Why You Haven't Been Losing Weight With Walking

Thinking of walking
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Do you groan when you step on the scale and see you haven't lost any weight? It's frustrating when you've been walking to lose weight and you aren't seeing the results you want. Take a step back and examine why.

The Math: Walking and Not Losing Weight

Weight loss and weight gain are simple math.

  • If you eat more calories than you use each day, you gain weight.
  • If you eat fewer calories than you use each day, you lose weight.

To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories and/or burn more calories each day. For sensible, long-term weight control and to reduce health risks, you should eat less and exercise more. To track what you eat, use a food diary or app, and be honest with yourself. To track activity calories, use a pedometer or fitness tracker, preferably one linked with a food diary app.

The American Heart Association recommends 30 to 60 minutes of brisk walking or other moderate-intensity exercises almost every day of the week to help lose weight. That amount of exercise is also associated with reducing major health risks.

How Many Calories Do I Burn Walking?

Each mile you walk burns between 55 and 140 calories, depending mostly on your weight, with speed and technique being secondary factors. See what your walking calorie burn is:

How Can I Burn More Calories Per Mile?

There are a few techniques you can use to burn more calories for each mile you walk. Some of these are easier than others, and they each have their benefits and drawbacks.

Speed Up

Pick up your pace to 12-minute miles and under, and use racewalk techniques. You will burn more calories per mile because you will be using more sets of muscles than you do at a slower walking pace or by running. Racewalkers burn as many as third more calories per mile.

Once you begin to lose weight, you will find yourself speeding up. An extra 20 pounds can really drag you down. You may burn fewer calories per mile, but you'll be able to cover more miles in the same period of time. That can work out to more calories burned per walking workout.

Add Poles

Use fitness walking poles to increase your calorie burn per mile, as you use the muscles in your arms as well as your legs.

Wear Weight

The more you weigh, the more calories you burn per mile. As you lose weight, you are burning fewer calories per mile. Some walkers add weight belts, weighted vests, or weighted backpacks to increase their calorie burn.

Be careful in doing this. Don't throw off your posture or put more stress on your joints. For those who are losing weight and whose body is used to carrying around more pounds, a weighted vest would be a more natural way to carry more weight. Also note that if the extra weight slows you down, you might end up burning fewer calories than if you skip the weight and speed up.

Bad News for Sedentary People

If you don't add exercise while cutting calories, your body doesn't just burn fat, it also burns muscle. When you're trying to lose weight, your goal is to maximize fat loss. But if you're only cutting calories, along with the fat loss, you'll also be losing more lean body mass such as muscle.

This is a problem because muscles drive your metabolism. If you're losing muscle, your metabolism will likely slow, making weight loss (and maintaining any weight loss) more difficult. You can end up in worse physical condition after changing your eating habits than before. Sitting still for much of the day is also recognized as its own health risk.

Good News for Physically Active People

If you build muscle while also changing your diet, you are increasing your metabolism. Those muscles burn a few more calories than fat even while at rest and while sleeping.

If you have just taken up walking or have begun to racewalk, you are building muscle. If you have always been a walker, add some strength exercises to build muscles. Upper body exercises are recommended, as walking will not build your upper body. Walking is a weight-bearing activity and will help prevent osteoporosis as you age.

You Still Need to Watch What You Eat

If you have increased your walking and are still not seeing weight loss, you need to look at what you are eating. You need to take in fewer calories. There are many strategies for this, but do it sensibly and with an eye to maintaining good nutrition.

Explore what the right number of calories is for your level of physical activity and your weight loss goal. Use the weight loss calculator to find the right number. Then use the recipe and nutrition calculator to analyze your favorite food to ensure you are eating what is best for health as well as weight loss.

A Word From Verywell

It is frustrating when you've been increasing your physical activity and watching what you eat but you aren't seeing results. Take a step back and analyze your eating habits with a calorie goal and a food diary or app. Use a fitness tracker to measure your exercise (consider one that has inactivity alerts too). Better nutrition and a healthy amount of activity offers big health benefits, even if you don't see immediate weight loss.

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Article 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. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. 

  2. Owen N, Healy GN, Matthews CE, Dunstan DW. Too much sitting: The population health science of sedentary behavior. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2010;38(3):105-13. doi:10.1097/JES.0b013e3181e373a2

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