Walking: Is it enough for weight loss?

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Walking: Is it enough for weight loss?

Question

Can I lose weight if my only exercise is walking?

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Answer

You might be able to lose weight that way, depending on the duration and intensity of your walking and what your diet's like. But consuming fewer calories through dietary changes seems to promote weight loss more effectively than does exercise and physical activity.

That's not to say physical activity such as walking isn't important for weight control — it is. The key to weight loss is burning more calories than you consume. Because 3,500 calories equals about 1 pound (0.45 kilogram) of fat, you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you take in to lose 1 pound of fatty tissue. So if you cut 500 calories from your typical diet each day, you'd lose about 1 pound a week (500 calories x 7 days = 3,500 calories).

If you add 30 minutes of brisk walking to your daily routine, you could burn about 150 more calories a day. At that rate, you'd lose about another 1/3 of a pound (0.15 kilogram) a week. The more you walk and the quicker your pace, the more calories you'll burn. While any physical activity is good, you'll get the most benefit in terms of weight loss from activity that is moderately intense. So aim to walk at 3 to 4 miles per hour. You can gradually build up to that pace if necessary.

Once you've lost weight, exercise is even more important — it's what helps keep the weight off, even more so than calorie restriction. In fact, studies show that people who maintain their weight loss over the long term get regular physical activity. So keep walking, but make sure you also follow a healthy diet.

Last Updated: 2010-01-15
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