Adding some extra steps to your day is a great way to lose weight, and it doesn't have to be running; walking is an effective way to shed pounds, especially if you're just starting out. (It gets bonus points for being super accessible and easy on the joints!) That brings us to the next question: exactly how much should you be walking if weight loss is the goal? With as much as you hear about the magic 30-minutes-a-day number, we decided it was time to settle things once and for all. Is 30 minutes of walking really enough? POPSUGAR tapped two experts to find out.
You Can Lose Weight Walking 30 Minutes a Day
"You can absolutely see weight loss results from walking 30 minutes a day," said Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, MS, CSCS, an exercise physiologist, marathoner, and fitness adviser for Bowflex. A 30-minute walk can burn around 150-200 calories, he told POPSUGAR, depending on factors like your speed and bodyweight. (Try using an exercise tracker if you want an estimate of the calories you can burn on a walk.) Gold's Gym certified personal trainer and Gold's AMP coach Jackie Vick, NCSF, added that some of those calories burned will come from fat, which is even better news if you really want to see results.
Want to get the most calorie burn from your walk? Both Tom and Jackie recommended a few ways you can up the intensity.
- Do some hills. "Adding in changes in incline (think hills) will help increase the intensity along with the total number of calories burned," Tom said. If you can't make it to the top today, aim to hit the half- or even quarter-way point. Gradually work your way up as you get stronger. Try this outdoor hill workout to start.
- Add in short power intervals. A few faster steps can make a big difference for weight loss. Jackie recommended speeding up to a brisker pace for one minute intervals, then slowing down for 30-40 seconds, and repeating for your full 30-minute walk.
- Reverse your usual route. "Have a particular loop that you walk every day? Simply reversing the direction will provide much-needed variation to keep your body challenged and changing," Tom said.
- Run a little bit, if you can. Adding short running intervals to your walk "can help tremendously" with weight loss, Tom said. They don't need to be any longer than a minute (and can be as short as five to 10 seconds!) to make a big difference in the amount of calories you burn.
According to Tom, variation is key in avoiding the dreaded weight loss plateau. That means that, as you get stronger, you should look for more challenging hills and keep pushing harder during your fast intervals, though you can still keep the walk to 30 minutes in length. "Your body is a very smart machine, becoming accustomed over time to the stressors you impose upon it," Tom told POPSUGAR. "If you don't change it up, it will stop changing." Ramping up your intensity and varying routes and elevations is a great way to shed pounds consistently.
How Much Should You Walk Per Week to Lose Weight?
"The great thing about walking is that it is low-impact, so you can do it frequently," Tom said. If you're a true beginner, he recommended getting started by walking three to four times per week, 30 minutes as a time. For maximum results, both he and Jackie advised working your way up to five or six walks per week. Try to incorporate intervals into at least two of those walks, Jackie said; she suggested doing them on Tuesdays and Thursdays with steady-state cardio walks (all at the same pace) for your other three workouts, but any non-consecutive days will do.
And no, you don't need to do your 30 minutes all at once to see weight loss results. "As long as you complete all 30 minutes of exercise, it doesn't matter when you do it," Jackie told POPSUGAR. Previous research suggests that exercising for three 10-minute intervals gives you all the same benefits as one continuous 30-minute session, Tom said. If you're short on time, breaking your 30-minute walk into a few shorter bursts is a great solution. "No walk is too short," Tom added; what matters is the total amount of minutes you hit.
"Try walking with your dog, family, or friends," Jackie said. "If you have a baby, push them in a stroller. That will add resistance and help you burn more calories." No matter how you get it or who you get it with, walking for 30 minutes, five days a week, can have a powerful effect on your weight loss goals. Want to see results faster and, more importantly, keep the weight off? Mixing in strength training and maintaining a good diet are also key components. Try out this strength training plan for beginners and this two-week clean eating plan to get started.