Walking For Weight Loss: A Definitive Guide To Weight Loss By Walking

Table of Contents

In the weight loss industry, the only constant is the reality that people will change their opinions and recommendations about what is the best way to lose weight. 

One week it’s all about calorie balance, the next it’s all about hormone balance… 

One week, it’s all about walking for weight loss, and the next week they’re telling you that unless you’re doing high-intensity interval training you’ll never get fit and lean.

In today’s article, we’ll reintroduce you to our old friend “walking” and answer the questions, “Is walking effective for weight loss? If it is, how do we walk for weight loss, how much is enough, and how often?” 

Is Walking For Weight Loss Effective?

It seems that walking has gone out of style. In a world where everything in fitness seems to be about higher and higher intensities, leisure walking seems so “1980s”. 

Here’s why walking has fallen out of favor for many people who are trying to lose weight…

There are two “cults” in the weight loss and fitness industry: The “It’s All About Calories” camp and the “It’s All About Hormones” camp. 

If you subscribe to the “it’s all about calories” camp, walking looks like a loser because walking burns very few calories compared to jogging, running, high-intensity interval training, cycling, rowing, or pretty much any other form of exercise. 

So, in a world where the exercise that burns the most calories wins, walking looks like a big, fat loser. 

If you’re in the “it’s all about hormones” camp, once again walking looks like a bust because walking doesn’t cause your body to manufacture adrenaline, testosterone, and growth hormone to the same degree as H.I.I.T. and intense resistance training. 

So…walking, once again, looks like every wimpy kid in the movies BEFORE he beats up the bully and wins the heart of the school cheerleader. A total, and seemingly hopeless, loser. 

So, what’s the deal? Walking doesn’t burn a lot of calories like jogging nor does it trigger the fat-incinerating hormones like H.I.I.T., nor does it flood the blood with testosterone and growth hormone, like a good resistance training program. 

Walking looks like a LOOOOOOOOOSSSEEEER. 

Wait a minute Biff, here comes the karate kick to the face that turns this weakling into a winner…

Walking works for weight loss. (full stop)

The studies show almost unequivocally that walking can be an effective strategy for helping you to achieve your weight loss goals and, unlike other forms of exercise, is easy to do, requires no special equipment, and is unlikely to lead to injury. Let’s dig into the evidence. 

A study published in the Journal of Exercise Nutrition and Biochemistry showed the positive effects that walking could have on burning fat and reducing waist circumference in obese females. 

“The women in the study walked between 50-70 minutes 3 days per week for a total of 12 weeks. After the study, they found that the participants had lost an average of 1.5% body fat and 1.1 inches around their waists.” (medicalnewstoday.com)

Not bad for something as easy as walking…

Another study compared walking to cycling and swimming. During the course of the study, healthy, young women slowly, but progressively increased their physical activity to 60 minutes per day. After 6 months, the women who were walking lost 10% of their initial weight compared to 12% in the cycling group, and, sadly for you water mammals, no weight loss was noted in the swimming group. 

In addition, when researchers measured the arm fat (lovingly referred to as the “bingo wings” by many) both walkers and cyclers enjoyed significant and equal fat loss while the swimmers enjoyed no benefit to the bingo wings. (Am J Sports Med, May-Jun 1987;15(3):275-9.) 

Side note: I should point out for you swimmers out there that other research contradicts this study regarding the efficacy of swimming for fat loss.  In other trials, swimming was effective for weight loss. So don’t be disheartened by the results of this one study if you enjoy swimming. 

One of my favorite studies to date on walking is a bit of an extreme protocol but it shows just how effective walking can be and should lay to rest those naysayers that say that walking is not an effective form of exercise…

Warning though, I realize that this study is too extreme for most folks. The point of sharing this study isn’t to suggest that this extreme protocol is how we should implement a weight loss walking program, it’s just to show that walking can be an effective means of burning fat. In addition, it appears to burn fat without activating compensatory mechanisms even in ridiculous amounts (I’ll explain this in the next section), and finally it proves that these benefits can be sustained. 

In this study, overweight men were placed on an extreme 4-day walking program where they walked for 8 hours per day while only consuming approximately 325 calories per day in the form of liquid whey or sucrose. 

