-15 minutes total:
Fast Paced Walk: Begin walking at a very fast pace that you can maintain for 30 seconds.
Butt Kickers (above): With your hands out to your sides, begin kicking your heels back towards your butt, flexing your hamstrings with each rep. Perform for 30 seconds.
And two more options next…
High Knees: Keeping your torso upright with your core tight, begin marching your knees up above your hip back and forth.
A-Skips: Perform the movement by taking one of your hands and the opposite knee and throwing them up in a mini jump. Land soft and repeat with the other side. Perform for 30 seconds.
And there you have it! A series of walking-based workouts that burn fat fast.
Walking Plan To Lose Weight
“There are numerous benefits to beginning a walking regimen,” says April Hartsook, master coach, personal trainer and founder of the Want Different Do Different movement.
Aside from the visible changes that will become physically evident with a regular exercise program, some of the other benefits include:
Improving Heart Health
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. Research published in 2019 in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity suggests that getting active is one of the most effective things we can do to increase our cardiovascular health, and walking is one of the easiest ways to get moving.
In addition to improving cardiovascular health, losing weight can also help decrease our risk of other chronic diseases like diabetes and certain forms of cancer.
Reducing Chronic Disease Risk
In addition to these life-changing benefits, Hartsook adds that the incentives don’t stop there: “Walking can help stop bone loss, boost immune function, ease joint pain, lower blood sugar, improve your overall mood and burn calories for weight loss.” In fact, a 2021 study found that walking just 20 minutes per day can help you live longer!
What to Know Before You Start Walking for Weight Loss
Hartsook says, “Before beginning any exercise regimen, be sure and discuss your goals with your doctor to ensure you are given a green light to begin.”
It’s also worth looking into your maximum heart rate for your age. According to Hartsook, a popular calculation is: 220 minus your age = Maximum Heart Rate (MHR). “Once you have calculated your MHR, you will want the intensity level of your walk to put you at 60% to 70% of your MHR. In other words, it’s not necessarily about how fast you walk, it’s about getting your heart rate up. Swinging your arms, increasing your steps per minute and consistent forced-exhale breathing helps push that heart rate.”
CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES / AJ_WATT
Tips for Walking for Weight Loss
Set a Goal
“Make it about more than just the scale,” says Hartsook. “Sign up for a local 5K event for a good cause. Having an end goal will keep you on task.”
If you are just starting a walking exercise routine, don’t be unrealistic and set out to walk 10,000 steps in one go. Increase incrementally to remain motivated and successful. For example, if you are comfortable walking for 30 minutes, consider bumping that number up to 45 minutes and becoming comfortable with that benchmark before increasing again.
The human body is largely comprised of water. Therefore, it’s especially essential that you remain hydrated throughout the day and rehydrate after returning from your walk. If you’re going on an extended walk, consider carrying a water bottle or wearing a hydration pack.
One of the biggest benefits of walking is that it requires minimal gear to get started. However, a good pair of walking shoes is essential to preventing injury while providing adequate support and cushion for your feet.
Hartsook adds, “If you are unsure what shoe to buy, visit your local running store for proper fit, size and shoe selection.”
Check the Weather
Weather changes can easily derail your plans to stay on task. To avoid this, check the weather each morning and plan accordingly. Download a local weather app that will allow you to gauge the weather trend for your workout window.
Also, dress appropriately for the weather. Hartsook suggests choosing lightweight fabrics and light-colored apparel for the warmer months while not forgetting to apply sunscreen and wearing a hat or visor to protect your face.
Get a Walking Buddy
Leash up your pup or “enlist a neighbor, friend or family member who will help keep you accountable and committed to reaching your goals,” Hartsook says.
Make a Playlist or Download an Audiobook
“Make yourself a good playlist by choosing songs with a high tempo (170 bpm) and motivating lyrics to help you push farther longer,” exclaims Hartsook. “Think about songs that make you smile and feel good. In other words, let the music help put a little pep in your step.” Or, consider downloading an audiobook or podcast to listen to while you walk.
Plan and Vary Your Route
Walking in your neighborhood can be convenient, but consider choosing a different route once or twice a week to avoid monotony. Also, downloading a fitness app to your phone or wearing a fitness tracker is a great way to track your progress.
Stretching before and after your outing can prevent injury and increase flexibility. Search on YouTube for an easy (and free!) stretching routine that’ll make you feel limber.
Walking for Weight Loss Plan
Hartsook says, “Every person is different. That makes it difficult to prescribe a one-size-fits-all approach, as calorie burn and weight loss will occur based on overall effort, nutrition and starting weight.”
Therefore, discussing with your health care provider a plan that caters to your specific needs and goals is important.
Walking for weight loss should begin with an easy to moderate plan of time, pace and distance, as well as the number of days of walking each week. And remember, consistency is the key to a successful plan.
“In general, individuals who are not used to walking more than 20 minutes at a time should begin with 10- to 15-minute walks two to three times a week at a brisk pace,” says Hartsook. “As mentioned above, your pace should be determined by your maximum heart rate. An easy calculation is 220 – your age = your MHR. Once you have your MHR, you should walk at 60% to 70% (denoted as ‘brisk’ below) of that MHR. This ensures maximum calorie burn.”
Hartsook adds, “In order to maximize your effort to lose weight, your calorie burn has to be high enough to offset your total caloric intake. So, an overhaul of your nutrition will help speed up the efficiency of your walking efforts to lose weight.”
Here’s a basic plan from Hartsook for anyone looking to begin their journey to losing weight with a walking plan.
