Fitness Tips

How Much to Walk According to BMI: Build Your Own Walking Program

Did you know that walking can immensely contribute to improving our overall health? In fact, a general rule of thumb suggests taking at least 7000-8000 steps daily to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Of course, this is just a general guideline, and how much you should walk per day will vary greatly depending on a number of factors. Yes, BMI is one of them. But if you’re wondering how much to walk according to BMI, you should know there’s a lot more to creating a walking weight loss program than this basic formula.

woman walking in the park - how much to walk according to bmi feature image

I’ve had great results from walking for exercise, but it involved a lot more than just accounting for my BMI weight status. Let’s break down the role of the BMI calculator in your walking endeavors and how to calculate how much you should walk according to other factors.

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in the article below, which means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one, I may earn a commission. Full Disclaimer here.

Understanding BMI

What is BMI, and How is it Calculated?

Body mass index (BMI) is a numerical value derived from a person’s height and weight. It’s used as a simple tool for getting a ballpark idea of a person’s body fat levels and overall health. The BMI formula is simple:

Weight in kilograms/height in meters squared.

For example, my height is 5’4″, and my current weight is 125 lbs. If I wanted to calculate my own BMI, the equation would look like this:

  • 5’4″ is 64 inches

  • 64 inches x 2.54 cm/inch = 1625 cm , which is 1.625 meters

  • To square: 1.625 x 1.625 = 2.64 meters.

  • 125 lbs/2.2046 = 56.7 kgs

  • 56.7/2.64 = 21.47

Different BMI Categories: From Underweight to Obesity

To better understand your BMI value, you can refer to the following widely accepted BMI chart:

  • Underweight: BMI below 18.5

  • Normal weight: BMI between 18.5 and 24.9

  • Overweight: BMI between 25 and 29.9

  • Obesity: BMI of 30 or above

So, according to my BMI of 21.47, I am well within the normal weight range.

However, while BMI is a helpful indicator, it doesn’t paint the full picture of health because it doesn’t take body composition into account; things like bone density and muscle mass can greatly influence your BMI and skew the results.

For example, a woman who’s a professional weightlifter will have a ton of muscle mass that may push her BMI into the dangerously overweight range. But since the extra weight is coming from healthy lean muscle and not fat, a high BMI does not mean she is significantly overweight or in any way unhealthy.

So relying solely on BMI to evaluate your health could result in misleading or inaccurate conclusions. BUT, for most people, it’s a good starting point for determining how much to walk for to improve your cardiovascular health and maintain your weight.

How Much to Walk According to Your BMI

Once you’ve determined your BMI category, here is how I would plan my walking routine accordingly:

  • Underweight (BMI less than 18.5): I would focus more on building strength than walking and creating a calorie surplus to put on healthy muscle.

  • Normal weight (BMI between 18.5 and 24.9): I suggest aiming for at least 1.5 to 3 miles per day or 7,000 to 8,000 steps to maintain a healthy weight and stay fit.

  • Overweight and Obese (BMI between 25.0 and 30): To start losing weight, I’d walk for at least 30 minutes at a moderate pace five days a week, aiming to create a calorie deficit and burn fat. Gradually increase your daily walking distance as your fitness improves, working up to 10,000 steps per day and beyond until you start losing weight.

When I was at a BMI of 24.8 (right on the cusp of behind overweight), I started walking 10-15k steps per day, and I lost about one pound a week, or 10 lbs in just over 2 months.

Diving Deeper Into the Magic of Walking Daily

We’ll get to walking for weight loss in a second, but first, I find it’s helpful to understand all the other reasons why walking is so beneficial for your health. Knowing these benefits can help you stay motivated on the days you don’t really feel like lacing up for a stroll.

  • Boost your heart health: Walking does a fantastic job at improving cardiovascular health. When you make walking a part of your routine, you’re taking a significant step towards warding off heart disease and other health problems.

  • Mood-Boosting Walks: Believe it or not, taking a stroll can have a positive effect on your mental health. It helps in releasing endorphins, your body’s natural ‘feel-good’ chemicals, offering an immediate mood boost. So, if you’re ever feeling a bit low, remember, a walk could be just what you need!

  • Joint Health Enhancer: Walking is gentle on the joints and can actually improve their health! Regular walking can increase strength and flexibility, reducing pain and inflammation.

  • Strength Training for Your Legs: Walking is a fantastic way to strengthen your leg muscles. The continuous movement and pressure during a walk can help build and tone muscles over time, giving you stronger and healthier legs.

  • Natural Vitamin D Booster: Enjoying a walk outside on a sunny day? You’re also soaking up Vitamin D, known as the ‘sunshine vitamin.’ This vitamin is essential for bone health and boosting your immune system.

  • Improves Digestion: Walking after meals can help your body digest food more effectively. It aids in moving food through your digestive tract, reducing bloating and feelings of discomfort.

Walking for Weight Loss

When I first started my weight loss journey, I chose walking as my go-to form of exercise. It’s a simple and accessible way to incorporate physical activity into daily life, and it can truly contribute to weight loss efforts. Walking has numerous health benefits, like reducing the risk of high blood pressure and other health risks associated with excess weight.

As someone with a higher BMI initially, I found it helpful to start walking for at least 30 minutes a day, amounting to around 3,000-5,000 steps or 1.5-3 miles. This helped me gradually build up my endurance without causing too much strain on my body.

The Calorie Burning Equation: How Walking Contributes to Weight Loss

I managed to lose my first 10 lbs just by prioritizing walking for exercise. This is why walking helps so much with weight loss:

  • Calorie-burning magic: When you walk, you’re firing up your body to burn more calories. If you’re aiming for weight loss, this is particularly helpful as it can help you create a calorie deficit.

