Can you lose weight by walking?

Can you lose weight by walking? Here's what research really says

Can you lose weight by walking? Image shows people walking.
(Image credit: Getty)

If you’ve been wondering; can you lose weight by walking? We have all the answers you need here. Walking is an exercise that’s easy to fit into your daily routine, and people of all ages enjoy it. All you need to get started are a pair of the best shoes for walking and suitable clothing for the weather conditions. 

Research from the London School of Economics found that people are more likely to have a lower weight if they regularly engage in high-impact walking than other vigorous activities like going to the gym. 

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination each week. Walking at a decent pace can help you meet that goal. 

In this article, we'll offer some tips on walking to lose weight, as well as the other health benefits of walking. 

Can you lose weight by walking? What you need to know

Research suggests that brisk walking can aid weight loss. For example, a study in the Journal of Exercise Nutrition and Biochemistry showed the positive effects walking had on burning fat and reducing waist circumference in women who were obese. The participants walked between 50-70 minutes three days a week for a total of 12 weeks. After the study, they found that the study participants lost an average of 1.5% body fat and 1.1 inches around their waists.

A study based on a large-scale survey involving more than 50,000 people showed that those who regularly walk briskly for half an hour, five days a week, are likely to have a lower BMI than less active people.

Walking is a great way to burn calories. One study measured the number of calories people of average fitness level burned after walking at a brisk pace of 3.2 miles (5 km) per hour or running at a speed of 6 mph for about a mile. Results showed that those who walked at a brisk pace burned an average of 90 calories per mile—running only burned around 23 more calories per mile, on average.

Can you lose weight by walking? Image shows person walking.

(Image credit: Getty)

How much walking do you need to do to lose weight?

The number of calories you burn walking depends on numerous factors, especially your weight and walking speed. Estimates say that adding 30 minutes of brisk walking to your daily routine could burn about 150 more calories a day for an average person. 

Research suggests daily walking can help with weight loss. In one study, 11 moderate-weight women lost an average of 17 pounds (7.7 kg), or 10% of their initial body weight, after six months of brisk daily walking. The women gradually increased their walking duration over the six months to reach a maximum of one hour per day but experienced minor weight loss until they walked at least 30 minutes daily.

Another study noted that women with obesity who walked three days per week for 50–70 minutes lost about 6 pounds (2.7 kg) over 12 weeks, compared with women who didn’t walk.

Is there a better time of the day to walk for weight loss?

It is not the time of day that matters as much as finding the time you can set aside consistently to go for a walk. That said, there can be benefits of exercising at different times of the day. 

There are many benefits to getting in your walks or workouts in the morning. For instance, a study published in 2012 found reduced attraction to photos of food after a 45-minute brisk morning walk and more activity throughout the rest of the day.

Exercising in the morning may help you feel more energized, increasing your blood flow and waking up the nervous system. In addition, once you get used to working out in the morning, it can be habit-forming since you start each day the same way.

Studies have found that walking in the evening can help curb nighttime snacking by diverting your energy and boredom to movement instead.  

Can you lose weight by walking? Image shows person walking.

(Image credit: Getty)

What are the benefits of walking?

Aside from the weight-loss potential, walking can offer numerous health benefits to people of all ages and fitness levels. It may also help prevent certain diseases, and even prolong your life.

According to research, walking at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by around 19%. And your risk may reduce further when you increase the duration or distance you walk per day.

Walking can help protect the joints, including your knees and hips. That’s because walking helps lubricate and strengthen the muscles that support the joints.

Walking may boost your immunity and reduce your risk of developing a cold or flu. For example, one study tracked 1,000 adults during flu season. Those who walked at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes a day had 43% fewer sick days and fewer upper respiratory tract infections overall than sedentary adults in the study.

Walking can also help your mental health. Studies show it can help reduce anxiety, depression, and a negative mood while boosting self-esteem. To experience these benefits, aim for 30 minutes of brisk walking or other moderate-intensity exercises three days a week. Which, if you’re struggling to find the time for, you can break up into three 10-minute walks.

Regular walking may even extend your life. Researchers found that walking at an average pace compared to a slow pace resulted in a 20% reduced risk of overall death. Walking at a speed of at least 4 miles per hour reduced the risk by 24%. The study looked at the association of walking at a faster pace with factors like overall causes of death, cardiovascular disease, and death from cancer.

For more on low-impact exercise, find out what happened when we walked for 90 minutes every morning for a month. Plus we answer; does walking build muscle?

Catherine Renton

Catherine is a freelance journalist writing across titles such as Verywell Health, Healthline, The Daily Telegraph, Refinery29, Elle, and Vogue. She specializes in content covering health, fitness, wellness, and culture.
A once reluctant runner, Catherine has competed in 30 running events in the past five years and looks forward to one day running the London Marathon.