Walk three times a week, allowing a rest day or two in between to allow the body to acclimate to new movements.
- Monday: 10-minute brisk walk
- Wednesday: 10-minute brisk walk
- Saturday: 10-minute brisk walk
Walk four times a week and increase your time, allowing a rest day in between.
- Monday: 15-minute brisk walk
- Wednesday: 12-minute brisk walk
- Friday: 15-minute brisk walk
- Saturday: 12-minute brisk walk
Walk five times a week and increase your time, allowing one or no rest day in between.
- Monday: 18-minute brisk walk
- Wednesday: 15-minute brisk walk
- Friday: 18-minute brisk walk
- Saturday: 15-minute brisk walk
- Sunday: 15-minute brisk walk
Walk six consecutive days this week and increase your time, allowing one rest day at the end.
- Monday: 20-minute brisk walk
- Tuesday: 15-minute brisk walk
- Wednesday: 20-minute brisk walk
- Thursday: 15-minute brisk walk
- Friday: 20-minute brisk walk
- Saturday: 15-minute brisk walk
- Sunday: Rest
Walk for 25 minutes each day except for Sunday, which is your rest day.
Walk for 30 minutes each day.
The Bottom Line
“The most important thing to remember when beginning any weight-loss journey is that it takes time,” says Hartsook. “Walking for weight loss is an excellent way to improve your overall health and wellness; however, the scale cannot be the only determining factor of your success. Take note of how you feel, how your clothes fit, how much less you get out of breath, and use those self-esteem boosters to help keep you moving forward.”
For a little final motivation, Hartsook adds, “In order to achieve the results we are seeking, our efforts must equal our expectations.”
The Best Time for Walking
Walking in the Morning
If you’re the type of person that usually gets up pretty early, you can easily fit a morning workout into your schedule. Here’s why you should do it:
- Going for a 45-minute brisk walk in the morning can help you reduce your appetite during the day and hence prevent you from adding those unwanted extra pounds.
- Studies have shown that working out at 7 A.M. can help you alter your body clock for the better. You’ll be more vigorous in the morning and fall asleep earlier in the evening, making sure you get the right amount of rest each night.
- According to an article published in the American Psychological Association, exercising in the morning can foster the development and maintenance of healthy habits.
- A morning walk can help you reduce stress, clear you mind of negative thoughts and improve productivity throughout the day
- There’s a lower level of air pollution early in the morning, in comparison to other times of the day.
As you can see, there are plenty of benefits of walking in the morning. Of course, there are cons as well. Let’s take a look:
- If your goal is to lose weight, you may want to opt for a late afternoon or evening workout. A study published in the Current Biology found that people burn more calories in the second part of the day in comparison to early morning.
- Your body temperature is lower in the morning, which means you’ll feel less energetic than in other times of the day.
- Your body can feel rather rigid first thing in the morning. Your muscles are colder and stiffer, and that’s why it’s necessary to warm up and do some stretching. This way you’ll properly prepare your body for a brisk walk or jog and avoid injuries.
Walking in the Evening
If you’re not an early riser or you’re pretty busy during the first part of the day, an evening exercise may suit you just fine. Here are the benefits of walking in the evening:
- You burn more calories than in the morning, which can aid you with your weight loss goals.
- According to research, exercising in the evening can be an effective way to control your blood sugar level.
- Studies have shown that a post-dinner walk can help you digest your food in a more efficient manner.
- Going for an evening walk is a great way to let go of all your worries and relax after a long day. During a 30-minute walk you get to clear you mind and can also spend some quality time with your family.
- Contrary to popular belief, exercising later in the day does not disrupt your sleep. Going for a later walk will help you relieve tension and rest better at night. Just make sure you don’t get into bed immediately after your workout, so you can allow your body to wind down.
- Your muscles are considerably warmer and more flexible, which means there’s a lower risk of injury.
Exercising in the evening does come with a multitude of benefits. Naturally, there are disadvantages as well:
- Safety concerns. Walking alone in the dark is not as safe as doing it in the early hours of the morning.
- The air pollution is usually at its highest peak at this time of day. Therefore inhaling various toxic pollutants during your workout may have a negative effect especially on your cardiovascular health.
- Fatigue factor. After working hard the entire day, going for a walk may not be your top priority. There can be evenings when you’ll struggle to find the motivation to walk for 30 minutes.
Always Track your Progress
No matter if you decide to walk in the morning or in the evening, it’s a great idea to track your physical activity. This way you’ll have a clear picture of how much you’re actually moving instead of overestimating or underestimating your performance. Not only that, but tracking your activity will give you the chance to create a clear fitness goal for yourself, to monitor your progress and find the motivation to reach and even surpass your target.
In order to track your walks you don’t really need to purchase an additional fitness tracker. All you really need is your phone. Just download a pedometer app like our own ActivityTracker and you’re all good to go. The app will automatically record your physical activity during the day and show you all the fitness metrics that matter: the steps taken, the amount of calories burned, the distance walked or the total time spent active. You’ll be able to set your own goals and always be up-to-date with your activity, including on an hourly basis.
The Bottom Line
Which exactly is the right time to exercise? Well, the one that can best integrate with your schedule, needs and lifestyle. If you like to get up early in the morning and have the necessary time, don’t hesitate to go for a 30-minute stroll. On the other hand, if you’re a night owl, go for a walk later in the evening.
The most important thing is to fit those 30 minutes of exercise into your daily schedule, regardless of the part of the day. Creating such a beneficial habit and sticking to it will only lead to a better health and a better quality of life.