Walking is one of the best things you can do, regardless if your goal is muscle gain, fat loss, or general health.
Today, we discuss the myriad of reasons why walking is simply and purely awesome, as well as explain how many calories you burn while walking.
Let’s first start by explaining why walking is healthy.
Why Is Walking Good for You?
As any casual fitness enthusiast to name to “best” forms of exercise, and they’ll probably list any (or all) of the following:
- Resistance training
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
- Steady state cardio
- Rec sports
What you’re highly unlikely to find listed as one of the best forms of exercise is walking, yet it truly is one of the best things you can do for your physical, mental, and metabolic health.
Here’s why walking is good for you…
Many traditional forms of cardio tend to be higher impact and can place undue stress on the joints, ligaments, and connective tissue. If you’re someone who has a history of injuries and cannot perform higher intensity cardio modalities, walking offers a great way to burn calories while also being kind to your joints.
The most obvious benefit to walking (especially if your goal is fat loss) is that it helps increase the amount of calories you burn each day.
Since it’s low impact, walking never really “feels” like exercise or “cardio” the way that other forms of steady-state exercise can be perceived.
Even as little as three or four short walks per day (10-15 minutes each) can have a significant impact on daily energy expenditure, which can help make weight loss seem more manageable.
Supports Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
In addition to support weight loss and cardiovascular health, walking has also been shown to improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity.
This is all the more noteworthy when you realize that recent estimates indicate that 34.2 million Americans have type 2 diabetes and another 88 million individuals are pre-diabetic.
Requires No Equipment
Many “traditional” forms of cardio (elliptical, rower, bike) require equipment. This necessitates you having to purchase said piece of equipment or go to the gym (which takes extra time, effort, and money).
One of the best things about walking is that it requires no equipment (other than your body), and it can be performed anywhere.
No waiting for a machine to free up. No wiping up someone else’s DNA. No gym fees or traffic.
Simply walk out your front door and you can get your cardio in!
Walking increases circulation and blood flow throughout the body, which supports recovery. Performing too much high intensity cardio can actually impair muscle recovery and hinder performance in your resistance training workouts.
How Many Calories Do You Burn from Walking?
The number of calories you burn during walking depends on a number of factors, including:
The heavier an object is, the more energy that there is required to move it.
This also includes moving your own body through space.
The heavier you are, the more calories you will expend walking per unit of distance.
Work is defined by force multiplied by distance.
Assuming you’re exerting the same force to move your body while walking, the longer you walk, the more calories you burn.
Building off of the last point, there are two ways to increase the work (calories burned) when walking -- distance or force.
Assuming you walk a distance of one mile, the greater force with which you walk (i.e. how fast you walk), the more calories you will burn.
In addition to increasing your walking speed, you can also increase the intensity by walking uphill, which requires your muscles to work harder versus walking on flat land.
How to Burn More Calories While Walking
The simplest way to increase how many calories you burn while walking is to increase the intensity.
This can be done any number of ways, but for most people, the easiest way for them to do it is to walk faster. Moving your body faster through space requires greater energy output from your muscles and cardiovascular system, which ultimately burns more calories.
If you’re looking to increase your calorie burning from walking, start picking up the pace!
In addition to walking faster, you can also try walking uphill. This can be accomplished by increasing the incline on the treadmill, or (even better) finding some hilly terrain outdoors.
Besides burning more calories, you’ll also get some extra calf, hamstring, and glute work as well as some much needed vitamin D from sunlight exposure.
When we think of progressive overload, we almost exclusively think of it in terms of resistance training. But, the truth is that you can progressively overload your cardio sessions too!
In addition to walking faster and/or walking uphill, you can also increase your body mass with the addition of a weighted vest, backpack, or wrist/ankle weights.
As we said before, it requires more energy to move a heavier object across the same distance at the same pace than a lighter object.
As you lose weight during the course of your transformation challenge, you can add external loading to keep energy expenditure higher, thereby keeping your weight loss progress steady and avoiding the dreaded plateau.
Walking is one of the best forms of exercise you can do, regardless if your goal is muscle building, fat loss, or body recomposition.
If you have previously eschewed walking in favor of other cardio options in the past, take some time in the coming weeks to try it. You’ll be surprised at how effective it can be for increasing calorie burning while also supporting recovery and improving mood!
- Duvivier BMFM, Schaper NC, Hesselink MKC, et al. Breaking sitting with light activities vs structured exercise: a randomised crossover study demonstrating benefits for glycaemic control and insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes [published online December 1, 2016]. Diabetologia. doi:10.1007/s00125-016-4161-7
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2020. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services; 2020.