Walk Less, Burn More: Ways to Lose Weight While Walking

Stepping up your fitness routine could come from the simplest change possible: the way you put one foot in front of the other.

According to experts, walking with more intensity can burn as many calories as higher impact activities such as running or even HIIT classes. This could mean incorporating weights, hills, intervals, or a faster pace without getting into a jog.

Reba Dodge always thought she had to spend money on trendy workouts, from spinning to hot yoga, to get in shape. But the Maui, Hawaii-based floral designer and mother of two says she gets the best results walking.

Reba Dodge walks uphill with weights near her home in Maui, Hawaii.


Jeanne Givens

Over the past eight years, Ms Dodge, 46, has been experimenting with ways to turn her daily walk into a serious workout, including climbing a steep hill near her home, walking backwards and carrying 2-pound dumbbells .

“The weights force me to engage my core more,” she says. “I’m even considering buying a weighted vest.”

Walking as a workout can relieve stress and improve heart health. It’s also one of the easiest ways to achieve weekly physical activity – 150 to 300 minutes of moderate activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity – recommended by the World Health Organization.

“Lack of time is the number one excuse people give for not getting enough physical activity,” says Thomas Allison, director of the sports cardiology clinic at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

He recommends people focus on the quality rather than the quantity of their steps. The latest science suggests that we don’t need to take 10,000 steps a day (about 4-5 miles) to improve our health or our longevity.

Taking a brisk 11-minute walk a day will also reduce your risk of stroke, heart disease and several cancers, according to a University of Cambridge study published in February.

faster pace

Accelerate these steps and research suggests you can increase longevity. Plus, you can get the same, if not more, calorie burn from a 20-minute walk where you incorporate intervals at a brisk pace as you would from a 40-minute walk at a leisurely pace, says Dr. Allison.


What are your top tips for getting a good walking workout? Join the conversation below.

Katie Breden, 42, tries to always keep a pair of sneakers in her car. The mother of two school-aged boys likes to have a back-up plan when she can’t fit into her Peloton training. She’ll do quick laps around the field during their hour-long sports practices, or run around the perimeter of the park as they play.

“So many parents sit on the bench with their phones,” says Ms. Breden, a pre-kindergarten teacher based in Point Pleasant, NJ. “It’s an easy way to exercise, and I don’t sweat as much as I would run or spin, so that I could go on with my day.

To move

Scoring fitness gains from walking can be as simple as putting a little extra spring in your step. A study published in the British Medical Journal in December found that the “silly walk” made famous on the British TV show “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” increased energy expenditure in adults by about 2.5 times compared to their style. usual walk.

Researchers don’t expect people to start walking down the street kicking like John Cleese’s character, Mr. Teabag, says Glenn Gaesser, one of the study’s co-authors . He just hopes the study shows that you don’t have to spend a ton of money or time to burn more calories. Tiny changes to your routine can add up, especially when you’re just getting back in shape.

John Cleese in ‘The Ministry of Silly Walks’ sketch from the UK TV show ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’.



“Increasing the energy expenditure of your current movement or activity by taking higher steps a few times throughout the day can increase your metabolic rate,” says Dr. Gaesser, a professor at Arizona’s College of Health Solutions. State University.

But for those looking to lose weight: In addition to making healthy food choices, you need to increase your exercise intensity. If jogging or running is uncomfortable for your joints, Dr. Allison suggests brisk walking, where you swing your arms, and race walking, where one foot remains in contact with the ground at all times.

Head for the Hills

Incorporating hills into your walking routine is a low-impact way to put more strain on your muscles and heart, says Abrea Wooten, senior director of national education for gym company Life Time Inc. Ms Wooten climbs wearing a vest weighted on a treadmill to help train for ultramarathons. “It’s so much easier on my joints,” she says. “The incline puts less strain on the knees.”

Treadmill walking received a huge boost when social media personality Lauren Giraldo’s 12-3-30 workout went viral on TikTok in 2020. The influencer says the workout, which involves walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes at 3 miles per hour on a 12% incline helped her lose 30 pounds.

Ms. Wooten estimates that you can burn three to five times more calories per minute walking on an incline due to the extra work done by your quadriceps and hamstrings. She advises getting on the treadmill gradually rather than jumping straight down a 12% incline. Start at 0.5% or 1% and add 1% to 2% each week.

Maintaining good form is also important to get the most out of it and avoid injury. “If you have to hold on to the front rail of the treadmill, you need to have your arms slightly bent and keep your posture straight,” she says. “If you hold on to life and lean back with your arms outstretched, you need to slow down the lean and the pace.”

Leaning back disengages core muscles, she says. Ideally, you will find a rhythm that allows you to pump your arms.

Ms Wooten suggests mixing up the types of walks you do every few months to keep the body challenged. On vacation, take a walk on the beach where the uneven sand works your stabilizing muscles. Find a new route in your neighborhood with hills.

“Low-impact exercises don’t have to be low-intensity,” she says.

Email Jen Murphy at workout@wsj.com

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