In the end, the goal was to induce a daily caloric deficit of approximately 5,000 calories per day using caloric restriction combined with walking. 

After the 4-day initial walking-plus-caloric-restriction program, the participants were started on a control diet with reduced walking, then after three days, they were simply followed for an entire year on their own with no prescribed intervention. 

Interestingly, after four days, the participants lost approximately 11 lbs of weight and around 5 lbs of body fat (mostly around the midsection). Then 1 month later after returning to a self-monitored diet and exercise, they continued to lose weight (around 8 pounds of body fat) despite returning to normal life. After 1 year of follow up, the participants had maintained approximately 4 pounds of weight  loss (Scand J Med Sci Sports, 25: 223-233.

Walking simply works, there is no doubt about it. When conditions are right, which we’ll discuss later, walking appears to burn fat and do so in a gentle enough way not to activate rebound eating and slothfulness normally associated with more intense steady-state exercise.

At Cut the Fat Podcast we refer to this rebound eating and slothfulness effect as the “Compensatory Engine”… 

Understanding the Compensatory Engine

Your metabolism is a stress barometer to the body. It’s constantly assessing the environment and having a two way conversation with the brain to strategize ways to enhance our chances of survival in a notoriously hostile environment. 

Excess energy deficit, i.e. starvation, is one such stressor that the brain is especially sensitive to because we evolved in an environment where famine was likely the greatest challenge to survival of our species. 

In a nutshell, when the cells of the body sense that we are either starving or burning ungodly amounts of energy (as in running on a treadmill for an hour or two), the body and brain activate a complex decentralized system which we call “The Compensatory Engine”. 

In essence, when a significant energy deficit is sensed by the body a number of things occur to slow fat loss..

  1. You get hungrier than normal in an attempt to activate food-seeking behavior
  2. You start to crave high-energy foods like sugar and fat.
  3. You get moody, also called being “hangry”. This was likely an evolutionary mechanism designed to decrease tolerance of other mammals creeping up on and eating your precious food stores.  
  4. You become subconsciously slothful. You fidget less and have less spontaneous movement to conserve energy.
  5. You become demotivated to move. One way to conserve energy is to move less. So yes, you fidget less and you feel less motivated to…do stuff except eat.
  6. Metabolism slows. Your body has lots of internal mechanisms to slow energy production and utilization. Thyroid levels may drop, insulin sensitivity may lower, muscle may erode, physical fatigue may settle in, and you may become depressed. 

The bottom line is the compensatory engine is a real thing. It’s one reason why starvation diets almost always fail, it’s also why so many studies on the effects of exercise on weight loss have failed to produce meaningful fat loss advantage compared to diet alone.

Worse yet, women appear to be more susceptible to compensatory mechanisms…

In other words, women are more likely to replenish the calories burned during exercise or excess dieting by unconsciously eating more and moving less when compared to men. 

Sadly, when research studies are tightly controlled they miss the influence of the compensatory engine on real life results.

For example, if I take a group of people, make all of their food for them, being sure to give them all the exact same number of calories, and then put them on an exercise program they may lose weight. Such a result may make you think that weight loss is all about calories. After all, we controlled their calories and they lost weight…  

Unfortunately, the research fails to take into account hunger, cravings, and unconscious snacking because the subjects were given calorie-controlled meals. Sure, the subjects lost weight, but if they’re hungry all the time then such a diet program simply won’t be maintained in real life.

In addition, if scientists weren’t monitoring their exercise and forcing the subjects to white-knuckle their way through workouts they’d likely be spending their waking hours on the couch from starvation-induced slothfulness rather than on a treadmill chugging away while hating life. 

Back to walking…

The compensatory engine may be one reason why walking can be superior to other forms of exercise if the goal is lasting weight loss. It seems to burn calories without activating the very powerful compensatory engine. 

Calories Do Matter A Lot, But a Calorie Deficit Isn't Enough

If you store more calories than you burn in a day then you will gain weight in the form of body fat. No question. That’s just true…

So the question isn’t whether or not we need a calorie deficit to lose weight, the question is, “How do we maintain that calorie deficit without being miserably riddled with hunger, cravings, slothfulness, low-energy, poor mood, and erratic sleep. 

