Person hiking in forest while wondering how much to walk for weight loss

How much to walk for weight loss

Written on May 22, 2023 by Theresa Vuskovich, DMD. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Walking is an effective way to enhance your health and manage your weight.[1-5] If you are on a weight loss journey, walking can help you achieve your weight loss goals.[1] This article explains how walking can lead to weight loss and answers, “How much to walk for weight loss?"

How can walking lead to weight loss?

Although hormonal and genetic factors influence weight loss, calorie intake and energy expenditure remain the primary factors that contribute to weight, according to the Mayo Clinic.[6] Your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) refers to how many calories your body burns daily based on your basal metabolic rate (BMR), activity level, and the energy required to metabolize food.[6] Physical activity energy expenditure (PAEE) measures how much energy you expend during physical activities, including walking. Increasing your TDEE and PAEE by walking can lead to weight loss.[6]

How much to walk for weight loss depends on your TDEE and food intake. Weight loss occurs when you are in an energy deficit.[6] Physical activity is essential for weight loss, but weight loss may also require changing your eating habits.[7] The Mayo Clinic recommends swapping high-calorie foods for lower-calorie choices and reducing portion sizes to reduce calories and lose weight.[7]

The intensity of your walks influences weight loss.[2] Brisk walking at 3 miles per hour (mph) burns more calories and helps with weight loss.[2] According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you can use the talk test to determine the intensity of your exercise.[8] When exercising at a moderate intensity, you can talk but not sing.[8] During vigorous activity, you can only say a few words at a time.[8]

The CDC recommends exercising at least 150 minutes a week at a moderate intensity.[9] One option is brisk walking for 30 minutes daily, five days a week.[9] For an individual weighing 154 pounds (lbs), walking for 60 minutes at 3.5 mph burns about 280 calories.[9] A person weighing 154 lbs. can burn approximately 460 calories per hour during a brisk walk at 4.5 mph.[9] During an 18-month weight loss study, 10,000 steps per day led to more significant weight loss when approximately 3,500 steps were moderate-to-vigorous intensity.[1]

People need different amounts of physical activity to maintain a healthy weight.[9] Maintaining your weight may take more than 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week.[9] How much to walk for weight loss varies from person to person, depending on your unique physical characteristics and dietary habits.

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Can walking 10,000 steps a day lead to weight loss?

Yes, walking 10,000 steps a day may help you lose weight and maintain your weight loss.[1] Researchers have found that higher step counts are linked to greater weight loss and health benefits.[1,3] Maintaining a healthy diet while walking 10,000 steps daily is also essential for weight loss.

What are the health benefits of walking?

Increased physical activity has countless benefits for your health.[9-11] According to a population-based study of 78,500 individuals, walking up to 10,000 steps daily may reduce mortality, cancer, and cardiovascular disease incidence.[5] Physical activity, including walking, can help[9-11]:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and cancer
  • Reduce risk for osteoporosis and fall
  • Decrease depression and anxiety symptoms
  • Decrease dementia risk
  • Enhance sleep quality
  • Reduce arthritis pain

How much to walk for health benefits can vary from person to person. If you have arthritis or have limited physical activity options, walking is a low-impact, convenient method for increasing your daily activity level.

Tips to walk for weight loss

Here are some tips to help you start walking more for weight loss[12]:

  • Find a support group: Joining a walking group can keep you motivated and accountable for your goals.
  • Set SMART goals: SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.
  • Add more walking to your life: Park further from store entrances or take the stairs instead of the elevator to get more steps.
  • Sign up for a charity walk: Participating in a charity walk is an excellent way to increase your activity level and contribute to a good cause.

Talk to your healthcare provider about your weight and health goals if you are new to physical activity.

Weight loss via Everlywell

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  1. Creasy SA, Lang W, Tate DF, Davis KK, Jakicic JM. Pattern of Daily Steps is Associated with Weight Loss: Secondary Analysis from the Step-Up Randomized Trial. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2018;26(6):977-984. doi:10.1002/oby.22171.
  2. Mabire L, Mani R, Liu L, Mulligan H, Baxter D. The Influence of Age, Sex and Body Mass Index on the Effectiveness of Brisk Walking for Obesity Management in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Phys Act Health. 2017;14(5):389-407. doi:10.1123/jpah.2016-0064.
  3. Painter, S.L., Ahmed, R., Hill, J.O., Kushner, R.F., Lindquist, R., Brunning, S., Margulies, A.2017. What Matters in Weight Loss? An In-Depth Analysis of Self-Monitoring. Journal of Medical Internet Research 19, e160..
  4. El Fatouhi, D., Delrieu, L., Goetzinger, C., Malisoux, L., Affret, A., Campo, D., Fagherazzi, G., 2021. Associations of Physical Activity Level and Variability With 6-Month Weight Change Among 26,935 Users of Connected Devices: Observational Real-Life Study. JMIR mHealth and uHealth 9, e25385..
  5. Del Pozo Cruz, B., Ahmadi, M.N., Lee, I.-M., Stamatakis, E., 2022. Prospective Associations of Daily Step Counts and Intensity With Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease Incidence and Mortality and All-Cause Mortality. JAMA Internal Medicine 182, 1139.
  6. Ostendorf DM, Caldwell AE, Creasy SA, et al. Physical Activity Energy Expenditure and Total Daily Energy Expenditure in Successful Weight Loss Maintainers. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2019;27(3):496-504. doi:10.1002/oby.22373.
  7. Counting calories: Get back to weight-loss basics. Mayo Clinic. Published January 18, 2023. Accessed May 27, 2023.
  8. Measuring physical activity intensity. Published October 20, 2022. Accessed May 25, 2023.
  9. Physical activity for a healthy weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published April 26, 2023. Accessed May 27, 2023.
  10. Del Pozo Cruz, B., Ahmadi, M., Naismith, S.L., Stamatakis, E., 2022. Association of Daily Step Count and Intensity With Incident Dementia in 78 430 Adults Living in the UK. JAMA Neurology 79, 1059..
  11. Lee IM, Shiroma EJ, Kamada M, Bassett DR, Matthews CE, Buring JE. Association of step volume and intensity with all-cause mortality in older women. JAMA Intern Med. 2019;179(8):1105-1112. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.0899.
  12. Reed S., Weinreb-Welch L. Getting your steps in: How to make a SMART plan to walk for exercise. Accessed May 28, 2023.
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