How Many Calories Do You Burn While Walking?

How many calories do you burn while walking? 

It’s a simple question, but it inevitably leads to a series of other questions too:

  • Can I lose weight just by walking?
  • Is there a right way to walk? How about a wrong way?
  • How many calories do you burn walking a mile? A marathon?
  • Can one simply walk into Mordor?

Okay, so maybe you didn’t ask that last question, but as a guy that runs Nerd Fitness, I certainly wanted to know the answer to that (spoiler: you can).

I’ll be addressing each of the above questions in this monster article about walking, including everything you need to know about the most natural activity we can do as human beings.

Walking is not only a great way to burn calories and stay active, but it’s an incredible stress reliever and gives you a chance to explore your surroundings in much more detail than through a car window.

For starters, YES, you absolutely can lose weight just by walking! Here’s a Nerd Fitness success story from Tim, who got hurt and could only walk for exercise.

50 pounds later (and another big change I’ll get to below), I’d say he succeeded!

Tim burned a LOT of calories while walking and lost 50 pounds

But I’ll get to Tim’s story shortly. Instead, Let’s talk about the second question…

HOW MANY CALORIES Burned Walking?

In true Nerd Fitness fashion, we scienced the crap out of this, and even created a handy calculator for you – simply put your stats in the calculator here, and you can determine how effective walking can be when it comes to burning calories and losing weight!

What I thought would be a simple equation led me down a rabbit hole of labyrinthine proportions, but I feel we’ve found the best estimation as a starting point for discussion. [*].

So feel free to mess around with this calculator, and then keep reading so I can get you the information that will be helpful in your quest for health:

Calculate Calories Burned While Walking Calculator

Calculate Calories Burned While Walking Calculator

Enter your weight in pounds.
Enter the distance walked in miles. Partial miles is fine (e.g. 1.5)
We used the formulas and information found on this page for this calculator

A few things to remember about the above equation:

There’s a difference between gross calories (total calories) expended and net calories (additional calories) expended! Your body burns most of its calories every day JUST by existing.

  • Gross calories: calories burned while walking PLUS the calories burned just existing
  • Net calories: ADDITIONAL calories you burned thanks to exercise.

You’re a unique snowflake, and no box or formula can capture your awesomeness/uniqueness. Fortunately this equation below is JUST a starting point!

ANY exercise pales in comparison to a much more important part of the weight loss equation. It’s what Tim did above, and what I’ll explain below!

If you’ve come this far, and you want to learn more about why walking is so amazing, continue reading. I’ll also tell you just how Tim had the dramatic success he had above.

And you’re damn right, I’ll show you exactly how to walk to Mordor too.

The Benefits of Walking

Walking along roads or hiking can burn a lot of calories

We are designed to walk. It’s in our DNA, and it’s a huge part of our emergence as the dominant species on this planet (along with opposable thumbs, big brains, and Nintendo).

Let’s get the basic stuff out of the way:

Every day, it’s recommended by the CDC that we walk around five miles, or 10,000 steps. Hence the reason why your Fitbit – which I’ll get to shortly – has that 10k step goal as its default number.

Unfortunately, we Americans tend to average HALF that: 2.5 miles or 5,000 steps. And I’d imagine that people who work outdoors or have more physically active jobs drag that average wayyyy up.

Which leaves us desk jockeys, who don’t walk nearly enough.

We use our feet to get us from the front door, to our car, to our desk, to the vending machine, to our car, to our front door, to our couch… where we put them up while watching four hours of TV before going to bed.

Not walking enough can be a big factor in the creep-up of weight gain over the years, and it’s probably why you’re here reading this article!

“Can I walk more to lose weight? Is walking REALLY good for me, or do I need to do more intense exercise?”

Long story short, you should walk more and it can help you lose weight and be healthier.  

Short story long, here’s why walking is important:

Walking burns calories without exhausting you. If you walked the recommended mileage each day (5 miles instead of just 2.5), it can lead to a tremendous amount of weight loss over time. You’ll burn an extra 100 calories walking just ONE more mile each day than normal: When that’s multiplied out, it’s an extra 700 calories burned per week, which results in approximately a pound of fat lost every five weeks, or 10 pounds in a year.  You can scale up your distances to get your desired results!

