Walking to Lose Weight

Walking to Lose Weight

Walking is a terrific way to lose weight, but you’re going to have to kick up the pace a bit if you want to see results.

The standard advice to lose weight from walking is to walk an hour a day “most days of the week”. For those of us who get detailed about these things, “most days of the week” means four days a week. The average American woman weighs 164 pounds and is 5 feet four inches tall. If she is 35 and has an otherwise sedentary lifestyle, walking 3 miles per hour on level ground (a “moderate” pace) will burn 242 extra calories a day. If she walks four days a week, that’s 968 calories a week and 3872 calories a month, which is about the equivalent of 1.1 pounds of weight lost a month. That is, technically, weight loss, but I don’t think its enough weight loss to get anyone too excited. Not only that, but if that same woman comes back from her walk and eats just one large apple (one measly apple) more than she would have if she had not walked, she’ll lose only half a pound from walking that month.

That’s pretty depressing. But when you actually look at how many calories low-level exercise burns, it is pretty depressing. Not a lot of “easy weight loss” sites will be real with you about how hard you have to work out to lose weight. I will. And the good news is that you can lose weight by walking, but you have to walk faster.

If you can carry some light weights, that’s even better. If you don’t want to actually bring a set of dumb bells with you, and you are kind of alarmed at the idea of carrying heavy weights while you walk, there are weighted gloves that aren’t too conspicious. Some people who methodically track their calories burns for each kind of exercise they do say that a one pound weighted glove on each hand increases calorie burn by 5 to 20% (some people say 5%, some say 20%). For me, if I’m going to spend the time to exercise, I like to get the best results possible. And firming up the arms a bit is a less attractive prospect. The weighted gloves will NOT make you “big” — they will just cut down on the jiggle. You’ll look much better in sleeveless tops.

So how fast do you have to walk? If that same 5′ 4″, 164 pound woman walked 4 miles per hour (very brisk) she would burn 410 calories per hour. So you add just a bit of pace to that walk, and suddenly you’re burning 70% more calories. That works out to 1.87 pounds a month. Let’s say you put on weighted gloves, and they get you an extra 10% of calories burned. You’re now at 451 calories per hour, or 2.06 pounds a month. Then you kick up to six days a week of walking, and you’re losing 3.1 pounds a month.

If you can push yourself to 4.5 miles per hour, you hit 538 calories per hour. Add the weighted glove factor and you’re at 592 calories an hour. Six times a week, that comes to 4.05 pounds a month. That’s a pretty vigorous walk, but that’s what it takes to walk off four pounds.

Let’s add the “park your car in the back of the parking lot so you get more walking in” trick. Let’s say its five minutes of extra walking, eight times a day — four times (counting back and forth each way) at work, and four times doing just two errands. That’s thirty extra minutes of walking a day. Add up 22 work days, (40 minutes times 22) plus 8 weekend days (20 minutes times 8) and you’ve got 880 workday walking minutes plus 160 weekend walking minutes. That’s 1,040 minutes or 17.3 hours of 3 mile per hour moderate walking. It will burn 4193 calories off.

Because those extra steps make a difference, many people buy a pedometer so they can see how far they’re walking every day. The standard goal is 10,000 steps a day. I won’t calculate how many calories that would mean to our 164 pound woman — I leave that to you.