How Walking Can Improve Fitness and Weight Loss

There are two components to fitness and weight loss – physical activity and diet. Walking is a great way to increase physical activity – especially as the warmer weather approaches. It is a low-impact, moderate-intensity exercise that can be done just about anytime and anywhere, presents few risks, and doesn’t cost a penny. 

Benefits of Walking

Here are just a few of the benefits of walking:

  • Weight loss
  • Maintain a healthy weight and lose body fat
  • Prevent and manage obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure
  • Improve cardiovascular fitness
  • Strengthen bones and muscle
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Increase energy levels
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve flexibility and range of motion
  • Improve mood, memory, and sleep
  • Improve balance and coordination
  • Increase Creativity - According to one study, walking can increase creative output by an average of 60% and as high as 81% for some people.

How Many Steps Do You Need General Health Benefits?

Okay, so hopefully, we’ve convinced you that walking is good for you, but how much do you need to walk to experience these benefits?

According to Medical News Today, most Americans take 3,000 to 4,000 steps (1.5-2 miles) per day. However, the CDC recommends that most adults aim for 10,000 steps (5 miles) per day for general fitness.

Medical News Today reports that the benefits of walking increase with step count. In one study, people who took 8,000 steps per day had a “51% lower risk of dying by any cause compared with those who took 4,000 per day… participants who took 12,000 steps per day had a 65% lower risk of dying than those who took 4,000.”

Don’t think you can make time for 12,000 steps a day? That’s okay because even a little bit of walking can have health benefits. A 2007 study of inactive women found that “even a low level of exercise – around 75 minutes per week – improved their fitness levels significantly when compared to a non-exercising group.”

How Many Steps Do You Need for Weight Loss?

If you want to lose weight, increasing physical activity is essential. Walking may not be the fastest way to lose weight, but if you consider all of the benefits it offers, you may decide that walking is worth your time. 

How many steps you need to take to lose weight can vary based on your current weight, how much you eat, and your target weight. However, 10,000 steps a day seems to be the magic number – even for weight loss – and because walking is so low-impact, you can shoot for even more steps for a more significant impact. The bottom line is that any steps you take beyond your average daily step count can help you lose weight.

It’s also important to remember that intensity factors into the effectiveness of walking for weight loss. For example, a National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) study of 363 people with obesity found that “those who took 10,000 steps per day and spent at least 3,500 of those steps engaged in moderate-to-vigorous activity lasting for bouts of 10 minutes or longer experienced enhanced weight loss.”

Tips to Increase Intensity:

  • walk up hills
  • walk with hand weights
  • walk longer
  • gradually increase your walking speed 
  • increasing how far you walk briskly before returning to a moderate walking pace

Tips for Walking

Tips to Stay Motivated:

  • Find someone else to walk with
  • Take your (or your neighbor’s) dog for a walk
  • Listen to music
  • Schedule your walks as you would any important task
  • Make walking a part of your daily routine
  • Track how many miles you walk
  • Challenge yourself to get more steps in each week
  • Try different walking/hiking trails
  • Join a walking/hiking club

Tips to Squeeze in Extra Steps:

  • Instead of sitting while you’re waiting for an appointment or meeting, take a quick walk
  • Park further away from the entrance or get off the bus one stop earlier, so you have farther to walk to your destination.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Walk to nearby locations (stores, doctors’ offices, etc.) instead of driving

Tips to Stay Safe:

  • Before you begin a walking routine, visit your physician for a medical check-up, particularly if you are older, overweight, or haven’t exercised for a while.
  • Warm up and cool down by starting and ending at a slower pace
  • Wear shoes that are comfortable and provide appropriate support
  • Wear sunglasses, sunscreen, long sleeves, and a hat to avoid sunburn
  • Dress for the weather and be prepared for rain, snow, or storms
  • Drink plenty of water before and after your walk
  • Be aware of your surroundings – cars, tripping hazards, etc.

Fitness and Weight Loss

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