Walking doesn’t add to training stress. If you are strength training regularly, adding in more weight training or running can lead to burnout, breakdowns, and injuries. If you are trying to look like a super hero, extra cardio sessions (or long distance cardio sessions) will kill your gains. But you can just walk. You can walk great distances, provided you’ve built up your body’s physical ability, and not get tired or sore – walking (especially outside while soaking in some sunlight) can make you feel better, not worse.

Walking is low impact. Unlike running, which can wreak havoc on people’s joints if they run improperly or are severely overweight, walking doesn’t have those impact issues. If you go for a walk and your feet or joints hurt, you’re doing it wrong – read the next section!

Walking can burn fat. Because walking is low impact and low intensity, your body doesn’t need to pull from its glycogen and glucose stores to fuel itself, which happens when you strength train or push yourself into “aerobic training” with higher intensity cardio. Proponents of intermittent fasting suggest walking in a fasted state in the morning before eating anything in order to help burn extra fat. This will have to be something you attempt and measure for yourself.

Walking relieves stress. Seriously! When you put on your iPod with your favorite playlist, and can go for a pleasant walk around your neighborhood or through the woods as the sun is going down, you have a recipe to forget the worries of your day.

Walking improves mental health (especially in older hobbits). Walking can improve mental health, increase brain size, improve memory, and is correlated with improved, longer lifespans.[1]

How walking can change your life

Walking in the woods is a great exercise full of benefits

If you are severely overweight and can’t run or strength train, walk on.

If you are building muscle and bulking up, walk on.  

If you are trying to lose weight, walk on.

If you struggle with following a routine, or have failed in the past with weight loss, walk on. 

Why? I’m a HUGE fan of small habit change and tiny victories – walking is the PERFECT habit builder. If you’re brand new and starting out, go for a walk TODAY and begin your journey to Mordor.

This afternoon, go for five-minute walk. Tomorrow morning before work, before breakfast, as SOON as you wake up, put on your shoes, and go outside for a five-minute walk. No snoozing, no lying in bed, no checking email or Twitter. Put on your headphones, pick your favorite song, go outside, and start walking.

Here’s why:

  • Walking for just five minutes a day is the start of a new habit.  Every morning for a few weeks, you’ll have to force yourself to walk. Initially, it will take effort and willpower to walk instead of snoozing. However, with each passing day of success, you’ll need to use less effort and willpower to get out the door. After all, it’s only five minutes, right? Once it’s something you do automatically without thinking, you can add on to it by increasing your walk time.
  • Walking briskly outdoors in the fresh morning air can be a great caffeine-free wake up call! If you make walking the FIRST thing you do in the morning, especially if you’re doing it before anybody else is awake, there will be zero distractions and no reason to say “sorry, I didn’t have time.” Of course, we like caffeine too (in moderation).
  • Walking will give you a chance to gather your thoughts and clear your head before the day begins. We’re constantly distracted at home: TV, iPads, smartphones, etc. Walking is so primal – no gadgets, just walking. Many people cite walking as the impetus for their creative or intelligent breakthroughs.   
  • Walking and successfully building a habit will give you a habit blueprint to follow for anything else you’d like to accomplish: “Hey, I was able to make walking a habit, what else can I tackle in the same way?” Slow and steady wins. One foot in front of the other, my friend.

How to walk properly

 

Walking along the beach to burn calories, just make sure you walk properly

“Uhhh, Steve, I know how to walk. I do it every day!”

Welp, if you’re starting from only walking from your car to the office, we need to make sure you’re walking the right way for when you push that mileage up.

Let’s start with your feet, provided you’re not gonna glue hair to your feet and go barefoot to become a hobbit.

I recommend walking in shoes that have a a wide toe box and minimal drop (height at the heel vs height at the toes), as we discuss in our monster post on healthy feet and footwear:

You might not be used to walking with minimal cushioning under your heels, so walk slowly and land softly. Walking on softer surfaces to start isn’t a bad idea either.

What about those “tone up shoes?” Will they make your booty pop like it says in the ad? This won’t be a surprise to you, but those shoes are about as likely to improve your health as Gimli shaving his beard (not likely).

We were designed before the invention of big clunky shoes… thus, we should be able to walk without big clunky shoes. If you are interested in going barefoot as a runner, get started by walking short distances first. Your feet will toughen up (though they probably won’t grow hair quite like Frodo and Sam), your joints and muscles around your feet and ankles will strengthen, and your knees will deal with less stress.

