Setting realistic, sustainable goals is key to any walking program. If you’re walking to lose weight, you may want to know how much weight is safe to lose in a week or a month. The good news is that you don’t need to engage in fad diets or extreme exercise to lose weight sustainably. Here’s a closer look at how much weight is safe to lose every week and how you might get there.
Note: If you have a health condition that makes it difficult to walk or requires a special diet, make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.
If you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer for free (on mobile)!
How much weight is safe to lose in a week
It’s important to differentiate the most weight you COULD lose in a week and how much weight you SHOULD lose in a week. Gradual weight loss through small changes is healthier, more sustainable and much more enjoyable both in the short and long run.
1-2 pounds per week
Most health organizations like the CDC recommend aiming to lose at most 1-2 pounds per week (about 0.5-1 kg/week). Why 1-2 pounds? That requires burning about 500-1000 more calories than you take in every day. You can achieve this through a combination of walking more and eating healthier.
The Mayo Clinic agrees that 1-2 pounds per week is a good maximum target. As a longer-term goal, you might look to lose 5-10% of your current weight.
**Important note: Just because it’s possible to safely lose 1-2 pounds per week does not mean that you should or need to lose 1-2 pounds per week. You should do what’s best for your own individual goals.
How much walking burns 500-1000 calories?
The number of calories you burn walking varies based on your current weight, walking speed and other factors.
A 180-pound person walking at a brisk 3.5 mph burns about 311 calories per hour. That 180-pound walker would need to walk about an extra 1.5 hours to burn 500 calories (3 hours to burn 1000).
It’s important to note that this would require walking an hour and a half more than you already walk, not an hour and a half total. Even adding an hour a day walking can be tough, and few people have 3 extra hours to walk every day. This just highlights how exercise alone may not be enough to reach your goals.
What does 500-1000 calories worth of food look like?
500 calories is actually less food than you might think. Here are the calorie counts of a few popular foods and snacks.
- Big Mac©: 560 calories
- 16-oz bottle of cola: 200 calories
- Regular latte: 190 calories
- Donut: 300-500 calories
That means that if you grab a latte and a donut as a snack, you’re already taking in around 500 calories right there.
How activity and nutrition work together
The best way to lose weight sustainably is to get a bit more active and eat a little bit healthier. Here’s how it could look.
- Swap a soda or latte for a black coffee: -190 calories
- Walk an extra half hour daily: -155 calories
- Swap the donut for 2 pieces of toast: -180 calories
That’s just an example and of course you don’t have to make all of these swaps at the same time. Even making of these swaps will make a difference over time. Find ways to get a bit more active or make little tweaks to what you eat that you don’t notice or that you can learn to live with long term.
What kind of results will you see?
Getting healthy is a process. It’s important to be realistic about the results that you can expect and the timeframe you can expect those results in. Take particular trouble spots, for instance. You absolutely can reduce belly fat over time, but you shouldn’t expect to get six-pack abs in a month or two.
Getting healthier is also not just about losing weight. Even low levels of activity can reduce your risk of death. Eating healthier helps you feel better, can reduce your risk of certain health problems, and helps to power your walks. Setting sustainable goals is important for health walkers as well. If you expect to double your steps in a week, you may end up sore, injured or burned out.
Safe Weight Loss is About Living Healthy
The people who successfully lose weight and keep it off are the people who strive to be healthier, not just thinner. A crash diet might help you drop pounds quickly, but it is not sustainable or safe to deprive yourself of good food so you can weigh less. Once the diet ends, those pounds are going to come right back. People with a goal to live healthier through diet and exercise will steadily lose weight plus gain the benefits of a healthier body.
Cut the Calories
If you know that you are taking in too many calories on a daily basis, you can follow this advice from Shape, “To lose two pounds per week, you must drop 1,000 calories per day.” Start by making small changes to your diet, like cutting down on those mid-morning snacks, skipping seconds at dinnertime, and drinking a glass of water next time you reach for the soda. Try eating green veggies instead of starches, and include more fiber in your diet.
Again, you don’t have to make all of these changes at the same time! In fact, it’s probably better not to dramatically change too many things at once so you can get used to the changes. Even making one or two small changes really adds up.
Increase the Cardio
Healthline encourages you to make a weight loss plan that includes more cardio exercises. Walking is a form of cardio. It increases your heart rate, strengthens your lungs and heart muscles, and burns calories faster. Keep counting your steps and slowly increase your goal for total steps per day. You don’t need to engage in extreme exercise to burn calories. Instead, work on increasing your walking goal by 1000-2000 steps a day. It might take you a few weeks or even months to get there, but keep at it! Like the story of the turtle and the hare, slow and steady wins the race.
The key to a sustainable weight loss plan is a commitment to a steady (not drastic) combination of diet and exercise. LiveStrong.com reminds you that everybody is different, so the amount of weight you lose will probably be different from someone else following the same plan. Some people might find it easy to make changes that add up to 2 pounds a week or around 8 pounds a month. Others may only be able to manage a half a pound a week. The most important thing is that you feel good and are making changes that you’re willing and happy to stick with long term.
Doesn’t seem like enough? It’s not a get-thin-quick plan. But a realistic plan is a plan that you can sustain over the long haul. Setting an unrealistic goal could lead to an unsafe weight loss plan that deprives you of proper nutrition. It can also lead to disappointment and discouragement (which can result in some unwise choices of comfort food). Don’t expect to lose 40 pounds in a month. Be realistic, be safe, and lose those pounds slowly and steadily.
Basic Tips to Getting Started on Your Safe Weight Loss Plan
Ready to commit to a healthy lifestyle? Great! Put these tips into action in your life and watch the pounds drop over time.
- Keep a food diary for a week, so you become more aware of what and when you eat.
- Begin your day with a healthy, protein-rich breakfast for more energy and a feeling of fullness that will last longer.
- Share your weight loss goals with a friend or family member. Find someone to support you along the way.
- Keep in mind the saying, “Eat less, move more.”
- Get enough sleep on a regular basis. It actually increases your ability to lose weight.
- Evaluate your progress. If you aren’t losing weight, try to figure out why not. If you are losing weight, be encouraged to keep up the good work!
Remember: healthy weight loss is all about the commitment to a healthy lifestyle. Small, simple changes to the way you live can make big results over time.
If you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer for free (on mobile)! You can also check out our website (mobile or desktop) or follow our blog for more great walking and healthy lifestyle tips.