How many steps do you really need to walk for weight loss?

30 minutes of walking per day is a great start for health and fitness, but for effective weight loss walking you may need more walking time in your day. Fortunately, daily walking is free, easy to do and easy to fit into almost any schedule. Keep in mind that increasing your steps can be offset by eating more, so you’ll need to make sure that you’re keeping your calorie intake stable (or ideally decrease it) to ensure that you make weight loss progress. While 30-90 minutes of walking daily is usually enough for weight loss, you can get even more detailed with a few basic calculations.

We cover how some basic rules of thumb for weight loss walking, plus how much time, how many miles, and how many steps the average American man and woman would need to walk to burn one pound of fat.

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Baseline – 30 minutes per day

Man walking dog on a suburban street
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If you’re looking to start walking for weight loss, 30 minutes a day is a great place to start. The CDC, UK NHS and other health agencies recommend 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity like brisk walking daily, 5 days per week (150 minutes per week). That 30 minutes per day brings with it a variety of health benefits, like reduced risk of many chronic diseases including heart disease and diabetes.

30 minutes of walking at a brisk pace of 3.5 mph is about 1.75 miles. How many steps you get in that 1.75 miles depends on your steps per mile which depends largely on your height. Check our steps per mile guide for more detailed information. Here are a few examples of steps per 1.75 miles.

  • 5’4″ – 4,125 steps
  • 5’10 – 3,771 steps

In reality, if you actually set aside 30 minutes during the day you’ll get even more steps than this. That’s because you need to do at least SOME walking in your daily life. An extra few thousand steps can really make a difference in your health. If you’re not currently doing 30 minutes of dedicated walking today, try creating a daily walking habit and boost your steps to that level.

Intense weight loss walking – 30 to 90 mins/day

Woman walking dog in the woods
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While your first goal should be working your way up to 30 minutes of walking per day, getting anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes of walking every day is a great target for weight loss. Adding an extra hour of walking daily can burn 1-2 pounds per month, though it can be hard to find the time (and energy) in your day.

Those 30-90 minutes don’t all have to be at the same time, however. 20 minute walks in the morning, at lunch, and after dinner put you squarely in the middle of the weight loss walking zone. Most people can find that much time – though you may need to give up some TV watching or phone checking time to get there.

Keep your calories in check!

Sporty man eating healthy fruit during a walk
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Walking more will burn more calories, but if you eat those calories back you can end up getting stuck on a plateau or even gaining weight. It’s always easier to eat calories than it is to burn them off, so it’s important to make sure that you at least keep your eating habits the same as you increase your steps.

A large bottle of sports drink can be up to 200 calories. That’s the number of calories you’d burn after 30 minutes to an hour of walking depending on your weight. If you’re also eating a pre-walking snack plus a post-walk reward you can easily exceed your calories burned by a large margin.

That’s why it’s important to note what you eat, and make sure that if you add back any calories around your increased walks that you reduce calories in other areas. If you can reduce your overall calories you can lose weight even more effectively than through walking alone.

The extra steps are what counts

Remember that you actually need to increase your steps over what you’re doing now to burn more calories and actually lose weight. If you’re already taking a large number of steps and you’re not at your goal weight, you may want to take a look at what you’re eating to see if that’s the problem. Even if you’re walking 10,000 steps per day or more, it’s still quite easy to out-eat your calorie burn.

If you’re able to add an extra half hour of walking per day (assuming you keep your calories constant), you’ll start to see weight loss progress over time. Remember that there’s not one level of walking where you can simply eat whatever you want.

Burning 1 pound of fat

Plus sized female jogger on running path
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Time to burn 1 pound of fat

According to the Mayo Clinic, you need to create a caloric deficit of 3,500 calories to burn a pound of fat. That means either doing additional exercise to burn those 3,500 calories or eating less over time. How long you’d have to walk to burn 1 pound of fat depends primarily on your weight, as well as other factors.

The average American male weighs around 200 pounds, while the average female weighs around 170 pounds. Check our piece on calories burned walking for more details.

  • 170 pound woman walking 3 mph: about 250 Cal/hour
  • 200 pound man walking 3 mph: about 305 Cal/hour

At that rate, here’s how long each person would need to walk to burn that 1 pound of fat:

  • 14 hours – 170 pound woman walking 3 mph
  • 11.5 hours – 200 pound man walking 3 mph

An important note is that bigger people burn more calories when walking because there’s more of them to move around.

Distance walked to burn 1 pound of fat

Using our above example, we can calculate (approximately) how far each person would walk to burn off that 1 pound of fat.

  • 42 miles – 170 pound woman walking 3 mph
  • 34.5 miles – 200 pound man walking 3 mph

Steps walked to burn 1 pound of fat

The average American male is 5’9″ and the average female is 5’4,” which means that we can estimate the number of steps they take per mile

  • 2,357 steps/mile – 5’4″
  • 2,187 steps/mile – 5’9″

Taller people take fewer steps per mile, as each step travels a longer distance. Add those up and here’s how many steps each person would need to take to burn that one pound of fat:

  • 98,994 steps – 170 pound woman walking 3 mph
  • 75,451 steps – 200 pound man walking 3 mph

These are of course approximations, and your results may vary. Again, these step count numbers would be in addition to their normal daily steps.

While those numbers may seem very high, adding an additional 30 minutes of walking every day would get you to 14 hours in under a month.

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