Bottom line: Subconscious processes win every time. 

Hunger, cravings, energy, mood, and sleep patterns are mostly managed by parts of your brain that you can’t consciously control. You can’t force yourself to sleep…you can’t force yourself to be hungry, and you can’t force yourself not to crave sugar. 

Because these parts of the brain are older and deeper in the brain structure, they can override your less mature logical brain, the neocortex. Once hunger sets in, eventually you will cave in and eat whatever food is available…and, by the way, it’s not your fault. You are dealing with forces beyond your control and comprehension. 

Sure you can “white-knuckle” your way through life for a while, but eventually you’ll give in. 

This may explain why walking may prove to be a vital part of your weight loss program despite the fact that you can clearly burn more calories and make for a much larger calorie-deficit using other forms of more intense exercise. 

The take-home message is that a calorie deficit is required to burn fat, but it doesn’t matter if you lose weight only to gain the weight back a month later because of chronic hunger, cravings, and fatigue. The goal has never been weight loss…the goal is lasting fat loss.

 To succeed with a weight loss program, you must be able to achieve a calorie deficit without compensatory hunger, fatigue, slothfulness, mood, and sleep changes that ultimately wipe out the calorie deficit. 

Walking Is Less Likely To Make You Tired and Hungry

Walking appears to burn calories below the “calorie-deficit radar” because the system is tuned to guard against abrupt, massive declines in calories and energy stores. 

This doesn’t mean that more intense exercise doesn’t play a role in your weight loss plan, it does. For now, just understand that walking (more accurately, leisure activities – including walking) should be viewed as an important component of your weight loss program even though the calorie burn may appear to be minimal on the surface. 

Calories lost through walking may not be aggressively restore through the compensatory engine, meaning if you burn a calorie through walking, your brain may not force you to pay that calorie back later, which is often not the case with more aggressive steady-state exercise. 

When people jog, run, cycle, and do other steady-state exercise, often you will be met on the other side with more hunger, more snacking, and less satiety (meaning, you’ll require more food at mealtime to feel satisfied).

Walking Improves Mood and Motivation

According to one study, walking 30 minutes per day, all at once or broken into three 10-minute sessions, resulted in significant improvements in mood and self esteem, decreasing anxiety and depression. (. 2006; 8(2): 106). This is a big benefit, and sadly, is often underrated and underreported. 

One big factor that can play a big role in permanent weight loss success, that is often missed in research on diet and exercise, is the impact that physical activity can have on mood and motivation.

Walking helps to lower cortisol (a stress hormone that can trigger fat storage) while improving anxiety and decreasing feelings of melancholy. It has been said that exercise and activity is like injecting a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Valium into the body. This then feeds back to your overall lifestyle making it easier for you to stick to your healthy plan.

The Benefits of Walking Have Nothing to Do With the "Fat-Burning Zone"

I often hear fitness professionals touting the benefits of low-intensity activities like walking because they burn a higher percentage of fat per minute compared to jogging, running, cycling, and other higher-intensity exercise.

Though I agree that there are benefits associated with low-intensity activities like walking that you can’t get from more intense steady-state exercise, it’s not because you burn more fat from these activities…

The “Fat-Burning Zone” made famous in the early 2000s (mostly to sell heart rate monitors) suggested that because you burn a higher percentage of fat during low-intensity activity versus higher intensity exercise, then you’ll lose more body fat. Said, another way, if your goal is to burn fat you should not sprint or workout too aggressively because you’ll be burning mostly sugar rather than fat.

The only problem with this thought process is the fact that you burn far more total calories when you work out intensely. So much so, that you end up burning more total fat calories even though you are burning a lower percentage of fat calories per minute of exercise. 

For example, burning 400 total calories on a 30 minute run, where one in four calories comes from fat means I burn 100 calories of fat and 300 calories of sugar. Compare that to burning 100 calories on a 30 minute walk where three in four calories come from fat, I will only burn 75 calories from fat despite burning three times the percentage of fat calories with low-intensity activity (3 to 1). 

