Can you lose weight just by walking?

Yes you can! You can lose weight just by walking. There is no need to kill yourself in the gym to lose weight and see results.

I’ve talked about it before, this idea that we can only count activity that is “at the gym.”  As if we can’t burn calories any where at any time.  So I wrote A Break Up Letter to my Gym.  Because it’s true, you can lose weight by just walking.  

In fact, the slow, sustainable weight loss supported by daily walking is one of the best ways to lose weight and keep it off in a healthy way.

My Love for Walking

At seventeen I moved to downtown Boston to attend Boston University.  And, after living in the suburbs all my life, found myself without a car.  So I started walking everywhere.  

lose weight just by walking

Walks that I would never have considered before became my norm.  As soon as I realized that walking was quicker (and warmer) than waiting for the train, I was hooked.  

The only downside came on my first trip to the supermarket (that was a good 2 miles from my dorm) and realized that I had to carry everything I purchased.  Needless to say, grocery shopping became an art form and subsequently a workout on the way home.  

lose weight just by walking

It wasn’t until I came home for winter break that everyone said they noticed how trim I was.  I didn’t have much to lose at that age, but my clothes were noticeably looser and my face had narrowed out.  It had never dawned on me that all the walking I did would have contributed to weight loss.

Without even trying, I had gotten down to a slimmer weight than even in high school.  While all my peers were complaining about the “Freshman 15,” I had actually lost about 15 pounds.

Walking for Weight Loss


I lost my initial 40 pounds by simply walking and counting calories. And my goal was just 20 minutes of walking at 4 mph speed, every day.  Since it was low intensity, and made me feel good, I didn’t take any days off or need any rest days. Walking on the treadmill at my apartment gym was the easiest, but I also enjoyed walking outside.

Once I got near my goal weight I started incorporating different types of strength training, more HIIT style workouts, and body weight exercises. I really started to enjoy those and my interest in weight lighting grew and grew. Now I really enjoy challenging myself and seeing my improvements over time. But if that’s not your bag, or at least isn’t right now, don’t worry! You don’t have you force it.

Even to this day, my default “workout” is my original 20 minutes on the treadmill. No matter what I do in the day, I try to make sure I walk. I go for a short walk on my ten minute break at work, walk when I wake up in the morning, and love taking walks after dinner.

Science & Research

There are quite a few studies showing that you can lose weight just by walking.  In the Meta-Analysis of Pedometer-Based Walking Interventions and Weight Loss performed by Caroline R. Richardson and colleagues at the University of Michigan showed just these results.

lose weight just by walking

The nine experiments included in the review showed that walking created a modest, but consistent weight loss.  It is slow, but if you persist, you can lose weight over a long period of time.  We know that losing at a slow but sustainable manner is the best way to keep the weight off long term.

Another study found that it doesn’t even take hours of walking to reap the benefits.  The research performed by J. Bond Brill and colleagues was published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2002.  They found that 30 minutes of walking most days yielded nearly the same results as walking 60 minutes most days of the week.

How to get walking

The best thing about walking is you can quite literally do it anywhere at any time.  There is no excuse to not walk.  The easiest is obviously a treadmill, but it can also be boring (unless you bring a movie to watch!).  

I try to get outside for my walks as much as possible.  You can head to the park, local high school, malls, Walmart, or just somewhere nice to look at. You can start with a comfortable pace and push yourself from there.  

I also enjoy doing a form of “intermittent walking” where your pace varies at different times during the walk, speeding up for some, and slowing for others.  Try to find stairs, inclines, or hills to walk on.  The added challenge improves your stamina and endurance, so challenge yourself as often as possible.  

And make sure to grab your dog, spouse, and kids to come along with you.  That’s what is so great about walking, you can start at any fitness level or age and improve from there.  I’ve even been so desperate as to pace in my living room just to make sure I hit my step goal for the day.  

And don’t forget there are tons of other benefits of walking.  Like improved cardiovascular strength and health, improved circulation, lower blood pressure, and mental clarity.