  • It’s a fat-busting champion: Regular walks can make you a pro at burning fat! By walking regularly, you can lower your body fat percentage, improving your overall health significantly.

But there are a number of factors in your walking routine that can change how effectively you reduce weight by walking. Here’s a basic breakdown of the calorie-burning equation for walking:

  • Distance: The number of miles walked affects how many calories one burns. For example, walking 2-3 miles per day can contribute to weight loss.

  • Speed: Walking at a brisk pace can help increase calorie burn compared to a leisurely stroll.

  • Bodyweight: Heavier individuals tend to burn more calories when walking compared to those with lower body weights.

Throughout my journey, I found it essential to set realistic and achievable goals, listen to my body, and stay committed to living a healthier life. While everyone’s ideal weight range and body mass index (BMI) may vary, walking can still play an essential role in any weight management plan.

Walking and Diet: A Balanced Approach

The reason I was able to drop the weight so quickly was that I also started paying attention to my calorie intake and making healthier food choices. By combining exercise with better nutrition, I could both burn calories and create a consistent calorie deficit, ultimately leading to successful weight loss.

To maximize the benefits of my exercise program, I made sure to consume fewer calories and focus on whole foods. This included fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. These nutrient-dense foods not only kept me satisfied but also provided the necessary fuel for my walking routine.

This is essential because you can’t out-exercise poor eating habits. If you eat excess calories once you start walking more, you will not lose weight.

Starting Your Walking Journey

From Zero to Hero: Starting a Walking Routine

When I began my quest for a healthier life, I didn’t know where to start. Then my spouse gifted me a FitBit in 2016, and my entire health and fitness journey changed for the better. I decided to focus on walking regularly as my primary exercise program.

Your first step is to find the perfect pair of walking shoes (I love ASICS and Saucony) and plan your daily routine around your walking sessions. Don’t be afraid to break up your walks; studies show it is just as effective as going for one long walk. (I go walking every day on my lunch break for 45-50 minutes, and I’ll take another short walk after dinner as well.)

The Art of Progression: Gradually Increasing Your Walking Intensity

As you gradually become comfortable with walking every day, start increasing your walking duration and intensity. To make it more engaging, spice up my routine your routine by adding brisk walking and alternating between flat and hilly terrains.

Remember that adjusting your routine according to your fitness level is essential in maintaining a successful exercise regime. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself, but listen to your body and make changes as needed.

Walking Techniques for Maximum Benefit

Early on, I discovered that proper walking techniques play a crucial role in reaping the full benefits of my exercise.

Maintain an upright posture, engage your core muscles, and use your arms to propel your body. You can also experiment with walking speed variations, which not only help things interesting but can also burn more calories.

Creative Ways to Incorporate Walking into Your Daily Life

Throughout my fitness journey, I found it important to explore creative ways of making walking a part of my everyday life. Some ideas I implemented include the following:

  • Parking my car farther from entrances

  • Taking the stairs instead of elevators

  • Walking to errands or the local store when possible

  • Going for walking meetings or socializing with friends through walks

My FitBit acted as an excellent motivator, allowing me to track my progress and stay accountable. Health and fitness can be fun and accessible to everyone, and walking is a fantastic avenue to explore for those looking to make a positive change in their lives.

Tracking Your Progress

Monitoring your steps helps ensure that you’re hitting your daily targets. It also helps you assess whether your daily routine is effective. It can also keep you motivated by “gamifying” the experience. (“I did 5000 steps yesterday, I’m going to do 6000 today!”)

Tools and Apps to Keep You on Track

To keep yourself on track, I highly recommend getting a wearable fitness tracker. My favorite devices include the Apple Watch, Oura Ring, and FitBit. They not only measure your steps but also offer insights into other health metrics such as heart rate, sleep quality, body temperature, and even blood oxygen levels.

How Much to Walk According to BMI: My Conclusion

Where you fall on the BMI chart is merely one metric in a sea of factors when it comes to walking to lose weight. And no matter how many miles a day you walk, there will still be many other factors at play that will influence the success of your walking program, such as calorie intake and other lifestyle choices.

That said, you can use your BMI as a jumping-off point when formulating a plan for addressing your health concerns or reaching a healthy weight.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many steps per day should I walk based on BMI?

Most people should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity walking per week. If you are overweight (BMI 25-29.9), you could aim for 200 minutes of moderate-intensity walking.

What is the recommended walking time to maintain a healthy BMI?

Aim to walk at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Walking durations may vary based on your current BMI, overall health, and fitness level. If you’re trying to lose weight, you may need to increase the duration or intensity of your walks.

Which walking speed is best for my BMI range?

The optimal walking speed may vary based on my current BMI and fitness level. Generally, a moderate-intensity walk has a speed of about 3-4 mph, while a brisk walk is closer to 4.5 mph. I like to choose a walking speed that feels comfortable but challenging.

Should I use a pedometer to track my walks?

A pedometer is useful for tracking your steps and helping keep you motivated. Most smartphones have a built-in pedometer! I also like fitness trackers like the Apple Watch, FitBit, and Oura ring, which track numerous health metrics aside from step count.

How can I adjust my walking routine as my BMI changes?

As my BMI changes, you should adjust your walking routine to match your current fitness level and weight loss goals. you can increase the intensity, duration, or frequency of your walks, or incorporate additional forms of exercise into your routine.

Corrie Alexander is a former ISSA-certified personal trainer, home fitness advocate, and founder of The Fit Careerist. A proponent of personal growth and a self-proclaimed fitness app-junkie, Corrie shares tips and product reviews with the goal of helping others on their own fitness journey.

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