When going for a lazy stroll, focus on landing softly, which is much easier when you don’t have thick soled shoes to cushion your stride: land softly with your heel barely touching before rolling onto the middle (ball) of your foot, and then push off. You might need to take shorter strides than you’re used to if you were a big heel striker with a long stride.

If you’re aiming to walk quickly and up the intensity, shorten your stride and aim to land in the middle of your foot while pumping your arms. This is more easily done when walking uphill (which is also a great way to burn extra calories).

Walking To Lose Weight

Tim from Nerd Fitness lost 50 pounds by walking and fixing his nutrition

Meet Tim, a regular nerd like you who found Nerd Fitness a few years back and walked his way healthy. 

Case closed? Of course not!

There’s more to that story – although it makes for a great headline, we need to set the record straight on walking and exercise in general when it comes to losing weight and getting healthy.

The NF Community asked Tim what he thought about his transformation looking back at himself after 7 months [2]:

“If you’d told me I could lose 50 pounds in 7 months with just changing my diet and walking, I would have told you to take a long walk off a short pier! I can hardly believe it myself.”

So what happened?

Before he could really get started on his weight loss journey, he managed to injure himself and was told by his doctor that he couldn’t do any strenuous exercise or strength training for at least 6 months.

Tim also joined our comprehensive flagship digital course, The Nerd Fitness Academy, and following the mindset and nutrition modules. Tim took the MOST important step one can take when it comes to walking your way healthy:

He went for walks, he fixed his mentality, and he fixed his nutrition!

One of the Rules of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion is that we know “you can’t outrun your fork.” No amount of exercise can counter a bad diet, as your nutrition will be responsible for 90% (not an exaggeration) of your success or failure.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you go for a 5-mile walk, which takes you 90+ minutes. If you then consume a 20 oz Gatorade and a small bag of Fritos (a typical snack for many here in America), you will have already undone all of the calories burned while walking.

Depending on your nutrition and love/hatred for exercise, this is either great news or bad news!

The BAD news: you can’t eat very badly in mass quantities and then expect to lose weight with a bit of exercise every week, even if it’s strenuous.

The GOOD news: Even if you dislike exercise, you can avoid exercise and still lose weight (like Tim)! Instead, put ALL of your focus instead on fixing your nutrition, and then go for a walk every once in awhile.

I’d also consider reading the following:

If your nutrition is in serious need of an overhaul, I hear ya! It can be overwhelming. In addition to the Academy, we created a free PDF and a whole 10-level nutrition system to make the process of fixing your diet more like a video game:

Walking tips and tricks

Long walks have many benefits outside of just burning calories

Focus on posture! Head up! Shoulders back! Walk with a confident stroll – practice this one in the morning if you’re not used to walking like this. It’s also a great way to appear instantly more confident; we nerds and hobbits need all the confidence we can get! Look around at your surroundings with your head up, arms swinging in rhythm.

Walk uphill to burn more fat. If you are walking on a treadmill, set it to an incline to increase the intensity and thus increase the amount of fat burned. Just don’t be that person who sets the incline way up, then holds onto both sides and leans their body back to be perpendicular with the incline. Keep good posture, lean forward into the incline, shorten your stride, and pump your legs.

Hiking is a great way to practice walking, enjoy the scenery, and play Lord of the Rings in the woods with plastic swords and capes. Not that you should do that (you totally should). Here’s a beginner’s guide to hiking!

When walking downhill, especially while barefoot (or wearing minimalist shoes), keep that stride short and be careful on how you are walking. Make sure your knee is bent when you land and absorb the impact rather than jamming the impact through your heel, knee, leg, hips, and lower back.

Consider going for fasted walks in the morning. When you wake up first thing in the morning, your body has burned through most of the carb-fueled energy stores during the night. Which means when you go for a walk first thing in the morning, your body is more likely to have to pull from the only fuel source available to it: fat! This is the entire philosophy behind things like Intermittent Fasting or really low-carb diets like the Ketogenic diet.

Get yourself a sturdy walking stick, if only so you can use it to battle imaginary ogres, goblins, cavetrolls, etc. It can also make you feel far more adventurous than if you’re just walking, and help you get up hills and land softly when going back down.

Try Temptation Bundling. Load up an audiobook or your favorite podcast, and tell yourself that you can ONLY listen to the book or podcast while walking.

What about Fitbits and Nike FuelBands and Apple Watches?

what you need to know about Fitbits and Pedometers to track calories burned walking

If you’re somebody who has been interested – or is getting interested – in walking, you’re probably familiar with step-tracking devices that are oh-so-popular these days:

Personally, I’m a huge fan of fitness wearables, but not for the reasons you’d think.

