When walking for fitness, realistic maximum weight loss is about 1 to 2 pounds per week, but there are factors that can make this goal more or less likely. When you walk, you burn calories and get healthier in an easy, low-impact way. Walking is great for weight loss because nearly anyone can start, and you can go at your own pace. While you absolutely can lose weight walking, you can’t expect to lose that weight overnight or to see extremely rapid weight loss. Steady, sustainable weight loss is the way to keep the weight off long term. Eating healthier will make it much more likely that you’ll hit your weight loss goal as well, and both eating well and walking work together in synergy.
Read on to find what realistic walking weight loss could look like, how to get even better results, and what factors may make it more or less likely for you to hit that goal.
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How much weight loss is realistic for walking?
Quick answer: 1-2 lbs per week (maximum)
When walking for weight loss, 1-2 pounds lost per week is a realistic goal. Your weight loss does depend on your current size, activity level and other factors.
1-2 pounds per week means creating a 500-1000 calorie deficit every day (3,500-7,000 per week). You can create this deficit by eating a bit less, walking more, or ideally a combination of both. Cutting calories too fast will often result in your abandoning the diet very quickly. 500 calories of walking is over an hour of brisk walking for the average American man and woman.
An alternative goal could be to lose 5% of your current weight over time. Even a 5% reduction in weight can improve your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and more. You don’t need to lose the 5% all at once or even quickly – that can be a longer term goal to motivate you to walk more.
Considerations based on size
The larger you are, the more calories you burn moving around. You’ll also likely find it easier to lose weight if you haven’t been actively walking much in the past. Since each pound is a smaller percentage of your overall body weight, you may be able to lose weight a little bit faster than someone who is smaller. On the other hand, larger people may have more stress on their joints, so it’s still important to start with a low step count and work your way up. It may be harder for you to get a huge amount of steps, and that’s ok.
On the other hand, if you’re already close to your goal weight, you may need to work a bit harder. You don’t want to cut calories to dangerous levels, and you may already be getting a lot of steps at this point. If you work at it, you can definitely get there, but it’s best to be patient.
The more steps you take, the more calories burned, and the more fat lost. It’s important that you build up your step count gradually, however. Doubling your step count will burn more calories, but you’ll likely injure yourself or burn out if you try to do it suddenly. While 1-2 pounds may be reasonable for an active walker, if you’re just starting get the steps that you can and don’t be discouraged if it takes a bit longer. You’ll get there!
Other factors in addition to just steps, like what you eat, your metabolism, your job (which can make it easier to walk) and more will influence how fast you can lose weight. If you’re stuck on a plateau and can’t seem to make progress, try changing up your walking routine and examine what you’re eating and you can probably find something that you can tweak that will help you make progress again.
The Calorie Equation
#1 Rule of Weight Loss: Calories Out > Calories In
If you take in more calories than your body can burn off, your body stores those calories as fat and you gain weight. When you take in less than what you burn, your body is forced to raid some of its stores of nutrients to keep functioning.
You can create a caloric deficit by both exercising more (burning more calories) and eating less (taking in fewer calories. Eating better is incredibly important, as it’s very easy to eat back in minutes what might take you an hour or more to burn off. One of the biggest mistakes people make in getting fit is to start eating dramatically more when they start to exercise. It’s true that your body needs nutrients to recover from exercise, but walking is a low-impact exercise and you probably don’t need to eat more to compensate. Rest is likely a bigger factor in eliminating soreness. If you come in from a long walk starving and eat an energy bar or a donut, the 200+ calories you’ve taken in might be more than you burned in a half hour to an hour of walking.
Tips on eating better for weight loss
- Eat more leafy green vegetables, which are naturally low in calories and packed with filling fiber.
- Set up your plate with proper portions. Half green vegetables, a quarter carbs and a quarter lean protein is a good rule of thumb.
- Look for lean protein options that are lower in fat, like chicken and fish. Remember that something like a burger has protein in it, but you’re also eating a bun, cheese, condiments etc.
- Drink plenty of water. You may feel hungry when you’re actually thirsty.
- If you do find you need a snack before or after your walks, look for lower-calorie, filling options like greek yogurt, a hard boiled egg or a banana.
When the Scale Isn’t Everything
Trading fat for muscle and other considerations
As you walk and exercise, you’re not just losing fat but you’re also toning and building your muscles. Don’t worry – you’re not going to end up like a bodybuilder from a walking routine! You’d have to lift heavy weights, very frequently and eat extra calories to gain huge amounts of visible muscle mass. But walking and other forms of cardio will help strengthen your legs and core. Muscle is more dense than fat, so as you get stronger legs it can somewhat offset your weight loss from burning fat.
Ultimately, the scale is just a way to measure your weight loss progress. It’s not the most important measure of health! If you find that your weight loss starts to plateau a bit, but you’re looking better and you feel you have much more energy, then you’re already achieving great results. You may be trading fat, while toning the muscles in your legs, back, backside, core, and even your arms if you swing them.
So what does realistic walking weight loss look like? To summarize, expect to lose a maximum of 1-2 pounds per week, provided that you walk diligently and balance your calories to be less than your daily burn. That said, don’t worry if your weight seems to hold steady or even rise a little at first, especially if you are walking hard enough to get sore and feel amazing. Walking for health means feeling great and building your stamina and endurance, and weight loss will come over time.
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