Can you walk off the weight?

Yes, you can lose weight by walking, according to Traverse City doctor Patrick Friedli MD, but you have to regularly walk for at least 30 minutes straight.

Exercise depends on three factors: Frequency, Intensity and Time (FIT). In a perfect world, Friedli says, people should exercise for at least 30 to 60 minutes, five to seven days a week. “Walking benefits all of us by getting us upright and challenging our hearts to beat a little more and get the joints moving,” Friedli says. “Every little bit can count, but in reality, it needs to be a dedicated, sustained pattern.”

The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) is a resource for people with long-term weight loss goals. The NWCR is studying over 10,000 people who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off for long periods of time. They’ve found that over 76 percent of the participants who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for over a year just walked more than before, but they walked for periods of 60 to 90 minutes several times a week.

For those who don’t currently exercise, just walking more makes a difference. But for more serious efforts at weight loss, casual walking may not be enough, Friedli says. “The intensity is where most people have problems,” he explains. To make a walk more challenging, add a few hills into your route or do stairs at a stadium or park. Interval training—alternating between different rates of speed—also helps burn fat. Alternate walking and jogging, sprinting or even just walking at an increased pace.

Friedli also recommends reading the book The Diet Detective’s Count Down by Charles Stuart Platkin. It lists 7,500 foods and how long you have to walk to work off that particular food. For example, to work off just one homemade chocolate chip cookie you have to walk for 20 minutes at 3 mph. “That may or may not be worth it, as most of us just don’t stop at one,” Friedli says.

Counting steps can also be extremely helpful for someone on a weight loss journey. Most guidelines suggest 10,000 steps a day (about 5 miles), and there are several pedometers and smartphone apps available to record physical motion.

3 Free Pedometer Apps for Android & iPhone

  1. Pacer: The main screen shows your step count for the day, active time and estimated calories burned. The app also has three fitness plans like Couch to 10K Steps and has the option to sync to MyFitnessPal.
  2. Moves: The app is formatted as a scrollable timeline that charts your movements, including steps and location, throughout the day. You can name unknown locations (home, work, gym) and Moves will remember them for next time.
  3. Accupedo Pedometer: The app displays your step count on your phone screen giving you a constant look at the steps you’ve taken. You can also see distance, minutes and calories.

More Northern Michigan Exercise Ideas


Photo(s) by Courtney Jerome