For starters, you’re wearing a constant reminder that you are prioritizing movement, which can only be positive. You can even trigger it to remind you to get up and move every hour. It can also allow you to see how many steps you normally take, and thus allow you to prioritize moving MORE.

Although Fitbit was involved in a lawsuit for the inaccurate heart-monitor portion of its devices, I’m less concerned about heart rates and 100% accuracy of step distance, and instead think in terms of personal improvement.

Just like with tracking your bodyfat percentage or your weight, “that which gets measured gets improved,” and that carries over to your total steps. The fact that you’re tracking it means you’re going to be more aware of it, which means you’re going to be more likely to be able to improve it.

And that’s why, in a weird way, I’m not very concerned about the total accuracy of these devices. Even if your scale is off by 5 pounds, or your body fat caliper is inaccurate by 1%, as long as you use the same device and measure in the same way under the same conditions, you can track trends and paint the picture of your health and whether or not it’s improving!

And that’s what these fitness trackers should be used for: a reminder and a trend tracker!

What you SHOULDN’T do: take your fitness tracker as gospel, and use that to calculate down to the calorie and macro how much food exactly you can consume.

What you SHOULD do: track your trend over time, and see if you can improve your average. Use the technology to aid your fitness quest. Use the community portion of the band to compare your stats against friends and get some positive friendly peer pressure to get you off your ass.

Okay, if nerdy fitness technology isn’t nerdy enough for you, let’s go full-nerd.

How to Actually Walk to Mordor

Frodo and Sam are walking buddies and actually walked to Mordor

Did you know it’s 1779 miles between Hobbiton to Mount Doom? [3]. We can actually determine how far Sam and Frodo walked, and then set out on the journey ourselves! It’s one thing to go for a stroll around your neighborhood. It’s another to know that, “If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.”

So let’s take a look at how far we need to walk first:

  • 458 miles: Go from Hobbiton to Rivendell.
  • 462 miles: Set out with the Fellowship from Rivendell, through Moria, to Lothlorien.
  • 389 miles: From Lothlorien, down the Anduin, to Rauros Falls.
  • 470 miles: Follow Frodo and Sam on the quest from Rauros to Mt. Doom.
  • 535 miles: From Minas Tirith to Isengard
  • 693 miles: From Isengard to Rivendell.
  • 397 miles: From Rivendell to Bag End.
  • 467 miles: (bonus!) Follow Frodo to the Grey Havens and return home with Sam.

Following this path, you need to walk a total of 1779 miles to get from Hobbiton to Mt. Doom. Then it’s time to destroy the ring and get carried to Minas Tirith by the Great Eagles. Then you’ll walk 1625 miles back to Bag End (and an additional 467 miles if you’re interested in doing a round trip to the Grey Havens).

Obviously, you don’t need to move at the same speed as the hobbits (18 miles in the first day is no joke! Damn, those hobbits covered some ground!), but it’s still fun to track your walks and your total miles to see where you’d be on your journey.

However, like Frodo and Sam, it starts with the first step.

I’ve created a google doc that you can copy for yourself to track your distances to follow Frodo and Sam on your journey to destroy the One Ring.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Open the document, and then click on “file,” “save a copy,” and then you can edit your own copy of the document.  
  • Track your distances with a pedometer, FitBit, your iPhone or Android phone.
  • Input your distances and work towards completing each section of the journey over months. As you input your distances, it will automatically let you know when you reach each destination so you can get you started on the next one. 5 miles a day on average will have you destroying the Ring within one year.

Oh, and if you’re curious, according to my rough gorilla math, Frodo burned at least an additional 61,0000+ calories (100,000+ gross calories) by walking “there and back again” – you’re welcome[5].

What questions do you have about walking? 

How have you incorporated it into your daily routine?

And have you walked to Mordor?

-Steve 

Photo source: fourbrickstall Hiking in Candelario, Lego Frodo, Stewart Baird: Stay on the Pathlothlorien tree, new zealand mountains, Simonds Footprint@PierCoveendless fields, Thad Zajdowicz Keep walking! HMM!, waterfall, Frodo and Sam

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  • Tony Langdon

    That will give you a good indication. I have used a pedometer alongside a GPS in the past and found for consistent long walks, they record similar distances (within a few percent – good enough!). The trick is getting your average stride length right (mine is around 83cm), for the pedometer to be accurate. If you can borrow a GPS or use an app on your phone, it’s easy to calibrate the pedometer – walk, check the GPS distance, divide by the pedometer steps, you have your stride length.

