How Many Miles Do You Need To Walk To Lose Weight?
I’m going to save you a lot of trouble and answer the question first. The answer is, “Zero miles.” BUT hold on…before you get mad at me for pulling a bait and switch, let’s dig a little deeper into the subject of a walking regimen being used as a tool for weight loss. I asked this same question to a group of women who have extensive life experience, who share the same or similar struggles in their health that are common to all of us, and who have gone through a lot of trial and error in their lives when it comes to doing what it takes to stay lean and healthy. This provides some amazing insight into how walking each day can be an effective source of exercise that can either help with fat loss or be a way to maintain a healthy weight.
How do you take something that the body is so accustomed to doing, like walking, and conform it to be the catalyst that can help you lose weight? Is it possible to give a simple, specific answer or formula so that you can walk your way to a leaner, healthier physique?
When asked, “How many miles do you need to walk to lose weight?” I got some insightful answers. Remember, these ladies did not just take a shot in the dark to get the answer correct. I found that they genuinely responded in ways that proved what has or has not given them weight loss results. They shared what their own struggles have been when applying any type of walking program as a form of exercise for weight loss.
Answer 1: “I’ll say 1 mile as long as your heart rate goes up.”
Considering your heart rate is an important factor! Walking 1 mile can be effective for burning some calories if you’re mindful of your heart rate. For most people, the heart beats between 60 and 100 times a minute while at rest. Heart rate increases during exercise, and the harder you exercise, the more your heart rate will increase. You will need to do some figuring to find out your fat-burning heart rate zone. When your body taps into fat stores for energy instead of using basic sugars and carbs, this leads to fat loss. An average fat-burning heart rate for women aged 51-55 is between 115 and 118 beats per minute. For women between 56-60 years old, an average fat-burning heart rate is 112 to 115. You will want to find the “sweet spot” heart rate for you, but if you are walking to lose weight, you need to continue to push yourself to a fat-burning heart rate. This means that you’ll want to focus on steadily increasing your walking speed.
Since heart rate is an important component when walking as a tool for weight loss, you will also want to monitor your heart rate. If you’ve been thinking about getting a heart monitor watch, consider investing in one of our favorite options. Explore which one will work best for you!
Answer 2: “I’d guess 30 minutes at a brisk pace, daily, whatever that is for each individual.”
Again, that target fat-burning heart rate becomes so important. Her answer also addresses the length of time you should walk rather than just responding to how many miles. Depending on you and your current fitness level, the distance that you will be able to walk and keep your heart rate in the fat-burning zone will continue to change. As you do more walking, you’ll become faster and stronger. Over time, you will likely travel a greater distance within 30 minutes. It is a good challenge to start where you can. If your starting point is 1 mile and your heart rate is in the fat-burning zone throughout that entire mile, the goal should be to increase your distance over time as your body adapts and that first mile becomes less of a challenge.
Answer 3: “Per day? Because I walk 3 miles per day when I’m at work and, well, let’s say nothing is coming off. LOL I wanna say it depends. Is there such a thing as your body getting used to an activity? Because that would be my 3 miles a day while at work. My 3 miles may need to become 4 because my body is used to 3. I even climb stairs.”
Your body is designed to walk, and it does it very efficiently. If you’re walking every day and not seeing weight loss results, you are not burning enough calories on your walks to put you in a caloric deficit. This explains why one person who does a lot of walking on their average workday does not necessarily lose weight. I have a friend who works as a nurse, and she walks an average of 10 miles per day while at work, some of which is brisk walking. However, this has never been a fat loss formula for her. The reality of the situation is that our bodies are begging to be challenged and pushed in response to the ability to experience a caloric deficit or an increased fat-burning heart rate. You could walk 20 miles a day and experience zero weight loss if, in fact, walking 20 miles a day is what your body does efficiently. It would be necessary to turn some of those miles into “fat-burning zone” miles. That’s because weight loss also requires a caloric deficit, and this whole formula will change based on what you’re eating.
This is another great reason to consider wearing a smartwatch that tracks your personal miles/distance walked on an average day so that you can make a plan that goes above and beyond what is normal for your body. Making a walking plan that includes this information will 100% make the difference for your success in walking your way to weight loss.
Answer 4: “Walking alone won’t help you lose weight. A lot of it is your diet as well.”
Have you ever thought, “I just want to eat what I like and then lose weight by burning away those calories!”? I’m sure we’ve all thought this; I know I have. It’d be so much easier if we could indulge as often as we liked and then have a simple equation of calories burned that would force our bodies into a fat-burning state. The problem is, it is easier to consume far above and beyond the number of calories that our body needs to function than it is to take the time and energy necessary to equally burn off those extra calories through exercise. If you don’t have a carefully thought-out nutrition plan (even if you are not dieting), you are certain to be fighting an uphill battle with losing weight or even simply trying to maintain a healthy weight.
If you feel as though you have tried all the diets and are looking to make a change in your nutrition, you may want to consider combining intermittent fasting with your walking program. If you get a handle on your nutrition, along with continually challenging your body through a walking program that considers minutes, miles, and intensity, you will see weight loss results!
Answer 5: “Hmmmmm, I would guess at least a 3 mile daily brisk walk, but it depends. If you haven’t been walking or doing any physical activity, 1 mile may be good to start. If you’ve been walking 3 miles regularly, you might need to bump up the number or your pace.”
I love her answer because it summarizes the evolution of walking for weight loss. She knows that walking briskly for 3 miles daily challenges her and has been a part of what helps to keep her lean and healthy, yet she recognizes that 3 miles may not be a reasonable starting point for everyone. She then suggests that 1 mile can be a great place to start if you don’t already have a routine walking program in place. She then throws out the challenge that if you’ve been walking 3 miles a day, it is a good time to either increase your distance, your speed, or even both!
The answer is, “You need to walk as many miles as YOU need to walk to lose weight!” Allow yourself to interject your own logic and reasoning skills because you know your own body better than anyone! Ask yourself, “Is what you are doing now working or not working?” If you know it is not working, you need to do something different from what you are already doing. (This sounds so simple right?) If you are already walking 3 miles a day as part of your daily activity and your weight is not within a healthy range, then you need to make an adjustment. You will need to walk with purpose and intention, as well as walk more miles and at a higher heart rate.
Equally important, if you are eating more than what your body needs to operate efficiently, it will store it as fat. Begin your walking program with a nutrition plan that will set you up for success. You only need to eat what your body requires to function efficiently. When you combine that with walking as many miles for fat loss as your body requires to get into a fat-burning zone, you will achieve weight loss.
It’s most likely true that you are already equipped with the knowledge you need to succeed with a walking program that will help you experience weight loss success. Don’t let information overload be the enemy of making a plan of action that’s going to work for you.
Disclaimer: As always, you will want to consult with your doctor if you have any health concerns that may prevent you from exploring routine fitness, as well as receive recommendations on what activity level will be best for you. It is also advised that if you have questions about proper form and muscle function, that you work directly with a certified personal trainer for personal evaluation.