If you’ve heard that walking is a good habit to develop, you’ve heard right. By getting off the sofa and hitting the pavement, you can improve both your physical and mental health, staving off heart disease, diabetes, depression and insomnia…just to name a few benefits. One of the biggest benefits gained by walking is the calorie burn, which can help you lose weight and inches from head to toe. By combining it with a healthy diet, you can walk your way to a slimmer, stronger body and a more active, energetic life.
Weight Loss Basics
The correlation between walking and weight loss centers on calories. Losing weight in general involves burning more calories than you consume. To drop one pound, you must create a 3,500 calorie deficit over a period of time and keep going until you reach your goal. Calories are units of energy your body uses to function, and it gets those units from food. If you take in less fuel (food) than you burn, you’ll force your body to get energy from reserved fat stores. As your body burns off its own fat, you will drop weight and decrease in size.
Walking and Calories
As a cardiovascular exercise, walking raises your heart rate and forces your body to work harder than it does at rest and burn more calories. With each step, your heart has to pump blood harder and faster to deliver oxygen to the muscles and allow you to keep putting one foot in front of the other. The more you walk, the more calories you burn, which helps you reach the 3,500 deficit and achieve weight loss.
The number of calories you burn while walking depends on factors including your stature, speed, time and whether you're walking an easy flat path or up an incline. Control three of these variables by setting your pace, elevation and minutes spent on the road or treadmill. The faster, longer and steeper you go, the more energy you use and calories you burn. Your current weight and height also play a role in your calorie total as your body has to work harder to pump blood if you are larger in size. While a 160-pound woman will burn 314 calories in 1 hour of walking at 3.5 mph while a 200-pound woman will burn 391 simply because it requires more energy to move a larger frame.
While walking can be directly tied to weight loss, it isn’t the only factor to consider. You also have to monitor your diet and make sure you don’t consume more calories than you use. Even if you walk, you still have the potential to gain weight if you increase your daily food intake beyond your burn. Calculate your daily caloric needs by using an online calculator or talking to your doctor and figure how many you can consume per day to achieve your weight loss goals. Keep track of your calories by logging your intake in a food journal to monitor your progress and keep you accountable.
After graduating from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in sports information, Jill Lee served for 10 years as a magazine editor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Also a published author, Lee now works as a professional writer and editor focusing on fitness, sports and careers.