Walking for Weight Loss (AARP)

Posted: Apr 01, 2024 in In the News

This article originally appeared in AARP on April 1, 2024. 


Walking for Weight Loss

By Kimberly Goad

The health benefits of walking are well known: It boosts mood and metabolism. It reduces the risk of some cancers and chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Walking even has the power to extend your life. In fact, for every 2,000 steps you take each day, your risk for premature death falls by 6 to 11 percent, suggests a study published in 2022 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

But is walking good for weight loss? The fast answer: Yes, but.


Like any type of cardio, “walking is beneficial for weight loss, but it’s important to recognize that exercise alone is not the most effective strategy for losing weight,” says Sabrena Jo, Ph.D., ACE (American Council on Exercise) senior director of science and research. “Weight loss is best achieved through a combination of nutritious eating, regular physical activity, adequate rest and recovery, and effective stress management.”


So, yes, walking is good for weight loss. “But for optimal weight loss and overall health,” says Jo, “it should be complemented with a diet rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods.”

How much walking do you need to do — and how often — to lose weight?


For health benefits, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), among other health authorities, recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity activity. For weight loss, though, that number jumps to at least 250 minutes per week.


Before you toss your sneakers into the trash, know this: No one’s expecting you to hit either of those numbers on day one or, for that matter, month one. Think of them as a two-part goal, especially if you’re just starting out.


What’s more, walking “doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach,” says Anthony Wall, an exercise physiologist and certified ACE personal trainer. If you aren’t able to squeeze in 30- to 50-minute walks five days a week, aim for shorter bouts of exercise. A study published in Obesity suggests that two shorter walks per day may be more effective for overweight people looking to shed pounds than one longer walk.

What does a walking for weight loss plan look like?


The answer depends on your fitness level. If you’re already walking as part of a regular exercise routine, aim for 250 minutes per week and increase the volume and intensity of your walks (see tips, below).


If you’re new to exercise, experts recommend starting slow and gradually increasing your time and distance by up to 20 percent every two weeks until you reach the 150-minute mark and, eventually, 250 minutes. “A walking plan for weight loss typically includes a mix of walking speeds and terrains to keep the exercise challenging,” says Jo.

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