Do you want to know what my favorite form of exercising is for torching belly fat, getting lean thighs, and other cliché fitness benefits talked about in every workout infomercial ever?
No, not SPEED walking. Just normal freaking walking!
Yeah, walking doesn’t burn 1,000 calories per hour. And that’s kind of the point. Walking’s low intensity has a few unique benefits;
1) Because it doesn’t take a monumental amount of willpower, you are unlikely to feel like you’ve “earned” more calories than you’ve expended. Nobody has ever said “Boy, I am WIPED from that 20 minute walk around the block. Let’s go get extra-large ice cream sundaes as a reward for all the butt we kicked!”
2) You’d have to walk A TON to produce muscle soreness that prevents you from being active the rest of the week. On the flip side, gentle activity such as walking is more likely to help you recover from your hard workouts. Greater recovery = greater potential for future activity.
3) You can do it whenever you want. Because you don’t need a real warm up and you’re not going to become drenched with sweat and sore, you can squeeze some extra steps in whenever you want.
And because of these unique benefits, you can do a lot of walking. An hour at the gym 3-6 times a week would be going to be the limit for most people for more intense exercise. But you can walk for hours per day (not necessarily all at once) without reaching your physical limit or even a practical limit such as running out of time (because you’re sneaking the steps here and there or perhaps multitasking as with phone calls).
Depending on your body weight and your speed of walking, burning an extra 100 calories per 20 minutes of walking is a relatively easy feat. You can figure out how many steps it takes you to accomplish that and create a steps per day goal accordingly.
When you add up all of the arguments above, I hope it’s apparent as to why I consider walking my #1 form of exercise for weight loss. Of course, I also suggest resistance training. While yes, you get to burn more calories per minute compared to walking, the main benefit comes in the form of muscle preservation. Assuming your food intake stays the same as it was when you were maintaining your weight… weight loss from additional walking + muscle preservation from resistance training = greater percentage of body weight lost from body fat than if walking alone.
“How Many Calories Can I REALLY Burn From Walking?”
Using the calorie cost of physical activity formula from the American Council of Exercise (HERE), below are some estimated totals for calories burned at different weights and lengths of time. Since I mentioned how burning an extra 100 calories is a “relatively easy feat” above, I am using formulas to bring you to approximately 100. I’m keeping the pace of walking fixed at 3 miles per hour so as to be realistic for most walkers.
250 lb person for 15 minutes = 102 calories
225 lb person for 17 minutes = 104 calories
200 lb person for 19 minutes = 103.6 calories
175 lb person for 21 minutes = 100 calories….ok, it is really 100.227272733, but what’s a little rounding down between friends?
150 lb person for 25 minutes = 102 calories
If you are weight stable currently and keep your food intake the same via strong nutrition habits, these little 100 calorie blocks every day could add up to just under a pound of weight loss per month.
How to Turn This into a Habit
One of the main components for forming ANY habit is deciding on a strong habit trigger. A habit trigger is the thing that reminds you to do your habit. This can either be an existing habit or something that is in your environment, like an alert on your phone.
If your version of this habit is simply going for a single walk, the habit trigger is usually pretty straight forward. For example, you start your lunch break and immediately go for a 10 minute walk.
Where walking habits get more complex is when you have a specific goal per day of how many steps you want to perform. This is basically multiple walking habits in a single day, as you may have multiple triggers that inform you of when it’s time to get to walking. In addition, in this case you may want to create a habit of checking how many steps you’re at by a certain time of day as the number displayed may mean that you need to go for an additional walk to hit your target.
For example, at 6pm you might get an alert on your phone that prompts you to check how many steps you’re at so far. If you know your usual patterns, you’ll know that anything above X means you’re on track for hitting your target for the day. And if below X, then that could trigger your fall back plan of immediately going for a walk for a particular number of steps.
This Is What Some Habit Project™ Members Have Learned From Working On This Habit
“The biggest lesson I learned through this habit is what my typical day looked like prior to beginning the habit, and how much of an increase is realistic for me on most days. Before starting this habit I overestimated the amount of steps I was getting, and I would’ve sworn there was no way I could add more.” – Cyndi Reiley
“The two targets I chose (8000 steps for work days, 5000 steps for other days) were good targets. Walking to and from work doesn’t add up to 8000 steps, so I have to do some additional walking either at lunch break, or in the evening. And having a more moderate target for non-work days was good, since it triggered me to find a reason to walk, e.g. grocery shopping at a store farther away from home than the usual store.
I also learned that I need to listen to my body, that pain is not a good thing, and that I shouldn’t push through the pain just to reach my target.” – Jenny Gustavsson
“I really have to make myself get up and walk. I’m very sedentary even though I work out regularly” – Valeria Noelia