In essence, the benefits of walking have more to do with the fact that calories burned through low-intensity activity do not appear to get restored through compensatory hunger and slothfulness. So, walking may have more lasting benefit to fat loss goals because walking doesn’t make you hungry and tired NOT because of the magic of the “Fat Burning Zone”. 

I’ll also point out that high-intensity interval training has proven to result is significant fat loss despite forcing you to burn mostly sugar. 

In essence, calories lost via running are borrowed while calories burn while walking are owned. 

How Much Fat And Sugar Do You Burn During Walking

Using a measurement called respiratory quotient (RQ) we can determine how much sugar and fat you burn during a specific type of exercise. A brisk walk has a RQ of 0.8, which translates to 33.4% of calories coming from sugar and 66.6% of calories coming from fat (give or take). 

In an hour walking session that burns 250 calories, you’ll burn approximately 166 fat calories and 84 sugar calories. This amounts to approximately 18.4 grams of fat (equal to approximately 1.5 tablespoons of pure butter) and 16.8 grams of sugar (just over three teaspoons of table sugar). Of course, a lot of factors may push these numbers up or down, such as how fast you walk, how fit you are, and how much you weigh. 

It’s worth noting that many people consider walking a fat-burning activity, in fact, 1 in 3 calories burned during a walking session are from sugar and that is not a bad thing. Burning sugar helps to improve insulin sensitivity and open up channels within the cells to take up and metabolize sugar. This may explain at least some of the benefits of walking to decreasing diabetes risk. 

Is Walking Better Than Running? 

Better for what? Better for whom? 

These two questions may seem rhetorical, but they aren’t. First the obvious, if you are 70 years old and staring down the barrel of a knee replacement surgery, walking wins every time simply because you can’t run because of physical limitations.

Now the not-so-obvious…

In a long-term study on over 50,000 walkers and runners it was determined that statistically speaking, men of all weights and women with the most weight to lose (those in the upper 25% for BMI) lose more weight when they run compared to walking.

Women who fall somewhere in the middle (between mildly and moderately overweight) seem to do equally well with running or walking (i.e.lost about the same amount of weight during the study). 

If you were male (no matter the weight) or women in the heaviest group of the study, running appeared to lead to 90% greater weight loss compared to walking. To summarize some of the key points from this study:

  1. Practically everyone in the walking group lost weight during the course of the study, proving that walking is an effective strategy for weight loss.
  2. Walking was about as effective as running for weight loss in all women except those who were the heaviest.
  3. Walking and running were both effective for mitigating middle-aged weight gain, although running appeared to have an edge, especially in men who enjoyed 50% less weight gain during the course of the study when they ran.
  4. Although this study suggests that many people will do better with running versus walking, it can’t account for you as an individual. Some people end up ravaged with cravings and hunger when they run a lot and don’t end up with those same side effects when walking is implemented. Always remember, the collective “they” are not the “individual you”. 

(Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: April 2013 – Volume 45 – Issue 4 – p 706-713

So, is walking better than running or is running better than walking. The answer is, “Yes”. Yes, depending on your situation. The purpose of this article isn’t to suggest that running is better than walking, it’s to simply prove that walking can be an effective weight loss approach. 

Running burns more calories in a set time than walking. Running likely burns more total fat calories than walking as well. The question is, “Are you susceptible to the compensatory engine?” 

Should I Walk Fast or Slow?

Obviously, walking fast burns more calories than walking slow per unit of time. That may or may not translate into more weight lost on the scale. You also need to take into account your own abilities. 

If, for example, you have injuries or lack fitness, walking slow is good enough for now. If you want to know what the research says…

Most research had subjects walk at a “brisk pace”, which appears to convey the most benefit to health and weight loss. So, let’s talk about what this concept of “brisk walking” means…

How Is "Brisk Pace" Defined?

Walking at a brisk pace means you’ll be walking faster than you would normally (for example, faster than you would walk strolling through a mall or shopping center). 

