Can you lose weight just by walking?

S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise & Fitness), Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology Level 3
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20 July 2021

Can you lose weight just by walking?

While walking can help burn calories, research has shown that individuals lose weight best when the activity is maintained long-term and the pace of the walk is consistently high. The distance and the elevation gain of your walk are also important. To improve weight loss further, combine walking with a healthy diet.

How does walking help you lose weight?

Put simply, walking is a physical activity. Additional calories can be lost and weight loss improved by increasing the speed (1), distance and elevation gain of your walk.

However, walking will only help you to lose weight if it is sustained long-term and on a regular basis. In fact, long walking programs can result in more weight loss than short programs according to research. (2)

Walking should also be combined with healthy eating to support weight loss goals further.

Why diet is also key to weight loss

Walking alone is rarely sufficient enough to encourage significant weight loss. In research, the activity has often been combined with healthy dietary changes in order to measure the effect on weight.

It has been found, for example, that reduced calorie intake combined with regular, fast-paced walking can encourage weight loss in people who had previously led very sedentary lives. (3) It should be noted, however, that reduced calorie intake does not necessarily involve eating less. Instead, it should be about making healthier choices throughout the day, such as eating more fruit and vegetables, and cutting down on foods that are high in sugar and fat.

How much do I need to walk every day to lose weight?

The '10,000 step goal' has been given lots of attention in recent years but research shows that this might not actually be the optimum for supporting weight loss goals.

In one study, 92 participants were prescribed a walking goal of either 10,000, 12,000 or 15,000 steps a day for a period of 24 weeks. (4) The results showed that these individuals did not experience any significant differences in weight or fat gain, despite their different step counts.

This would suggest that aiming for over 10,000 steps a day should not be the ultimate goal when trying to lose weight. Instead, the emphasis should be on increasing the pace, duration and elevation gain of your walks in order to get the heart rate and breathing up.

That being said, the authors of this study did state that aiming for 10,000 steps a day or more could bring additional benefits, other than weight loss, such as improved mental wellbeing, so it should not be ruled out as a beneficial goal.

What other benefits can you get from regular walking?

Weight loss isn't the only benefit of regular walking. It can also bring the following:

  • Social connections
  • Improved mood
  • Reduced anxiety and stress
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased energy levels
  • Opportunity to explore new areas
  • And lots more – just check out my blog 'What are the health benefits of walking?' for more advice.

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How to start walking

Walking is a really cheap and accessible activity to help get your body moving more.

To get started walking, find yourself a pair of comfy trainers and clothing. You could join a walking club to encourage you to take part in the activity on a regular basis, or simply ask friends and family to take up walking with you.

From country parks to beaches, there are lots of places to get out and explore the great outdoors while walking. Speak to colleagues and neighbours to find out what kind of places they like to visit, or simply get outside alone and see what you can discover!

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