This Is How Many Calories You Burn From Walking

Marisa Cohen, Tehrene Firman
·5-min read
Photo credit: GoodLifeStudio - Getty Images
Photo credit: GoodLifeStudio - Getty Images

From Good Housekeeping

Walking is the great democratizer of exercise: It doesn't require any special equipment, you don't have to pay for a pricey gym membership, and you can do it literally anywhere. But can something so simple really help you burn calories?

Absolutely, says fitness expert and author Denise Austin. "Walking is one of the fastest, easiest ways to burn calories, because you can squeeze it in any time, even inside your home," she says.

Of course, there are many more reasons to take a walk than just dropping pounds. Stacks of research show that the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other for at least 30 minutes a day can lower your blood pressure, improve your mood, strengthen your bones, improve digestion, and so much more.

But you're reading this to answer one big question, and here's the answer: "A quick guesstimate of how many calories the average person burns is 100 calories per mile — and that's whether you're running a marathon or taking a nice leisurely stroll," says Timothy Burnett, PhD, an instructor of kinesiology at Oregon State University Cascades.

To put it another way, if you bust your butt and walk that mile in 12 minutes, you'll be burning 8.3 calories per minute; if you take 20 minutes to meander down the avenue while sipping an iced coffee and chatting with friends, you'll burn 5 calories per minute. But by the time you get to the one-mile mark, the results will be the same. It's simply that the faster you go, the less time you will need to spend to burn the same calories.

Before you start doing the math in your head, Burnett points out a major (and majorly annoying!) factor to consider with that 100 cals/mile calculation: "For a long time, research has been dominated by doing tests on men. We're correcting that now, but the 'average person' in these studies is a man who weighs 150 pounds." So when calculating your rate, if you weigh more than 150 pounds, you will burn more than 100 calories per hour; if you're on the lighter side, you'll have to walk further to achieve the same numbers. "The heavier you are, the more mass you have to move around, meaning you'll burn more calories," Burnett explains, adding that if you want to boost your burn rate, you can increase your mass by wearing a weighted vest. [Check out this one from Empower.]

To estimate the rate for your specific weight, you can use this calculator from the American Council on Exercise, or take a look below at a rough calorie breakdown based on both your weight and what kind of strutting you're doing:

If You Weigh Between 120-140 Pounds

Walking at a Moderate Pace (3 mph)

  • 15 minutes: 50 calories

  • 30 minutes: 100 calories

  • 1 hour: 200 calories

Walking at a Fast Pace (4-5 mph)

  • 15 minutes: 95 calories

  • 30 minutes: 185 calories

  • 1 hour: 370 calories

Walking Uphill (3.5 mph)

  • 15 minutes: 90 calories

  • 30 minutes: 180 calories

  • 1 hour: 355 calories

Walking Up Stairs (3 mph)

  • 15 minutes: 120 calories

  • 30 minutes: 240 calories

  • 1 hour: 500 calories

Walking Downhill (2.5 mph)

  • 15 minutes: 40 calories

  • 30 minutes: 85 calories

  • 1 hour: 165 calories

If You Weigh Between 140-160 Pounds

Walking at a Moderate Pace (3 mph)

  • 15 minutes: 60 calories

  • 30 minutes: 112 calories

  • 1 hour: 225 calories

Walking at a Fast Pace (4-5 mph)

  • 15 minutes: 100 calories

  • 30 minutes: 214 calories

  • 1 hour: 430 calories

Walking Uphill (3.5 mph)

  • 15 minutes: 102 calories

  • 30 minutes: 204 calories

  • 1 hour: 408 calories

Walking Up Stairs (3 mph)

  • 15 minutes: 130 calories

  • 30 minutes: 275 calories

  • 1 hour: 545 calories

Walking Downhill (2.5 mph)

  • 15 minutes: 50 calories

  • 30 minutes: 95 calories

  • 1 hour: 190 calories

If You Weigh Between 160-180 Pounds

Walking at a Moderate Pace (3 mph)

  • 15 minutes: 65 calories

  • 30 minutes: 127 calories

  • 1 hour: 255 calories

Walking at a Fast Pace (4-5 mph)

  • 15 minutes: 120 calories

  • 30 minutes: 245 calories

  • 1 hour: 485 calories

Walking Uphill (3.5 mph)

  • 15 minutes: 115 calories

  • 30 minutes: 230 calories

  • 1 hour: 465 calories

Walking Up Stairs (3 mph)

  • 15 minutes: 155 calories

  • 30 minutes: 310 calories

  • 1 hour: 620 calories

Walking Downhill (2.5 mph)

  • 15 minutes: 54 calories

  • 30 minutes: 110 calories

  • 1 hour: 215 calories

Meanwhile, whether you have 15 minutes or an hour to go out walking during your day, here are some ways to increase your rate so you get the most calorie burn for your buck:

Get your arms moving along with your legs

“The more muscles you use, the more calories you burn," Austin points out. So that means really pumping your arms back and forth as you walk. Austin even likes to add in arm circles and tricep presses during her walk (though she skips the weights for safety reasons).

Head up a hill (or the stairs)

When you walk up a hill (or stairs if you live in a more urban area), you're doing concentric contractions, which means you're making the muscles shorten as you're contracting them, Burnett explains. "And because you're working against gravity as well, you're going to multiply how many calories you burn by around 10 to 30%," he says. Austin says she climbs up and down two hills near her house to maximize her walking workout.

Mix up your pace

Even if you can't go full speed for your entire walk, adding in short bursts of higher speeds can increase your burn. “Sometimes I do one block as fast as I can, and then I use the next block to slow it down a bit," says Austin. "It's like interval training, and it's great for your cardiovascular system. You'll develop more stamina and endurance.”

Use music to make you move faster

One great way to keep up your speed? Walking along to a fast-paced soundtrack. “Music isn't just a mood booster, but it makes you walk faster and feel really free," says Austin.

Add strength-training and stretching for a complete workout

The cardiovascular exercise from walking is great, but for a fully rounded workout, add some stretches, yoga movies, light weights, sit-ups, and push-ups, recommends Austin. "That really complements your walk,” she says.

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