Although your speed is determined, in part, by your fitness level, many fitness experts consider a brisk walking pace to be 100 steps per minute or 3 to 3.5 miles per hour. (healthcorps.org/what-does-brisk-walking-mean/)

The average walking speed of an adult is 3.1 mph (5.0 km/hr). (Walking: The Complete Book. New York, NY: Meyer & Meyer Verlag, 2005)

An easy way to think of “brisk walking” is to walk like you’re late for a meeting. 

Beyond the benefits of brisk walking to weight loss, it more effectively decreases the risk of all causes of mortality, including cardiovascular disease, when compared to slow walking. It should also be pointed out that the protective effects of brisk walking were greater in older adults compared to younger adults. So, the older you are the more benefit you can mine from walking. 

Walking speed may have more to do with the rate of fat loss compared to the amount of fat loss. This means that when you walk fast, you may be able to lose weight faster, but you risk the side effect of inadvertently activating the compensatory eating and slothfulness that many experience with more aggressive exercise. 

Always live with self-awareness. Walk as fast as you can walk without activating feelings of hunger, cravings, fatigue, and slothfulness. 

In the previously mentioned “extreme study” where participants walked 8 hours per day, the average walking speed was approximately 2.8 mph, slightly below the standard definition of brisk walking. 

Interesting note: Brisk walking for one mile in 15 minutes burns approximately the same amount of calories as does jogging an equal distance in 8.5 minutes. (General Pedestrian Statistics.” WalkingInfo. Accessed: December 26, 2012.)

In the end, walk as fast as you can, provided that you feel healthy, energized, and restored at the end of the walk. If you feel run down at the end of your walk, like you just worked out hard in the gym, you should decrease the intensity until you feel restored. Remember, walking is designed to leave you feeling restored and energized.

How Walking Speed Changes As We Age

Walking speed stays consistent in men and women until they reach 60 years of age and then starts to decline significantly; by age 80 walking speed has decline by 30%. 

Why is this important? 

Walking speed correlates with longevity. As you age, the slower you walk the shorter your life. 

Walking speed may be a barometer of overall health and wellness. If you maintain health and fitness into old age, you will likely suffer less disease and a slower aging process.

A slow walking speed may simply be an indicator of how healthy you are, rather than the cause of premature aging and an early death. Try to maintain a level of fitness throughout life where you naturally walk faster than your peers.

How Much Should You Walk To Lose Weight?

30 minutes is the “minimal viable dose” of walking needed to impact weight, but with walking the more the better! The same cannot be said about other forms of more intense exercise where there is a diminishing return on time invested and possible side effects as you exercise for longer periods. That being said, you start where you start and increase the amount as your fitness improves. 

You may have heard of the 10,000 step recommendation, which amounts to 5 miles of walking per day and I feel that this is a good goal for many. Keep in mind, this goal can be spread throughout the day and includes walking accumulated from chores and everyday activities.

After you are consistently getting 10,000 steps per day, I recommending pushing yourself to reach the “MAGIC AMISH NUMBER”…

The Amish have just a 4% obesity rate compared to 31% in the general population. Research has estimated that Amish men average 18,425 steps per day and Amish women average 14,196 steps per day. Now, I’m not saying that their step count is responsible entirely for the low obesity rate, but I do like modeling success, so I’d say that’s a great stretch goal!

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Walking Workout

First, try splitting your walking program up into 2-3 shorter sessions. According to one study on inactive people over 60 years old, walking for 15 minutes three times a day after meals can help control blood sugar levels better than walking once a day for 45 minutes. So, it makes sense to walk often throughout the day, especially if you are pre-diabetic or diabetic. (Diabetes Care 2013 Oct; 36(10): 3262-3268

Another way to get the most out of your walking plan is to keep a walking journal. Doing so has been shown to increase the effectiveness of a walking program by 47 percent, according to a Journal of the American College of Surgeons study! (eatthis.com)

Next, consider trying “interval walking”. Research has found that walking at varying speeds can burn up to 20 percent more calories compared to maintaining a steady pace and could enhance the release of fat-burning hormones. 

Yet another way to get a little more from your walking program is to swing your arms. An arm swinging walking style will cause you to burn 5 to 10 percent more calories and is no more difficult to implement. 

Walking on soft sand, such as on a beach, could increase caloric expenditure by 50%. Don’t have a beach nearby, try walking on grass or gravel! 

