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Losing fat requires burning off more calories than you take in over a certain period of time, and most people end up combining exercise with their diet in order to get leaner faster. One of the exercise choices that’s available to just about everyone is walking. But just how many calories can walking burn, anyway?
And is it really a viable exercise for losing fat?
Let’s look at the evidence.
There have been several studies conducted over the last four decades to determine just how effective walking can be as part of a fitness program.
For instance, a 1978 study looked at the caloric expenditure of 24 young men when they were walking or running a mile at various speeds. What the researchers found was that running tended to burn more calories than walking, and that the faster the men moved, the more calories they burned in a given time period. In this case, the time period was 20 seconds.
While that may sound like bad news for walking, the truth is that by looking at the same time interval regardless of speed, the scientists were actually examining different distances. For example, you would travel twice as far in 20 seconds if you were running at 6 miles per hour (mph) than if you were walking at 3 mph. That means the difference in calories burned was likely largely due to the difference in distance covered during the 20 seconds.
A more direct comparison of jogging and walking was the subject of a 2001 study, which examined the calories burned by women walking or jogging at 5 mph. The researchers found that every woman burned at least as many calories walking as she did jogging, and many burned more from walking.
But just how many calories does walking burn?
That was the subject of a 2012 study that asked subjects to run or walk for 1600 meters, at either about 6 mph (running) or about 3 mph (walking). What the researchers found was that the walking burned 89 calories and the running burned 115 calories, on average. Since 1600 meters is almost exactly a mile, this study puts the walk/run burn rate at around 100 calories per mile, with variations depending on speed and body mass.
This is very close to the rule of thumb that many fitness experts recommend and is a handy number to keep in mind as you embark on your own fitness program.
Walking is easy to do and imparts very little impact to your skeletal structures, which makes it available and viable for most of the population. And most people can count on burning around 100 calories for each mile walked, which means walking can be used as part of a fat-loss program.
Of course, make sure you check with your doctor and get a physical before beginning any exercise program, even if it’s a low-impact activity like walking. If you get the all-clear, though, walking can be a valuable part of your routine.