This is a super popular question I have been asked multiple times over my life. I have more than once lost substantial amounts of weight. I personally believe walking to be one of if not the best exercise for weight loss.
How do you lose weight?
For the majority of people, weight loss is a numbers game. We burn a certain amount of calories per day simply being alive. This is usually referred to as your Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR. This rate depends on your age, fitness level and weight. It isn’t perfect, but usually is very close for calculating the minimum amount of calories you need to a day to maintain your currently weight.
As I said, though, BMR is simply you being alive, breathing while laying down. It doesn’t account for talking, laughing, eating, sitting up, walking anywhere or any other activity besides basically being in a coma like state. You then will add your activity level to your BMR. If you have a primarily sedentary lifestyle (desk job or similar) you can usually add 350-450 calories to your BMR. For each level above sedentary (light, moderate, very and extremely active) you can add further calories. I’ll give an example below. This is for an obese person but shows you the calorie step ups with average daily activity level.
Now, you know your daily average calories based on your BMR+your daily activity. These do not include any exercise.
To lose weight you need to take in fewer calories than your body uses on a regular basis. Yes, I said regularly, not daily. Basically, if you take in fewer calories than you use 5 out of 7 days you are almost guaranteed a fat loss that week. You only would not lose weight if the two days you weren’t under were very much over what your body needed, basically canceling out the days under.
Here’s an example of what I mean based on the levels from the picture:
- Sunday: 2000 calories
- Monday: 1800 calories
- Tuesday: 2200 calories
- Wednesday: 2500 calories
- Thursday: 2000 calories
- Friday: 1850 calories
- Saturday: 1900 calories
The minimum the example needed to maintain weight was 17,017 calories a week. The weeks total was only 14,250. That means there was a deficit of 2,767. Since it takes an approximate deficit of 3,500 calories a week to lose 1 pound of weight the above example would be losing about 2/3 of a pound a week with their diet alone.
How can walking help you lose weight?
We discussed how the exampled person was losing about 2/3 of a pound a week from their diet alone. So, if they wanted to lose more, they have two choices. They can either lower their calories consumed or find a way to use more calories. This is where walking or any exercise comes in. Exercise is a great way to burn calories at a low to moderate pace. As I am a larger person I tend to burn calories much higher than most people do. Calories burned from walking fairly flat terrain will range between 4 and 10 per minute depending on weight, general size and fitness level.
So, let’s do another week chart but this one is on how many exercise calories were burned that same week.
- Sunday: 350 calories
- Monday: 0
- Tuesday: 400 calories
- Wednesday: 300 calories
- Thursday: 100 calories
- Friday: 600 calories
- Saturday: 550 calories
That means in this week there also would be 2300 calories burned. That means the real deficit for the week would be 2,767+2,300=5,067 calories or at 1.3lbs a week instead of .6 or so.
That is one way walking can help you lose weight.
There is one I haven’t discussed yet.
Does walking help weight loss with more than just the burn?
Walking, or really any aerobic exercise, will help raise your metabolism over time. Basically, as you get into better shape your metabolism will steadily begin to increase. Why do you want a faster burning metabolism?
Your metabolism is your body’s ability to use the calories you give it instead of storing it as fat. The faster your metabolism the more calories you burn just to live. Your BMR basically increases because your fitness level will have risen.
Is walking the best exercise for increasing metabolism? No, not really. Not casual walking at least. If you often walk more steep paths or power walk, it is in the running for one of the best for sure.
How else does walking help your weight loss?
Exercise in general, if done regularly, tends to get people into a healthier mind set. It also can help you make healthier choices. You’ll see how far you have to walk or how long to burn off that extra slice of cake or bowl of ice cream.
Walking is one of the healthiest forms of exercise for average people. The healthier you feel, the healthier you tend to treat yourself. You may notice you start getting in better shape and this encourages you to keep it up to continue getting fitter.
So, is walking the best exercise for losing weight?
That really depends on what you want out of it. I definitely believe walking is one of the top 3 for average people. Now, if you are already fairly athletic and just needing to shed a few pounds, walking may not get you there alone. You might have to add in more intense forms of exercise or more strength training.
Overall, though, walking will help you get calories deficits without often leaving your exhausted or dreading the workout. It has multiple positives going for it besides just losing weight from it.
Can’t wait to see you strolling along,