6 ways to burn more calories while walking, according to personal trainers

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6 ways to burn more calories while walking, according to personal trainers
Walking with a friend or family member can keep you motivated to exercise.SDI Productions/Getty Images
  • How many calories you burn while walking depends on your speed, weight, and duration.
  • It can be difficult to lose weight with just walking, which is why you should also strength train.
  • To burn more calories walking, choose a hilly route, pick up the pace, or add running intervals.
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It can be hard to convince yourself to exercise, especially if it means dragging yourself to the gym. But not all exercise has to be a high-intensity sweat sesh.

In fact, just walking can help you meet the US Department of Health and Human Services exercise guidelines. Walking can also be a great, low-impact way to burn calories.

However, how much you burn depends on a few factors. Here's what you need to know about the calories you burn while walking and how to burn more.

How many calories does walking burn?

How many calories you burn walking depends on a few factors, such as your speed, distance or duration, weight, and what type of terrain you're walking on, like hills or sand, says Ben Walker, a certified personal trainer and the owner of Anywhere Fitness, a fitness studio.

Here are the estimated calories burned for people of three different weights and three different walking speeds, for 30 minutes and 60 minutes.

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You can also use an activity calorie calculator to determine how many calories burned.

Important: If you are tracking daily steps using a watch or app, it's hard to translate steps into calories. The number of steps doesn't account for the intensity of steps or how fast you're going.

If you want to lose weight, talk to a registered dietitian to determine a plan that will work best for you. The number of calories you should eat each day and the number you should burn varies depending on the person.

Walking for weight loss

Walking is a great way to get your body moving with minimal equipment and can aid in weight loss especially for those with knee issues or arthritis who can't tolerate more strenuous, high-impact workouts, says Michele Stanten, a walking coach and certified fitness instructor.

What the research says: A 2019 review found walking with poles helped overweight and obese people lose weight. Additionally, a large 2008 study using data over a 15-year period found people who walked more gained less weight and were more likely to lose weight or maintain weight.

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It can be difficult to lose weight through walking alone, Walker says.

Try incorporating strength training into your routine as well. It builds and maintains lean muscle, which helps you burn more calories, Stanten says.

Plus, strength training can manage certain conditions and injuries, like arthritis, by easing joint stiffness.

How to increase calories burned while walking

To burn more calories while walking, you need to dial up the intensity.

  1. Do intervals. Speed up for a set period, such as a certain number of steps or minutes, then slow down to your regular pace, and repeat.
  2. Choose a hilly route. The steeper the incline, the more your quads, hamstrings, calves, and hip flexors will be engaged, which will burn more calories, Walker says. Walking uphill may also boost your metabolic rate, which helps you burn more calories even at rest.
  3. Walk on varied terrain. If you're walking on rocky or varied terrain, your feet have to move at different angles, which engages muscles that walking on a flat surface doesn't, Walker says.
  4. Use walking poles. Walking with poles can give you a boost in calorie burn because it works the muscles in your upper body more, Stanten says.
  5. Walk at a higher elevation. Walking at a higher altitude can burn more calories. "Your body learns how to utilize lower levels of oxygen, which will make you fitter," Walker says.
  6. Consider the run-walk method. Combining walking and running gives you a more intense workout. Try mapping out a 3k to 5k circuit close to home. Once you get comfortable walking it, start running portions of it, such as running the flat parts and walking the hilly parts, Walker says.

Tips for staying motivated

The key to any exercise plan is sticking to it. Here are some ways to keep yourself on track:

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  • Track your steps: 10,000 steps per day is a common goal, although everyone is different, so some people need more or less than that, Stanten says. First, get a baseline of your daily steps, and if you want to build on that, you can add 1,000 or 2,000 steps per day, she says.
  • Watch your diet: Consider your diet along with your walking routine. "Don't carb up before walking," Walker says, because you don't need to eat excess carbohydrates beforehand unless it will be an excessively long or difficult walk.
  • Have fun. You can vary your routes, walk with a friend, or create a walking challenge, such as setting step goals, Stanten says. Checking in with friends or family can also help keep you accountable.
  • Set a goal. Stanten coaches walkers to walk events such as 10ks, half-marathons, and marathons. Having a goal to train for that's beyond what you normally do can help keep you going, she says. So can looking forward to a vacation that will involve hiking somewhere beautiful, and training for it.

Insider's takeaway

Walking is a good way to keep fit, and it can even help you lose weight. If you're looking to lose weight and burn more calories while walking, you can intensify your walks by adding intervals, using poles, or walking on hilly terrain. Switching up your routine can also keep it interesting.

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