In recent years, I’ve become a huge advocate of walking for weight loss. In 2016, I was gifted my first fitness tracker for Christmas. It was a Fitbit Charge 2, and I immediately became obsessed with it, and “getting my steps in.” I was constantly competing in step challenges with my friends, which had me pacing around my house at all hours.
As someone who had slipped into a mostly sedentary lifestyle, it was just the gift I needed to get me moving again. And who knew walking could be such fun!
Maybe you’re in that boat now, and thinking about counting steps or walking for weight loss.
But does your step count really matter? Do you actually need to take 10000 steps a day? And can you really lose weight just from walking?
The answer isn’t black and white, but don’t worry, it’s mostly good news!
Here’s what you need to know:
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The “10,000 steps a day” rule is arbitrary and unscientific
So then, where did 10000 steps a day come from? It’s origin stems from one of the early pedometers in Japan which was called Manpo-Kei, which literally translates into “10000 steps” in Japanese.
That’s it. That’s what the whole fitness trend is based on.
That doesn’t mean that having a step count goal is a bad idea (and we’ll get into that shortly) it’s not a great metric for for your fitness goals because:
- Not all steps are equal: slow steps over many hours burns less calories than the same number of steps walked (or run) in a shorter amount of time.
- Step count isn’t even a good metric for measuring distance walked, since everyone’s stride length is different.
- There are many highly effective exercises that don’t involve a step count whatsoever, like swimming or cycling
But you CAN lose weight by reaching step count goals
So now that I’ve finished telling you that getting 10000 steps a day is an unscientific metric for measuring fitness, I will say that reaching a step count goal every day can contribute to weight loss. I’m living proof! Between January and April of 2017, I lost 10 pounds just from walking and hitting daily step targets. I was literally doing no other exercise at this that time.
And honestly, 10000 steps a day is not a terrible goal when you consider that the average person only takes 3000-4000 steps per day.
Tips for walking for weight loss
No, walking for weight loss isn’t rocket science since it’s not much different from any other kind of walking you do. But there are a few things to think about if you’re looking to maximize the benefits of walking or find ways to reach your step count goals:
Wear the right shoes
This isn’t a joke. Do not get into a habit of power-walking in your worn out street shoes. I learned this the hard way! Over time you can put strain on your feet and cause injuries.
Get a quality trainer that gives your foot the support it needs. (I cannot say enough good things about these Asics!)
Get a fitness tracker
Chances are, you already have a pedometer in the form of your smartphone. But the accuracy isn’t quite up to par with the wearable variety, since there may be times when you aren’t carrying your phone.
Besides which, using dedicated fitness tech can help you set goals and make walking more fun by allowing you to “compete” with others with the same app. My favourite wearable that’s strictly for fitness tracking is the Fitbit, which tracks everything from your heart rate to your sleep patterns!
Go for a brisk walk in the great indoors
Sometimes it’s not always a great day to walk outside, especially if you live somewhere where it gets cold and snowy. (Oh, Canada!) But that doesn’t mean you can’t reach your step count goals. Walk up and down the stairs for twenty minutes or simply power walk around your house. Yes, you might feel a little silly at first but not when the pounds start coming off!
Take advantage of opportunities for mini-walking sessions
Power walk around the block for ten minutes during your lunch break. Pace around the board room during a conference call. Park further away from the building where you work. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
You’ll be surprised how quickly even short sessions of dedicated walking can get your heart rate up and rack up your step count.
Choose a target that’s right for you
Keep in mind that 10k steps a day may not be the right target number for you at first, especially if you’re not used to walking longer distances. (10000 steps is roughly 7-8km depending on your stride.) If you’re a beginning, start with however many steps you can get in 15 minutes of walking and gradually increase until you’re comfortable walking 10k and beyond!
Optimize your walking routine with SMALL diet changes
Walking for weight loss can be even more effective if you combine it with a little diet strategy. Now listen carefully here: I’m NOT saying you need to follow a strict diet and count every calorie. Try making one or two small but smart changes. The easiest way to do this is to identify what your biggest “calorie bomb” is, and either cut it or swap it with something healthier. Even cutting out 100-200 calories a day will help make your stepping sessions more effective.
Walking: the gateway exercise to harder exercises
Walking is an effective, low-impact exercise with a low risk of injury, but the tradeoff is that you have to spend a significant amount of time walking to hit your step goals or desired daily calorie burn.
It also won’t do so much for you in the muscle-building or body-recomposition department.
That’s not to say you have to get into high-intensity stuff to be healthy. Walking is always a fantastic form of exercise regardless of your fitness level. (Even Kayla Itsines of BBG fame apparently prefers to walk for her steady-state cardio sessions over running.)
But beware! Once you begin walking for weight loss and start reaching those lofty step count goals, you might experience heightened energy levels, increased motivation, or a desire to try something more challenging.
If and when that time comes, you’ll definitely want to look into resistance HIIT.