How Many Calories Does Walking Burn?

If you’re walking for weight loss, you’re probably interested in how many calories you burn while walking.

[green]As a simple rule of thumb, you can have a rough estimate of your calorie consumption if you know your walking speed, body weight and time spent walking.[/green]

You Need to Estimate Your Walking Speed First

Here are a couple of ways to estimate your walking speed.

If you have a measured course or track you can use, it’s easy to arrive at an estimate of your walking speed simply by walking one mile and taking note of how much time you use. For example, if you walk a mile in 16 minutes, your walking speed is (60 / 16) / 1 = 3.75 mph.  If it takes you 20 minutes to walk a mile, your walking speed is (60 /20) / 1 = 3 mph.

Another way to estimate your walking speed is to count how many steps you take in a minute and then calculate your walking speed in mph, but then you also need to know your stride length. For example, if you take 100 steps a minute and your stride length is 2.3 ft (70 cm), your walking speed is (230 x 60) / 5280 = 2.6 mph.

TIP: It’s a good idea to measure your walking speed in different conditions: when you walk in a leisurely pace, moderate pace and brisk pace. That way you can easily estimate how many calories you burn walking in many situations.

If you have a treadmill or can easily access one, you can use it get walking speed estimates.

So How Many Calories Do You Burn Walking, Exactly?

Now it’s time to make some example calculations. To make things a bit easier (to myself, mostly), I simply used HealthStatus’ calorie burn calculator, which gives estimates on different activities.

Let’s assume I weigh 150 lbs and walk 30 minutes at a leisurely rate of 2 mph. According to the calculator, I consume 95 kcal. If I double my walking speed to 4 mph, I burn 176 kcal in 30 minutes.

This is only a very rough estimate on how many calories you burn walking, though. That’s because it didn’t take into account factors like sex, age, weather conditions and workout intensity. Walking speed is an  inaccurate estimate of workout intensity because a 4 mph walk is much more strenuous and consumes more calories for a person in poor shape. For a racewalker, 4 mph is nothing.

If you want a more accurate way to measure your calorie burn, you need a heart rate monitor that takes as input factors like age, sex, fitness level, weight and so on. Nowadays, many pedometers (like my Omron Hj-113) also calculate calories burned, but the numbers aren’t very accurate. The same holds true for treadmills and ellipticals you find at fitness centres. Unless you’re plugged to a heart rate monitor, their numbers aren’t reliable.

Four Ways to Burn More Calories Walking

There are many ways you can increase the amount of calories you burn while walking. I list four of them below.

  1. Increase your walking speed. When you increase your walking speed you burn more calories and can spend less time walking. In en earlier example I nearly double the energy I spent when I double my walking speed.
  2. Take longer walks. If you usually make quick 30 minute walks, take an 60 minute or 1,5 hour walks during weekend.
  3. Start Nordic walking. According to some studies, Nordic walking burns even 20-35 percent more calories than regular walking (if you know the technique). Nordic walking has other benefits too. Even if it’s more intense, it’s actually gentler on joints and ligaments than regular walking.
  4. Walk uphill and take sprints. You can easily increase your calorie consumption if you  intersperse quick sprints and walking uphill in your regular walks. And don’t forget stair climbing.

Adding some variety to your fitness walking regime is a good idea anyhow. You get the full benefit of your walking program while avoiding the risk of overuse injuries and boredom.

What else is there to say? Happy walking!