Thinking of your calories burned from walking in terms of your favorite foods can help you be realistic with your weight loss goals. While you don’t have to offset everything you eat with walking, but knowing how hard you’d need to work to burn off a treat can help motivate you to pass on desserts and snacks. Your calorie burn varies by weight and other factors, but you can still get a sense of how impactful walks of different lengths are. Armed with this knowledge, you can make better decisions on what to eat and how much to walk.
We’ll cover walks from 5 minutes to over an hour and show what the average American man (200 pounds) and woman (170 pounds) might burn off.
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Calories burned walking – in terms of food
When you’re walking for weight loss, it can be helpful to think of your calories burned in terms of common foods. This can also help you eat healthier once you realize just how much walking you’d need to do to burn off the calories from a single donut, candy bar or soda. Your calories burned depend on your weight, but here are a few examples to get you started.
Case 1: 170 pound woman
For this example, we assume that our 170 pound woman is walking at 3 mph on relatively level ground. She’ll burn around 250-260 calories per hour. Here’s what that calorie burn might look like in terms of food items.
5 minute walk:
- 1 chocolate kiss or 3-4 peanuts (~21 calories)
While one 5-minute walk doesn’t burn a huge amount of calories, add up enough of them and you can burn a fair number of calories. That 5 minutes of walking is important for other health reasons as well. Long periods of sitting are bad for your health, so getting up and walking for 5 minutes will make a difference.
15 minute walk:
- 1 peach or 2-3 marshmallows (~64 calories)
15 minutes is perfect for a short walk. You’ll burn some calories with enough time to warm up, cool down and still get brisk walking done in between. It is important to note that. It is important to realize that you can eat back this walk time with even a single soda or half an energy bar, however,
30 minute walk:
- 1 regular latte or just under 2 hard boiled eggs (~122 calories)
A 30 minute walk lets you hit your daily minimum recommended steps with just one walking session. You’ll feel great, see some sights and burn a decent amount of calories. Most energy bars do contain over 120 calories, and it’s still possible to eat back these calories relatively easily by mindlessly snacking.
1 hour walk:
- 1 Glazed donut or a small serving of fries (~250 calories)
An hour of walking daily will put you on pace for 300 minutes of walking per week, which gives even more health benefits than the minimum recommendation. 60 minutes of brisk walking will burn a lot of calories, provided you can keep up a brisk pace for the whole hour. You can try varying your pace or doing modified intervals so that you have time to rest while keeping moving. Do still keep in mind that even an hour of walking is still moderate exercise, and it can be hard to outwalk unhealthy eating.
6.5 hours of walking:
- A medium cheese pizza (~1600 calories)
This goes to show that even an intense exercise routine (at least through walking) can’t burn calories as fast as you can eat them. While it’s ok to indulge occasionally, if you’re eating huge numbers of calories every day there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to walk them off.
It’s important to note that walking is great for you even if you’re not eating healthy. Burning some calories is better than burning none, and you’ll also benefit your heart health, joints and more. Best yet, you’ll feel great which can help put you in a better frame of mind when it comes to eating.
Case 2: a 200 pound man
For this example, we assume that our 200 pound man is walking at 3 mph on relatively level ground. He will burn around 300 calories per hour. Here’s what that calorie burn might look like in terms of food items.
5 minute walk:
- 1 tomato or 4-5 peanuts (~25 calories)
Every 5-minute walk you take adds up, so if you can get 5 minutes of walking in it’s a great idea to do that. It also breaks up sitting time, while boosting your energy and creativity. It’s important to be realistic in that a 5-minute walk by itself doesn’t burn many calories. You should still get those steps in when you can, however!
15 minute walk:
- 1 small apple or 3 marshmallows (~75 calories)
While 15 minutes in the morning won’t burn off your entire breakfast, you’ll feel energized and you’ll start to make an impact for weight loss. 15 minutes also gets you halfway towards your minimum of 30 minutes daily walking. With a dedicated 15-minute walk you’ll almost certainly get the other 15 in your day.
30 minute walk:
- 1 12-oz can of soda or 2 hard boiled eggs (~150 calories)
30 minutes gets you your minimum daily recommended steps in one walk, which means you’ll get even more walking by the end of the day. While we don’t recommend drinking soda, you’d have burned one off in your 30 minute walk. That soda might only take a minute to drink, however, which goes to show how much easier it is to take in calories than to burn them off.
1 hour walk:
- 1 small fast food cheeseburger or a baked potato (~300 calories)
An hour of walking sets you up for 300 minutes of walking per week (which gives additional health benefits), plus you’ll almost certainly hit 10,000 steps given the rest of the daily walking you’ll do. While you’re burning serious calories, it is important to be realistic with your weight loss goals. Make sure that you build off of the hour of effort you’ve spent by eating healthy as well. There may be an instinct to treat yourself since you finished your walk, but even an extra medium fries or large burger can be more calories than you can burn off in an hour.
- One medium cheese pizza (~1,600 calories)
Eating huge meals on a regular basis is very hard to offset through walking, as this demonstration illustrates. It’s fine to treat yourself now and then, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can eat whatever you want simply because you do a 20 minute daily walk. That walking will be great for your health regardless of your weight, but if you are looking to lose weight you can make as big or a bigger impact by eating healthier than you could by walking more.
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