Finally, find a walking buddy for accountability! 

Can I Lose Weight If My Only Exercise Is Walking? 

Yes, the research does suggest that walking can help you lose weight even in the absence of other forms of exercise. That being said, just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

Look, I love walking as a weight loss tool and as a tool to help improve and maintain health. I also believe that other forms of activity and exercise, when implemented properly and in optimal amounts, can dramatically improve your weight loss results AND your energy, health, and wellness beyond walking alone.

Strong and fit people are generally healthier, and by the way, they’re generally happier and live more exciting and adventurous lives into old age.

Walking is good, but walking plus resistance training + H.I.I.T. + cardio + stretching/yoga = MUCH, MUCH BETTER.

As an anecdote, I have a male neighbor who recently implemented a walking program, 5 miles per day, along with a time restricted eating plan and mostly low-carb (eating only during a short window each day (4 hours, for example) and fasting for the remainder). He’s lost over 65 pounds over a matter of months and feels amazing. He is currently not exercising outside of his walking program, so you absolutely CAN lose copious amounts of fat with walking alone. That’s not to say that he won’t plateau, but 65 pounds with walking alone is nothing to scoff at…(UPDATE: My neighbor has now lost over 100 pounds walking and time-restricted eating) 

How Many Steps Does It Take To Burn 1 Pound Of Fat?

The math is pretty simple. It takes approximately 2,000 steps to walk a mile, which most people can do in a 20-minute walk. There are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat, which equates to approximately 70,000 steps and most people will reach 70,000 steps after approximately 12 hours of accumulated walking or 10,000 steps per day for a week.  

That doesn’t mean that simply walking your 70,000 steps will result in 1 pound of fat loss, it simply means that you have burned enough calories at that point to potentially burn 1 pound of fat assuming you don’t eat enough calories to restore any of those lost calories. 

In a fantasy world, burning 3,500 calories results in one pound of fat loss. In the real world, expect to burn one-third of what the math tells you.

Remember, the body is a living, adapting machine that doesn’t work like a calorimeter in a laboratory. So, the body and brain has a lot of levers to pull to slow down how quickly you burn fat when it feels like you are starving to death.

Weight loss is essentially controlled starvation, no matter how you look at it. So, yes, 70,000 steps burns approximately 3,500 calories, no, all of those calories will not come from body fat. Some will come from stored sugar, fat floating around the blood, and energy that you consume during the course of the day. 

What If I Can't Walk for 30 Minutes In One Session?

Easy answer…simply break it up. 

We already established that breaking your walks into shorter sessions may, in fact, be better for your health and weight loss compared to walking once a day for a longer period of time. 

Your body will adapt. You will quickly start to notice that your huffy-puffy 6 minute walk will become 7  easy minutes, and then 8 minutes, then 10 minutes, and so forth. Before you know it, you’ll be putting on the short-shorts, lacing up the shoes, and walking through 30 minutes like a hot knife through butter. 

How To Apply Walking For Weight Loss Purposes

Research has clearly demonstrated that walking is an effective form of activity for those who are looking to lose weight.  The question is, how do you implement a walking program to get the most from your time?

If you are not walking at least 30 minutes daily, the truth is any of the three stages listed below would be a wonderful addition to your weight loss program. With walking you start at a level that is not too strenuous and as you develop your fitness you may choose to move up the stages. 

30 minutes is the minimum effective dose of walking for weight loss purposes, but generally the more the better. 

Before we get into these three stages I need to differentiate between total walking time and deliberate walking time. Deliberate walking time is walking done for health, fitness, and fat loss purposes. Total walking includes all activities including chores, daily movement, AND your deliberate walks (i.e. walking for fat loss and health). 

If you have completed your total step count for the day (i.e. reached 10,000 steps) and have not yet completed your deliberate walks, then you will need to do your deliberate walk on top of the completed step count. So, let’s get into it…

Stage 1 Walking Program: Foundation

First, our initial goal is to shoot for a daily step count of 10,000 steps and at least 30 minutes of deliberate walking, which can be split into two or three walks of 10-15 minutes for those who are time crunched. 10-15 minutes of walking after each main meal is a great way to make walking a habit. 

