Walking is a favorite form of exercise for many people, and it’s easy to see why. You can seamlessly fit it into your daily routine, walk to the beat of your favorite tunes, or do it while catching up with a good friend (or even a group). Just think about it—you don’t need equipment to start walking and probably have some great routes just waiting to be explored right outside your front door. We spoke with the experts, who gave us tips on how you can up your walking game to shed extra pounds. So if you’re walking to lose weight, you’ll want to listen up!
Getting steps in each day is an excellent way to burn calories. As a matter of fact, engaging in regular physical activity like going on walks is key to maintaining a healthy weight, according to the Mayo Clinic. By incorporating just 30 minutes of walking at a brisk pace into your day, you can torch around 150 additional calories. The more time you dedicate to this healthy walking habit, and the faster you go, the greater amount of calories you’ll torch. If you’re a newbie, the Mayo Clinic suggests taking short walks to kick things off or assuming a light intensity. You can slowly increase the length of your walks and up the intensity to a moderate or vigorous level.
Now without further delay, let’s see what the experts have to say about tips for walking to lose weight. With a great pair of walking shoes, you can start your weight loss journey pronto.
Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM—a member of our Medical Expert Board and a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach who has helped develop the Body Program at Ro—suggests varying the terrain you walk on. Doing your walks on a flat, paved surface is all well and good. But to give your body more of a challenge and promote weight loss, consider switching up the terrain.
“Anywhere you can go that has rolling hills (or even steep hills) can increase your calorie burn,” Dr. Bohl says. “And walking on some surfaces, like sand, can also take extra effort and burn more calories.”
Tyler Read, the founder of PTPioneer.com and a personal trainer who has been involved in health and fitness for the past 15 years, agrees that opting for a trail over flat pavement is a solid course of action. “Trails require more stabilizer muscles and generally are more energy demanding,” he explains.
The faster you walk, the greater amount of calories your body will torch, Dr. Bohl explains. So consider adding in bursts of greater speed if you want to lose weight while walking. “If you can throw in a few minutes of jogging, that’s even better—but just varying your walking speed will also have an effect,” he says.
Read suggests alternating one minute of powerwalking with another minute of slow-tempo walking. “You can turn your walks into interval training sessions by alternating higher and lower intensity, increasing caloric expenditure,” he says.
Have you considered “rucking,” or adding a weighted backpack, to your routine? “Rucking is an activity that involves walking or hiking with a weighted backpack,” Dr. Bohl explains. “As you get more used to it, you can continue to add more weight to increase your burn on future walks.”
Sure, your legs are doing most of the work when you’re walking, but don’t forget to engage your arms!
“Pumping your arms while walking may not pay the highest returns on calorie burn, but any amount of motion you’re able to add in does do something,” Dr. Bohl says. “So if you’re just looking to burn a few more calories each walk, swing those arms.”
Recruiting a friend who shares the same common goal of walking for weight loss will serve as motivation and hold you accountable. Plus, it will be fun catch-up time.
“Walking with a friend—on its own—might not cause you to burn more calories, but it is a good way to make sure you actually go on your walk,” Dr. Bohl says. “Having a social component to your walk can make it more enjoyable, and having the responsibility to a walking partner of actually going on a walk each day is a good way to make sure you don’t skip a walk in exchange for less healthy behavior.”
It’s always a smart idea to go into a weight loss journey with an end goal, along with small goals along the way.
“Like walking with a friend, setting a goal won’t necessarily increase the number of calories you burn while walking, but it will motivate you to actually achieve a certain amount of steps each day. This way, you’re less likely to skip walking for some other activity, like watching TV,” Dr. Bohl explains.
This weight loss tip doesn’t only need to be part of your walking workout—you can incorporate this into your day, whenever possible. Read suggests always opting for the stairs over the elevator or escalator, whether you’re running errands or heading up to your apartment.
Plus, taking the stairs is chock-full of benefits. In addition to helping you preserve a healthy weight, stair climbing will boost your leg power and may lower your chances of suffering from falls as you get older, according to Duke University. Working stairs into your day also promotes healthy joints, bones, and muscles.
“Raising your knees higher increases the demand of walking,” Read tells us. Similar to high knees, you’ll engage your entire lower body and core, helping you expend energy and work up a sweat. It’s a simple but effective tweak to make in your routine.
Performing ‘farmer’s carries,’ holding lightweight dumbbells, or even wearing ankle weights are stellar ways to increase the calorie-torching and build strength while walking. “Adding more weight to your body is another effective way to burn more calories while walking,” Dr. Bohl confirms.
