When it comes to working out for weight loss, a lot of experts and exercisers are firmly in the “harder is better” camp. As a result, they focus almost exclusively on things like high-intensity interval training (HIIT), circuit training, strength training, and other tough-as-nails workouts.
And while such intense workouts can be effective, it’s not the only way to work out. After all, if you are a beginner, currently unfit, have an injury, or are very overweight, should you REALLY be doing Tabata sprints, burpees, or CrossFit till you puke? Probably not.
And while some people love intense workouts, others find them unpleasant and intimidating. Another downside of high-intensity training is that, realistically, you can’t do it every day. In addition, high-intensity training breaks you down, and you’ll need time to rest up and recover before you work out again.
The good news is that there is an alternative to all those hard-as-nails workouts that leave you huffing and puffing like an old steam train. It might not be the most exciting or dynamic workout, but it could be the thing missing from your weight loss regimen.
In this article, we answer the question, is walking good for weight loss, and reveal some of the other benefits of this often-underutilized form of physical activity.
How Does Walking Help You Lose Weight?
It’s easy to overlook walking as a way to lose weight. After all, it’s very easy, you can do lots of it, and it’s not exactly tiring.
You can even walk while chatting with a friend. But, in many ways, it’s these perceived drawbacks that make walking so helpful for weight loss.
Walking can help you lose weight in several different ways:
Walking burns calories – you’ll burn about 100 calories for every mile you walk. That might not sound like a lot, but most people should be able to clock up about five miles of walking per day, which adds up to respectable caloric expenditure.
You can do it every day – unlike a lot of workouts, you can walk every day without wearing yourself out. In fact, walking may speed up your recovery from more intense exercise by boosting circulation. Most people should have no problem working out AND walking on the same day, increasing potential weight loss.
You don’t have to do all your walking in one go – you can add walking to your day in several small bouts. For example, you could do 15 minutes before breakfast, 15 minutes at lunchtime, and 15 minutes at the end of the day. Even in short bursts, walking will still add to your daily energy expenditure.
Walking lowers your stress levels and appetite – if you are one of those people who eats more when they’re stressed, walking may help. Walking is naturally calming, and if you are less stressed, you may not comfort eat as much. Walking is also a good appetite suppressant.
Excuse-free workout – you can walk almost anywhere and anytime. You don’t need any special equipment, and it’s not athletic or competitive.
You may not even need to change into your workout clothes to do it. Get up, go out, and walk. Unlike going to the gym, walking is pretty much an excuse-free workout. Just do it!
Additional Walking Benefits
Combined with a sensible diet, walking can help you lose weight. Of course, you may get better results if you combine walking with other forms of exercise, but there is no denying its effectiveness or convenience. There are also plenty of additional benefits to walking:
Better cardiovascular health – walking is a gentle aerobic exercise, which means it involves your heart, lungs, and circulatory systems.
Walking gets your heart pumping and can help lower your risk of coronary heart disease.
Less stress – going for a walk is a great way to unwind and reduce stress, especially if you head out and into nature.
Better posture – walking stretches the muscles that can tighten if you spend a lot of time sat down. It’s the perfect antidote to spending long periods sat working at a computer.
Stronger legs – while walking won’t make your legs strong like squats and lunges can, it’s still a worthwhile exercise for your lower body. That’s especially true if you walk briskly, head for the hills, walk on uneven surfaces, or walk with a weighted rucksack.
Increased longevity – statistically, people who walk more tend to live longer than those that do not. Also, walking speed is linked to greater longevity.
There are very few downsides to walking for weight loss. It’s easy, you can do it almost anywhere and anytime, and you don’t need any special skills or equipment. That said, there are a few disadvantages to consider:
Not very time-efficient – walking a mile will take about 15-20 minutes and possibly longer. While walking does burn calories, you’ll need to do quite a lot to burn a significant number.
Foot problems – if you are overweight, walking can put a lot of strain on your feet. Avoid any such issues by wearing shock-absorbing, supportive shoes. Even then, you may still experience foot problems like plantar fasciitis or blisters.
Weather – walking in pleasant weather is an absolute joy, but, depending on where you live, you may be faced with walking in cold, wet weather. You could do your walking on a treadmill, but that will soon get boring. Outdoor walking is generally more enjoyable, but bad weather may make it much less so.
Not so many years ago, people walked for transport. Then, cars and public transport were not as readily available as they are today, and walking was how we got from A to B. This was especially true for short journeys.
Nowadays, it’s entirely possible to go through an entire day without having to take more than a few steps. Many people even feel put out if they can’t park their cars right next to their destinations. It’s like we’re actively trying to avoid walking anywhere!
Unfortunately, even if you exercise regularly, you could still be sedentary because you don’t walk enough. There are 168 hours in a week, and 3-5 hours of gym time is not enough activity for health, fitness, or weight loss.
Adding walking or cycling into your routine is a great way to boost your physical activity levels, increasing health and weight loss in the process. It’s easy to do, and you can do it almost anywhere, and you don’t even need to do it all in one go.
How much walking you need to do for weight loss is debatable, but an excellent place to start is 10,000 steps per day. Get a pedometer, download a step-counting app, or use a smartwatch to track your steps.
Adding walking to your daily routine could be the difference between losing weight and keeping it off and yet another unsuccessful diet and workout program.