10 Steps to Success When Walking for Weight Loss

Walking every day for weight loss can be a great way to burn calories and increase fitness. While there is no absolute number of steps to achieve, most people do well with a goal of 10,000 or more daily steps.

If you've been walking to reach your weight loss goals but are finding they remain out of reach, try these strategies. They can help you avoid common mistakes and roadblocks and make walking every day work for you.

Woman running up stairs

Verywell / Ryan Kelly


Use an Activity Tracker


Watch Now: 5 Ways To Increase Your Daily Step Count

Use an activity tracker, fitness band, or app to know how much you actually are moving throughout the day. For weight loss, it's important to first see how many steps you walk on a typical day.

Check your steps during the day to stay on target and look for opportunities to get in more steps. As you are able to achieve more steps consistently, continue to increase your target goal by another 2,000 steps per day.

Keep in mind that the 10,000 steps per day target is just a guideline. Some people (such as those on their feet all day for work) may notice that their starting step count is near, at, or even above 10,000. Those people could increase by 2,000 steps as needed to see a result.


Overcome Excuses

There are a lot of reasons for skipping your walk or workout on any given day. Keep an exercise log or use an app so you can be honest with yourself about how much exercise you are actually getting, and then review it at the end of each week.

Excuses like being "too tired" or "too busy" may seem like no big deal—and it's very normal to feel this way—but shifting your mindset to overcome these smaller reasons could benefit you mentally and physically. While illness or physical limitations are definitely reasons for taking a rest day, smaller excuses can be quickly overcome with changed thinking.

Try to focus on your strengths—what you managed to accomplish—and cut yourself some slack if you didn't reach your goal. Re-evaluate and try again the next week.


Estimate Calories Burned

Brisk walking is an excellent calorie-burning and health-promoting activity. But you can't necessarily rely on your activity monitor or treadmill display for reliable calorie-burn figures. This calculator gives another estimate that factors in your weight.

Remember that all of these tools can provide information, but they are estimates. If you are walking consistently but not meeting your weight management goals, you may need to boost intensity to burn more calories and consider your nutrition.


Work Hard and Breathe Hard

If you do a brisk walking workout, you will breathe harder than usual. That is a good sign that you are getting into the fat-burning heart rate zone.

To make sure that you get there, warm up at a leisurely pace. Then walk briskly for 30 to 60 minutes at a pace that is not easy to carry on a conversation. You'll experience a higher calorie burn when you participate in moderate to vigorous activity.


Vary Your Workouts

If your walks are always on the same route, at the same pace, or follow the same treadmill workout, switch it up. Fast days, easy days, interval days, long slow days—each has its own benefits. Change up your walking workouts to prevent boredom and keep you feeling challenged.


Be Mindful of Eating Habits

If weight loss is your goal, walking is an excellent exercise that can help you to lose weight, however, you will also need to consider your eating habits. If you feel that you're eating a healthy, balanced diet, but not seeing the results you want, you may want to use a food journal or meet with a registered dietitian.

Food journaling, or recording everything you eat for several days, can help you to identify patterns that may stand in the way of your goals. Some fitness monitors include or link to a food-logging app that also will help analyze your nutrition and show your progress toward your goals.

You can use this recipe analysis tool to find the calories and nutrients in your favorite recipes. Consider your caloric intake against the estimated number of calories you are taking in. In general, to see weight loss, you will need a caloric deficit.


Motivate Yourself With Non-Food Rewards

Use non-food rewards, such as a new pair of walking shorts, a pedicure, or a new audiobook, as motivation to complete your weekly (or monthly) walking goals. You might fall into social walking habits that encourage pre or post-walk coffee or baked goods—especially if you walk with a partner or group. But hitting a coffee shop or bar as a post-walk reward can make it harder to reach your weight-loss goals.

If weight loss is your goal, consider the portion size and frequency of food rewards. Perhaps you will be just as satisfied sharing a cookie or swapping your cappuccino for a drip coffee with milk.


Swap High-Calorie Beverages for Water

High-calorie beverages such as sodas, fruit juices, coffee drinks, and sports drinks provide little nutritional benefits and may pose as a barrier to your weight management goals. Swapping these drinks for water is a simple solution.

You need water during walking workouts and may need electrolyte replacement if you are sweating and walking for more than 60 minutes. But you don't need to drink extra calories.

Drinking your calories, especially in beverages that don't supply fiber or protein, may lead to consuming more calories than you would otherwise because these types of drinks are not filling.

We've tried, tested, and reviewed the best electrolyte drinks. If you're in the market for an electrolyte drink, explore which option may be best for you.