In order to complete farmer’s carries as Read suggests, you’ll hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand, with your arms by your sides. Walk forward with the weights while maintaining good posture, BarBend explains. Keep your strides quick and short.
Another solid habit to get into if you’re walking to lose weight is to take shorter, more frequent walks. “Frequent, shorter walks can help increase total distance, average speed, and caloric expenditure for the same amount of walking since you are more recovered for each short walk,” Read says.
You may not be all too surprised to hear that adding hills to your workout or walking at an incline on a treadmill will help you burn more calories. Plus, it’ll sculpt muscle and strengthen your legs at the same time.
Utilizing the incline feature on a treadmill will give you the same effect as walking up a hill. Your body puts in more work than if you were to get in your strides at a slower pace. Setting the incline to 2% or greater helps you torch more calories than walking on level ground.
When it comes to the intensity of your walks, Read suggests completing a “talk test.” This is a super productive way to assess if you need to intensify your routine and determine whether you’re maintaining a solid weight loss pace. So the next time you’re chatting with your walking buddy or buddies, aim for an intensity where keeping up a conversation becomes difficult.
If you don’t already have an established walking routine, it may seem like a daunting task to tackle all at once, says Tonal coach Tim Landicho. So take it in small steps—pun intended! You’ll be doing yourself a favor by setting reminders on your phone throughout the day to take a break from your laptop and head outdoors or to the treadmill.
“Breaking up your day into smaller chunks (say, 10 to 15 minutes at a time) is a great way to gradually increase your daily steps in a manageable way while giving your body and mind frequent breaks so that you can return to your work with more energy and sharper focus,” Landicho adds.
Just because your legs may be sore, don’t let that veer you off course from your weight loss progress!
“A common misconception is that when you’re sore, you should rest completely (think: lounging on the couch and not doing any activity),” Landicho explains. “If you’re already strength training and find yourself sore the day after a tough session, walking is a great way to facilitate recovery. By pumping blood to the muscles in a low-impact way, you flush out what’s causing the soreness in the first place and allow nutrients to be delivered to those sore muscles.”
If you’re not already working strength training into your regular fitness routine, it’s the ultimate complement to walking for “boosting your fat loss efforts,” Landicho says.
“Not only does it keep calories burning even after you’re done training, but it also preserves your lean muscle to ensure that the weight you’re losing is fat. Even just two times a week will give you tremendous benefits if you’re not already doing so. And if you’re nervous about going to the gym or don’t know what to do or how to do it properly, Tonal can knock these barriers down and be your best friend,” he adds.
Many individuals enjoy listening to music while they exercise, but streaming a good audiobook or juicy podcast is an excellent way to “get your learn on,” Landicho points out. Plus, it will help you walk for a longer period of time, increasing the number of calories you burn. So if there’s a certain topic you’re intrigued by, use your walking time to explore it more.
Along with strength training, bumping up the amount of protein you consume will help you sculpt and preserve muscle.
“Ultimately, [this] aids in increasing your resting metabolism,” Landicho says. “A good rule of thumb is to have one to two palm-sized portions of protein-rich food at each meal.”
Fitness and healthy eating go hand in hand. When you’re walking to lose weight, revving up your intake of fruits and veggies is a solid way to decrease cravings and boost your levels of satisfaction. These are both incredibly common roadblocks when dieting to lose weight, Landicho explains. He suggests, “A good rule of thumb is to have at least five servings of fruits and veggies per day.”
You’ve likely heard the saying “slow and steady wins the race,” and it certainly applies to walking for weight loss.
“If you’re already in a walking routine and are looking to increase your steps, small incremental increases are the way to go,” Landicho says. “Adding just 10 minutes at a time can add ~1000 steps without feeling overwhelming, which can make a massive difference over the course of a few months.”
If you’re looking to calm your racing mind and relieve any stress from the day, Landicho recommends trying walking meditation.
“Not only do you get more bang for your buck by reducing stress while increasing your activity levels, but you also increase your ability to stay mindful and present throughout your day, which can have a direct transfer to helping you manage your cravings and develop a healthier relationship with food,” he says.
Consider timing your walks with the sunrise or the sunset—or both. “[This] is one of the best ways to improve your sleep quality, which will help with weight loss efforts, stress management, and food cravings,” Landicho says.
We totally get it—you’re balancing a busy schedule with dieting, fitness, and social plans. And sometimes, life can get in the way. So don’t stress yourself out if you don’t meet your daily step count.
“Instead of stressing about individual days, see if you can gradually increase your weekly average over time,” Landicho suggests. “This allows for daily fluctuations while still ensuring that you are making progress, which means that your walking routine can be much more flexible (and hopefully more enjoyable too!)”