How Walking 30 Minutes a Day Keeps Fat Away

Three Young Walking Women
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The minimum daily requirement of exercise to prevent weight gain is 30 minutes a day of walking or 12 miles a week of walking or running. The CDC says, "Strong scientific evidence shows that physical activity can help you maintain your weight over time." However, individual results may vary, and you may need more exercise to prevent gaining weight.

Get Your Minimum Daily Requirement of Walking

"From the perspective of prevention, it appears that the 30 minutes per day will keep most people from gaining the additional weight associated with inactivity," said Cris Slentz, Ph.D. of the Duke University research team in a news release. "Given the increase in obesity in the U.S., it would seem likely that many in our society may have fallen below this minimal level of physical activity required to maintain body weight."

study of sedentary, overweight men and women (aged 40 to 65 years) showed they lost body fat and weight when they walked or ran 12 miles a week during an 8-month study, without changing their diet. A control group of non-exercisers all gained weight and fat during the 8-month study.

The results of this study matched recommendations made by health authorities, such as the CDC, for exercise for health and weight loss. They also note that you will need a healthy eating plan in addition to exercise in order to lose weight and maintain weight loss.

Work your way up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or an equivalent mix of the two each week, says the CDC.

More Exercise and Higher Intensity Even Better

In the Duke study, the group that exercised at 65 to 80 percent of maximum heart rate (the equivalent of running or racewalking) for 20 miles a week saw even better results than those who either ran for 12 miles a week or walked for 12 miles a week. This shows that more is better, and a vigorous intensity workout is also better.

These were the key results seen in the study:

Exercise Intensity Results
Walking 30 min/day or 12 mi/wk 40 to 55% of max heart rate Lost: 1% body weight, 1.6% waist measurement, 2% body fat. Gained: 0.7% lean muscle
Jogging 12 mi/wk 65 to 80% of max heart rate Lost: 1% body weight, 1.4% waist measurement, 2.6% body fat. Gained: 1.4% lean muscle
Jogging 20 mi/wk 65 to 80% of max heart rate Lost: 3.5% body weight, 3.4% waist measurement, 4.9% body fat. Gained: 1.4% lean muscle
No exercise (control group) n/a Gained: 1.1% body weight, 0.8% waist measurement, 0.5% body fat

Exercise Without Dieting Reduces Health Risks

The study shows the effects of exercise without dieting in maintaining body weight and reducing the risk of major illness. "This study revealed a clear dose-response effect between the amount of exercise and decreases in measurements of central obesity and total body fat mass, reversing the effects seen in the inactive group," Slentz said. "The close relationship between central body fat and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension lends further importance to this finding."

The Duke study was supported by a $4.3 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The trial, dubbed STRRIDE (Studies of Targeted Risk Reduction Interventions through Defined Exercise), was led by Duke cardiologist William Kraus, M.D.

Is It Time to Get Moving?

Exercise may not be all that you need to keep off weight, but it is a step in the right direction. If you are ready to start moving, use these plans to get off on the right foot:

  • Treadmill Walking Weight Loss Plan: Use this free plan to use a variety of workouts throughout the week to burn calories on the treadmill.
  • 30-Day Quick Start Walking Plan: Daily program for beginners to build up from zero to walking for 30 minutes a day.
  • How to Walk Faster: Walkers can achieve higher heart rate levels needed for more health and weight loss benefits. With a few changes, you can be walking faster.
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