3 Secrets of Walking to Lose Weight

Try these smart moves to keep the scale going in the right direction.

3 Secrets of Walking to Lose Weight

While the right eating plan is crucial to weight loss, consistent exercise may help you drop pounds and keep you in shape. And if you're not quite ready for calorie-incinerating routines like high-intensity interval training (HIIT)? Go for a walk. It'll likely improve your overall health in multiple ways, and you don't need a gym membership, special classes or pricey equipment—just a few minutes and a decent pair of sneakers. Try these tips to maximize the benefits.

1. Use your shoes to curb a craving.
When all you can think of is chocolate, or you're salivating over the thought of a salty snack, get up and take a walk—but not to the convenience store! Instead, amble around your neighborhood, a local track or a nearby park; you could find that your hankering disappears. Multiple small studies have found that a brisk stroll may temporarily reduce cravings.

2. Get speedy every now and then.
Since walking alone at a regular stride doesn't burn many calories, alternate your regular walking pace with intense one- to three-minute intervals—"intense" meaning conversation is tricky but not so hard that you want to stop talking altogether. Then, dial back to your regular pace for a minute or more to recover. Repeat as often as you can for as long as you want.

"This isn't an exact science, so don't worry about a magic formula," says Gregory Florez, an American Council on Exercise spokesperson in Salt Lake City. "Play around with it. Walk fast toward the next stop sign, then slow down, repeat. However you do it, varying your intensity and exertion will dramatically increase the calorie burn during your walks."

3. Other times, don't worry about speed.
If you just can't go any faster, Florez recommends these other tools to help you lose weight by walking:

  • Frequency: When you think you're not losing, add another session of walking to your week.
  • Intensity: After you've added more walking sessions, try some hills to make your walk a little harder. You want to be between 12 and 15 on the Borg Perceived Exertion Scale; 0 on the scale is sleeping, and 20 is a full-out sprint where you are panting and feel ready to faint. "You should be able to carry on a conversation, but every other sentence you should have to take a deep breath."
  • Time: Just walk a little longer each session. Add 10 minutes to your walk every day and you'll have amassed an extra 70 minutes that week. Easy, no?

Want to raise your activity levels and meet your exercise goals? Studies suggest that tracking your steps can help you be more active. Try a pedometer or wearable step tracker, or download an app like Sharecare for iOS and Android today.

Did You Know? Walking at least 20 minutes a day can make your RealAge up to 1.9 years younger. Take the RealAge Test to learn more.

Medically reviewed in December 2019.

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