Skip to content

The Secret to Walking Your Way to a Lean Body, Say Experts

After all, the biggest fitness myth of all is that you can't burn lots of fat while walking.

There are so many myths people believe when it comes to exercise. For instance, many exercisers think that you have to be literally sopping with sweat in order for your workout to be considered worthwhile at all. "The amount you sweat is very individual," Michael Fredericson, MD, a sports-medicine physician at the Stanford University Medical Center, recently explained to The Cut. "It's not necessarily a reflection of how hard you're working out. People often think, 'Oh, I sweated so much at the gym earlier, I must have burnt a lot of calories,' but it's more an indication of having been very warm."

But if you polled most trainers and medical experts, they'd tell you that the single biggest misconception we all have is how we view walking. The truth is, walking isn't just how we get from point A to B on foot—and it's not a "lazy" way to exercise that's wildly inferior to strength training or running for long distances. Not only will walking more boost your energy levels, help you sleep, reduce your risk of disease, and ultimately help you live a longer life, but it will also help you slim down and get the lean body you've always wanted.

"Walking is one of the most underrated exercises for weight loss," trainer and health coach Ryan Hodgson recently explained to Express. "Too often in the mainstream media we are seeing overweight people being pushed toward HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts, circuits, couch to 5k and much more…. Many of these forms of exercise are much more likely to promote injury. If we could do more to promote walking for weight loss, it would be a huge step in the right direction."

As Hodgson notes, walking has essentially zero barrier to entry—"it can be done anywhere, it's inclusive and suits nearly everyone, and doesn't need any equipment or technology"—and it can burn north of 100 calories an hour. "Walking simply helps us burn more calories which makes getting in a calorie deficit easier," he says. "It can involve the whole family so is a great way particularly for busy parents, to keep active with the kids, too."

But if you're ready to walk your way to a lean body, there are some things you need to do to maximize your walks. Read on to learn what they are. And if walking is your thing, don't miss The Secret Cult Walking Shoe That Walkers Everywhere Are Obsessed With.

You Need to Step on the Gas

Woman nordic walking race on city streets. Walkers in marathon competition running fast

The single biggest secret for getting more out of your walks—especially when it comes to slimming down—is to increase your speed when you go out. Brisk walking, which will elevate your heart rate, will help your body burn your body's stored fat, as Steve Stonehouse, the director of education at STRIDE, a walking and running class, explained to Parade.

So if you want to maximize your walks, you need to go—but that doesn't mean you need to exhaust yourself or potentially harm your body by pushing it to the max, or finding yourself in that awkward zone that is half-walking, half-jogging. If you reference the "Perceived Exertion Scale," which measures your walk's intensity, you need to be walking at a "moderate" pace in which "breathing becomes heavier." As a rule, you should be able to talk some, but not be able to sing. If you can sing, you're simply not going fast enough. For more on this, see The Secret to Walking for Exercise, Says Harvard.

Or Walk on an Incline

walking on treadmill

The other way to burn more fat while walking is to ensure that you're walking uphill, whether it's an actual hill or you're utilizing the incline function on your treadmill. "Ultimately, the treadmill is great for cardiovascular training," says Ollie Laver, a UK-based personal trainer and nutritionist who runs the online training site Wise Fitness Academy.

"While the number of calories burned by each person is based on individual factors, walking or running at an incline of two percent or more burns more calories than walking or running outdoors on a level surface—the body uses a greater percentage of fat for fuel," says the Iowa Heart Center. "Walking at 3mph on a super-incline trainer… burns 70 percent more fat than running with no incline."

For more on the benefits of adding difficulty to your walks via an incline, see Why This Amazing Walking Workout Is Going Viral.

Brisk Walking Is a Wonder Drug for Your Body

Sport laughing young woman in the sunny park with bottle of water and headphones, happy, sport, healthy concept

According to the leading health experts at the Mayo Clinic, "regular brisk walking" can strengthen your muscles and also your bones. The health body of the Australian government observes that the health benefits of brisk walking include "improved management of conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes."

A new study of cognitively impaired, older adults, which was published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, has found that going out for brisk, half-hour walks promotes healthy blood flow to the brain and improves its cognitive performance, while boosting memory function.

Finally, according to a study published in British Journal of Sports Medicine, regular walking at a brisk pace was associated with a 20 percent reduced risk of "all-cause death."

Here's a Great Brisk Walking Workout to Try

woman lacing her shoes before a workout

Ash Wilking, CFSC, a popular Nike Trainer, Rumble Instructor, and creator of the app Ash Fit On Demand, has provided ETNT Mind+Body with this great walking workout that you can try at home. She says that the key to burning more fat is to walk faster for longer, so this workout clocks in at an hour.

The Warmup: Walk for 12 minutes total. You'll go for one minute at a "faster than normal pace," followed by 30 seconds of either heel kicks or high knees, before returning to a one minute at a faster pace. You'll do this 8 times.

The Workout: Walk for 3 minutes at a "fast" pace, then 2 minutes at an easy pace. Do this 8 times.

The Cooldown: Walk for 8 minutes at a slow pace.

If you want to burn even more calories? Do it all on an incline on your treadmill. And for more great exercise advice, see here for The One Exercise That's Best for Beating Back Alzheimer's, Says Doctor.

William Mayle
William Mayle is a UK-based writer who specializes in science, health, fitness, and other lifestyle topics. Read more about William
Filed Under