How Much Should You Walk to Lose Weight Fast?
Updated: May 27, 2020
I remember when I first quit running.
It was a scary decision because I had always been a runner and ran multiple triathlons, marathons, half marathons and 10ks. I thought that my high level of running was what was keeping my weight at a stable level - but my anxiety took precedence so I decided to quit running cold turkey.
Instead, I swapped my habit of running multiple miles per day with walking the same distance. Not only did I find that my anxiety reduced significantly, but surprisingly my body fat percentage dropped too!
And I'm not talking about WEIGHT, but BODY FAT PERCENTAGE. If I had only lost weight then this could be a sign of muscle loss from not running. But no, no, no, my body fat percentage is what dropped.
So what happened? Why did I lose fat while walking? And is it something that can be considered an effective weight loss tool?
Today I'm diving into the deets on walking and weight loss!
Why Running Isn't Better For Weight Loss
Typically when we decide to achieve a weight loss goal, the first thing we do is start planning out how many miles we're going to log. But running MORE may actually be actively working against your goal.
It turns out that a study found endurance runners had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol (tested from hair samples). This is extremely significant when it comes to weight loss, because higher levels of cortisol can lead to increased weight gain specifically around the belly.
Plus, higher levels of cortisol leads to elevated blood glucose levels followed by elevated insulin (storing hormone) levels. These elevated levels of insulin lock up your fat cells as a fuel source and force your body to rely on blood glucose instead. The problem is, we only have so much glucose in the body at any given time (in fact, it equates to roughly less than 1 teaspoon in our entire blood glucose supply). That means we rapidly run through the blood glucose as energy which causes the body to quickly ramp up sugar cravings (aka HANGER) in order to stabilize it. Cue protein bar, chocolate and cookie cravings - all the things that will further boost insulin and therefore storing mode.
With weight loss, the main goal is to keep blood glucose levels stable and insulin levels lower so that your fat cells can be unlocked and used as an energy source. With these elevated storing hormones that can result from the increased blood glucose and cortisol levels, your body isn't even given the chance to burn fat.
What Walking Does Instead
On the other hand, walking typically results in lower levels of cortisol because it is a much less intense form of exercise. Higher intensity exercises rely on blood glucose as a fuel source. Walking does not. Because of the inherent lower intensity and therefore lower cortisol levels, fat cells are available and unlocked as a fuel source.
Pair walking with walking outside (especially if you live near a park, lake, ocean or forest) and you can double down on the cortisol reducing benefits. This is also why those who go on a walk typically feel less stressed and more at ease after. It's the main reasons that I dropped running and replaced it with walking!
One of the easiest ways to start implementing walking is by adding a 15 minute walk outside at some point in your day. Choose a time that makes sense with your schedule, whether it's in the morning, between work projects or before dinner. Then be consistent with it.
So How Much Should You Walk?
Now the question comes in... how much should you walk if weight loss is your goal. As much as many of the step counting apps would like you to believe, 10,000 steps is not some magical weight loss number. However, it DOES have the benefit of being much higher than what most of us are getting in each day (typically less than 5000 steps per day).
Instead of shooting for a specific "magic" steps number, aim for a few thousand extra steps above what you are currently at. it's not about the number, rather the trend that you are going up in steps. For example, if you find that you are currently getting in 3000 steps per day, aim to get 5000 steps per day. This is about an extra 20-25 minutes of walking per day. It's difficult to overdo walking, so as long as you are challenging yourself with a few thousand extra steps, you are headed in the right direction.
Check out my three rules for walking in order to achieve your weight loss goal HERE.