15-Minute Walks vs. Longer Walks for Weight Loss and Health

The total exercise time per day and week may be what matters most

man walking across bridge with dog
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It can be hard to find enough time for a long workout outdoors or on the treadmill. You may wonder whether taking a brisk 15-minute walk is doing you any good, especially for weight loss. If you take two or four brisk walks per day that add up to 30 to 60 minutes, is that the same as taking one longer walk?

Walking for 15 minutes, four times a day burns as many calories as walking steadily for an hour. There may be benefits to combining them into one long walk, but you need to weigh that against what you enjoy doing and what fits into your schedule.

The American Heart Association and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control say in their exercise guideline for healthy adults that you should get 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise, such as brisk walking, five days a week, or a total of 150 minutes spread out over the week. To keep off weight, they say you may need to accumulate even more exercise time over a week. But they also say that your exercise time can be broken up into two to three bouts of exercise of 10 to 15 minutes and there is no prescription that it needs to be 30 minutes or more at a time.

Benefits of Walking Over 45 Minutes for Weight Loss

After walking steadily for approximately 45 minutes, your body has burned off the available sugars (glycogen) it has stored up. Now it needs to begin to burn fat. Walking is a good way to turn the body on to burning stored fat. If you walk for 30 minutes or less, you are still burning calories, but they are the stored sugar calories (glycogen) rather than having to dip into the stored fat.

Does Walking 15 Minutes Help You Lose Weight?

If you walk for 15 minutes at a time, your body still has burned calories that it wouldn't have burned. If you are on a low-calorie diet, your body still will be burning fat as it doesn't have enough calories to get through the day. But there may be a slight advantage if your walks were strung together so they were 45 minutes or more—you may burn a bit more fat each day. Your body replaces the burned glycogen either through the calories you eat or through breaking down some stored fat. If you eat more calories than your body needs, it stores it right back again as fat. Diet and exercise are both key to losing weight.

Studies have looked into the effects of walking on reducing the potentially harmful trigylcerides in your blood after a meal. Walking for several shorter periods of time that added up to 30 minutes per day has been shown to be just as effective as taking one longer walk.

Steps per Day Count for Health and Weight Management

A 15-minute walk at a brisk pace will be about 2,000 steps. Pedometer studies have shown that people who add more steps in throughout the day are less likely to be overweight and they have reduced risks for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and more.

Many fitness trackers use 10,000 steps as default goal. Walking four 15-minute walks adds 8,000 steps to your day, which combined with the rest of your daily steps puts you over the 10,000 steps per day recommended for weight loss.

Enjoying Your Walks is the Top Priority

If you find it difficult to set aside an hour a day for walking, but can work in some 15-minute walks, then concentrate on the 15-minute walks. The key to fitness is finding something you enjoy doing, rather than dreading or feeling like it is a stressful chore. Once you have built the 15-minute walk habit, then look for a day or two a week you can do a longer walk.

Make the most of your 15-minute walks by using good posture and walking technique. After a warm-up of a couple of minutes at an easy pace, speed up to a brisk pace where you are breathing noticeably. Spend most of your walk in this moderate-intensity zone to get the most benefits of burning calories and doing good for your health.

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