Incorporate Hills and Stairs Into Your Walks

Adding bursts of intensity to your walking workout can help build your fitness and get your heart rate up, along with several other benefits. Hills and stairs are the easiest way to add the intensity to your workout.

You might even want to add a detour that specifically includes a hill climb or climbing stairs. On the treadmill, switch it up with hill intervals.


Add Daily Activity

If you get in your walking workouts most days of the week, but you sit for most of the day at work or school, you may still have a harder time getting enough activity to lose weight and improve your health.

Find ways to break up sitting time with bouts of standing, pacing, or walking. This is one way to get to 10,000 steps per day, and every bit of movement and standing burns more calories than sitting still. This can add up to burning hundreds more calories per day.

A Word From Verywell

You can change your habits to support your goals of weight management and improving your fitness. It seems like two steps forward and one step back at times, but that's still one step in the right direction.

Even if the scale doesn't seem to budge, you are still reducing your health risks by being more physically active. Keep taking healthy steps and keep a positive attitude. You also might consider speaking with a healthcare provider. Sometimes underlying health conditions can be impacting your goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long do you need to walk to lose weight?

    The length of time you should walk to lose weight will depend on many factors, mainly how many calories you consume compared to how many you burn. Walking for any length of time will help you burn calories, but you will still need to create a calorie deficit to lose weight.

  • How many miles should you walk a day to lose weight?

    The distance you should walk to lose weight depends on many factors, including how fast you are walking and whether you are creating a calorie deficit. If you are walking 10,000 steps a day, that's about 5 miles. Depending on your goals, metabolism, and calories consumed through food, that may be enough to help you lose weight. Or, you may need more or less mileage.

  • How many calories do you burn walking for one hour?

    A 150-pound person walking at a brisk pace (3.5 miles per hour) for an hour will burn approximately 258 calories. Exactly how many calories you will burn walking for an hour depends on your weight, pace, and body composition, among other factors.

  • How effective is walking for weight loss?

    Walking is excellent for weight loss, especially when combined with resistance training and more vigorous cardiovascular activity. Walking serves as a low-stress, low-impact way to keep active and increase calorie burn while simultaneously aiding in recovery from more intense exercise. Walking is also a fantastic stress reducer, which is an important aspect of healthy weight balance.

16 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Yuenyongchaiwat K. Effects of 10,000 steps a day on physical and mental health in overweight participants in a community setting: A preliminary study. Braz J Phys Ther. 2016;20(4):367-73. doi:10.1590/bjpt-rbf.2014.0160

  2. Tudor-Locke C, Schuna JM, Han HO, et al. Step-based physical activity metrics and cardiometabolic risk: NHANES 2005-2006Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017;49(2):283-291. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001100

  3. Tudor-Locke C, Craig CL, Brown WJ, et al. How many steps/day are enough? For adultsInt J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2011;8:79. doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-79

  4. Bassett DR, Toth LP, Lamunion SR, Crouter SE. Step counting: A review of measurement considerations and health-related applicationsSports Med. 2017;47(7):1303-1315. doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0663-1

  5. Ciarrochi J, Atkins PW, Hayes LL, Sahdra BK, Parker P. Contextual positive psychology: Policy recommendations for implementing positive psychology into schoolsFront Psychol. 2016;7:1561. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01561

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measuring physical activity intensity.

  7. American Heart Association. Target heart rates chart.

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Target heart rate and estimated maximum heart rate.

  9. Lau WY, Kato H, Nosaka K. Water intake after dehydration makes muscles more susceptible to cramp but electrolytes reverse that effectBMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2019;5(1):e000478. doi:10.1136/bmjsem-2018-000478

  10. Appelhans BM, Bleil ME, Waring ME, et al. Beverages contribute extra calories to meals and daily energy intake in overweight and obese women. Physiol Behav. 2013;122:129-133. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2013.09.004

  11. Blackwell JEM, Doleman B, Herrod PJJ, et al. Short-term (<8 wk) high-intensity interval training in diseased cohortsMed Sci Sports Exerc. 2018;50(9):1740-1749. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001634

  12. von Loeffelholz C, Birkenfeld A. The role of non-exercise activity thermogenesis in human obesity. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Boyce A, et al., editors. Endotext.

  13. Hill JO, Wyatt HR, Peters JC. Energy balance and obesity. Circulation. 2012;126(1):126–132. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.111.087213

  14. ACE Fit physical activity calorie counter. American Council on Exercise.

  15. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Walking.

  16. Kleist B, Wahrburg U, Stehle P, et al. Moderate walking enhances the effects of an energy-restricted diet on fat mass loss and serum insulin in overweight and obese adults in a 12-week randomized controlled trial. J Nutr. 2017;147(10):1875-1884.

Additional Reading

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.