If 30 minutes of walking is a struggle, start with 10-15 minutes and slowly work up to the minimum of 10,000 steps and 30 minutes of deliberate walking (i.e. walking for walking’s sake – going for a walk to improve health – not walking from daily tasks and chores). 

Stage 2 Walking Program: Interval Walking

Once you’re consistently walking 30 minutes per day and accumulating 10,000 steps in a day, you can start an interval walking program during your daily deliberate walking sessions. Two to three times a week, upgrade your walking program by alternating between fast walking and slow, leisurely walking. The rest of the week just enjoy your normal leisure walks.

Stage 3 Weight Loss Walking Program

Increase your daily step count to match the Amish Step Count of 14,000-18,000 steps per day with 60 minutes of accumulated deliberate walking time. This protocol is quite a commitment, but can significantly improve your fat loss.

Review and Conclusion: Walking for Weight Loss

Walking is an effective form of activity for burning fat. Sure, other forms of more aggressive physical activity such as steady-state cardio may lead to faster weight loss, but there are often unwanted side effects such as increased hunger, cravings, slothfulness, lack of energy, and poor mood. These side-effects culminate in, what we call, the “compensatory engine”. The compensatory engine causes you to compensate for calorie deficits by eating more and moving less. The advantage of walking is it appears to burn calories without activating the subconscious processes that trigger eating and slothfulness. To implement a walking program, start with what you can easily do each and every day and slowly add more walking time. 10,000 steps per day is a good level 1 goal, but if you really want to take advantage of walking for weight loss the more the better with the “Magic Amish Number” being 14,000 steps per day for women and 18,000 steps per day for men to match the step counts of the average Amish, a population with a significantly lower obesity rate. In the end, don’t let anyone convince you that walking is ineffective for weight loss, it deserves a place in your complete fat loss program. It’s effective, easy to do, requires no special equipment, and has a very low risk of injury. 

Fun Walking Statistics

  1. On average, a person will have walked about 75,000 miles by the time they turn 80. (Average walking speed. (n.d.).onaverage.co.uk/speed-averages/average-walking-speed)
  2. 18% of the world suffers from somnambulism…i.e. sleepwalking. (Insomnia. Accessed: December 26, 2012.)
  3. The United States walks the least of any industrialized nation averaging just 5,117 steps compared to Australia with 9, 695 steps per day, the average Japan with 7,168, and the Swiss coming in at 9,650. (Slate. April 10, 2012. Accessed: December 26, 2012.) The Crisis in American Walking: How We Got Off the Pedestrian Path
  4. In 2010, only 62% of people reported walking at least once for 10 minutes in the previous week, up from 56% in 2005.  (cdc.gov)
  5. 15-year-olds have almost twice the percentage of the walking trips as the 40-to-64-year-old age group (15.2 and 7.8%, respectively). (factretriever.com)
  6. Walking 30 minutes, at least three times per week will save you $330 a year in healthcare costs according to a 2000 study (likely much more today). (Why Walk: Fun Facts.)
  7. You’re 36 more times likely to be killed walking than by driving a car and 300 times more likely to be killed walking than by flying in an airplane. Walking Facts
  8. Highest percentage of pedestrian fatalities occur between 6 p.m. and 8:59 p.m. (nhtsa.gov)
  9. When you buy walking shoes, fit them at the end of the day to account for foot swelling that can occur during the day and buy the shoe that fits at time of purchase (don’t expect the shoe to “break in” or fit better later after it has stretched) 
  10. When you crack 3.1 mph during walking, your stride length naturally increases, which burns more calories. (The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, and Literature of Pedestrianism. New York, NY: Riverhead Books, 2008.)
  11. Waiters and waitresses spent 96.3 percent of their workday standing or walking and just 3.7 percent sitting. (bls.gov)
  12. According to exercise scientist Cindy Lentino, dog walkers have 66% less chance of getting diabetes compared to non-dog walkers! (petbacker.com)
  13. * Dog owners are 34% more likely to fit in 150 minutes of walking in a week compared to non-dog owners. (petbacker.com)
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