The best ways to lose weight walking ranked by calories burned per hour

You can burn even more calories than brisk walking by upping the intensity of your walks. If you want to lose more weight by walking, or if you simply don’t have much time to walk, these intense fitness walking styles can help maximize your benefits. While you’ll burn more calories, these fitness walks can be a challenge so you’ll need to plan your route and gear accordingly. You can also incorporate walking stairs, incline walking and other fitness walking styles into your regular walks.

We’ll rank 5 ways to boost the calories you burn from walking, plus reasons who should and should not do each walking style.

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Walking stairs

Senior woman walking stairs for fitness
Olena Yakobchuk / Shutterstock

Walking stairs is probably the most intense, highest calorie burning walking workout that you can do. According to the American Council on Exercise, walking up and down stairs can burn more than double the calories of regular, 3 mph brisk walking.

  • 100%+ more calories than brisk walking

According to the ACE, a 170 pound person would burn around 293 calories per hour from 3.5 mph brisk walking and 616 calories per hour from climbing stairs.

Why walk stairs?

If you only have a short time to walk, walking stairs will maximize your calorie burn in the time you have. If you live in an apartment or you’re at an office, you probably have a staircase that’s available to walk any time you have a break. You can also fit stair walking into a regular walking workout, or simply take the stairs instead of the elevator from time to time. Stairs also give you a great leg workout as well.

Why not walk stairs?

Stairs may be the highest impact form of walking, which can be tough on your body. It’s not just walking up stairs that’s tough – walking down stairs can be hard on the knees as well. Because stairs can be such an intense workout, it’s not as easy to continuously walk stairs for long periods of time. While your calorie burn per hour may be high, your overall calorie burn from a short stair workout will be lower. Finally, you need a set of stairs to walk! Walking stairs can get boring – even outdoor stairs – as there isn’t really anywhere to go.

Incline walking

Woman walking dog on a hike uphill
Kazantseva Olga / Shutterstock

The increase in calories burned depends on just how steep the incline of the hill is, plus how fast you’re walking. According to VeryWellFit, incline walking increases your calorie burn by 60%. Another method estimates a 12% increase in calories burned for every 1 degree of incline you walk. At a 10 degree incline you’ll double your calorie burn!

  • 60% to 100% more calories than brisk walking

Why walk on an incline?

Incline walking is less intense than walking stairs, and all you need is a hilly area to walk. You can walk hills while hiking and enjoying nature, or simply while walking around your neighborhood (depending where you live). If you have access to a treadmill, you can turn on an incline setting and do your entire walk on that incline. Many of the hilliest areas have the best views, which can make your walk more enjoyable. You also may find fewer people, especially if you’re going on a hike.

Why not walk on an incline

Walking on an incline is still more intense than regular brisk walking on a flat surface. Both going up and going down hills can put additional stress on your joints. If there are no hills near your house (or your preferred walking route), you’re limited in how much incline walking you can do unless you have a treadmill. Even if you do have hills you can walk, it’s tough to walk on an incline for your entire walk. Walking up and down the same hill can get boring, while there are generally flat surfaces almost anywhere you want to walk.

Speed walking

Woman speed walking on a walking track
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Increasing your walking speed will increase your calories burned per hour. The exact increase depends on how much faster you’re walking. Going from 3 mph to 4 mph increases your calorie burn by about 50%!

  • 50% or more calories than brisk walking

Why speed walk?

Speed or race walking can be done on level ground and nearly anywhere. It’s less intense than walking an incline or stairs, and you can always adjust your pace to whatever intensity level is comfortable for you. You only need a walking path relatively free of obstructions and long enough to build and maintain speed. Increasing your speed can dramatically increase your calorie burn without having to modify your walks too much.

Why not speed walk?

To build up the required speed, you’ll need a route that’s both long enough so that you can continue moving and empty enough that you’re not forced to dodge people or obstacles. It’s difficult to speed walk in an apartment hallway or in your house, while you might be able to get in stairs in those places. Going faster does increase the intensity of your walks, and it also increases the chances that you’ll trip or take a bad step. Focusing on speed can take away some of the enjoyment of a slow, leisurely walk as well.

Interval training

Sporty young woman power walking for fitness
javi_indy / Shutterstock

Your calorie burn from interval training will depend on both how intense you get in the intense portions of your walk and how much of an increase in average overall speed you’re able to accomplish. Studies have shown that interval training can increase your calories burned by 30% over regular, steady state exercise.

  • 30% or more calories than brisk walking

Why walk intervals?

Interval training gives you the benefits of intense, fast paced fitness walking without having to maintain that pace for your entire walk. It’s easy to add intervals to any walk – simply vary your speed at predetermined intervals. You’ll burn more calories, walk faster overall and get more steps. You can make both the “fast” and “slow” intervals as intense or mild as you like, and you can always adjust this on the fly. If you’re feeling tired, simply skip a fast interval for a longer rest period.

Why not walk intervals?

While you can simply vary the speed of your walks, true intervals involve speeding up and slowing down for defined periods of time. Some people would rather do free walking, and don’t want to have to follow that kind of regimen in their walking. You’ll need to find a clear route for the faster sections, as you don’t want to speed up and bump into someone or run out of room to walk.

Power/Nordic/Full-body walking

Woman nordic walking in a green park
Jacek Chabraszewski / Shutterstock

Power walking’s calorie burn primarily comes from increasing your walking speed from the power walking motion. Increasing your walking speed by 1 mph can increase your calorie burn by 25-50% depending on how fast you normally walk. Walking with poles or Nordic Walking can increase your calorie burn by 15-45% by using the poles to work your whole body.

  • 15% or more calories than brisk walking

Why power walk?

Turning your walk into a full body workout can increase your calorie burn without having to significantly increase your walking speed or vary your terrain. Basic power walking lets you do engage your core and upper body without additional gear required. You can add Nordic walking poles for stability and to work your arms. This can take stress off your knees and joints while helping burn more calories. If you have access to an elliptical machine with handles or other forms of upper body exercise that can help as well. We don’t recommend walking while holding weights, as this can throw off your form and increase your risk of injury.

Why not power walk?

Some people simply prefer walking at a leisurely pace using their regular walking motion, and that’s completely ok. Trying to do too much of an exaggerated arm swing can throw off your posture and do more harm than good. Walking with poles requires purchasing walking poles, of course, and may not lend itself to a quick walk when you suddenly have some free time. Some people also find that they think power walking looks awkward.

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