    If you don’t have access to a GPS, you will need to find a route of known length (athletics track, or enter a measured walk when the next local fun run is on – many events have a walking category). In some cities (like here), the local council helpfully puts distance measurements around popular walking courses, which can also be used to calibrate your pedometer.

  • Tony Langdon

    Walking is a great way to get places, as well as satisfying exercise. I hate paying for parking, and waiting for buses. At 3km from the city centre, I can walk there in the time it takes between buses (half hour frequency on weekdays, hourly weekends), and there’s no hassle with finding parking or change to feed the meters. No “I have to move the car” – mine’s parked at home! 🙂

    I haven’t actually worked out how far I would walk in a given period of time, but no doubt the distance is considerable. Hikes are great to get in touch with nature, or for that quick trip to the shops, an iPod with some upbeat tracks really gets me going.

    And walking does complement my other training, it’s much slower and easier on my energy reserves which take a battering in the gym or on the athletics track. running sprints. Everyone should walk to Mordor at least once! 🙂

  • Lindsay Wilcox

    This totally needs to be a Nerd Fitness app. Just sayin’. Could interface with Google Fit on Android. Someone make it so!

  • Kathryn Weir

    You know. I did it. According to the date stamp and my PT logs, I started the very next day. I am STILL doing it. I was probably a bit overzealous when I saw the Eowyn and make my own spreadsheet (to go with my PT log) with finer breakdowns. I revisited here because I’ve gotten myself motivationally stuck 4,168 miles in. YES, I have gone 4,168* miles since 2012. I started at the Hobbit…

    Smaug was slain 2013 July 16!
    The Fellowship was broken 2014 April 28!
    The Battle of Pelannor Fields ended 2015 July 12!
    Frodo Destroyed the Ring 2015 October 22!
    Mount Doom Crumbled 2016 January 14!
    The Crowning of King Elessar was just Feb 29, but now after AAALLL of that, I still have to walk 1,625 back to Bag End, and then 260 to the Grey Havens. (467 if I then walk home, AGAIN). At my “goal” walking of 4 miles a day, it’ll take me 1.59 years (2.6 for the original 7,618). If I throw in one 20 mile spin class a week, 11 months. I’m a bit discouraged.

    *Note, my miles is a little less than the Eowyn’s as I’d skipped ‘rewalking’ from Hobbiton to Rivendell since I did it once for Hobbit. For some reason I’d combined some of the treks (taking the same path) as well. So my total would be 6,370 miles of the original 7,816. Now, it’s much more than the NF version of the walk, I think because I was SO gung-ho when I started that I wanted to do the original. If I’d done the NF version, I’d have finished 2015October22!

    Did anyone start it with me? Is anyone else still going?

  • Love this idea! I am excited to try it and see how long it takes for me to destroy the one ring and defeat Sauron once and for all. Sorry that’s really nerdy, but I guess that is okay here right!? 🙂

    Super cool idea Steve!

  • Rick Papandrea

    I love this breakdown, but how is it a 61 mile difference from Hobbiton to Rivendell and from Rivendell to Bad End, which is in Hobbiton?

  • Jenni

    The hobbits went through the Old Forest on the way to Rivendell, but took the Great East Road back, so it ended up being longer :D.

  • Rick Papandrea

    Thanks! I’m rereading it and I forgot how they end up going far to the North of Rivendell to avoid the “Black Riders”

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  • Carysta

    Thank you so much for this, especially the Google doc 😀 I just got a fitbit and now I have a challenge! 🙂

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  • Samara Garnham

    This is the best thing I’ve ever seen! Thank you for creating it!

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  • Jeremy Ocain

    Another submission for wide toe box, low drop shoe Topo Adventure MT-2s. I don’t work for the company, but I do wear and LOVE these shoes.

    My … Ring toe? Second from the pinkie toe … Used to get squished so much that walking or running was torture. No fun. Then I read and took the suggestion for wide toe box shoes. OMG! Life changer!

    2.5 miles most mornings with the sunrise, and another 3.1 one day in the weekend. No pain. All gain.

  • I think it’s cool that you actually calculated the distance from Hobbiton to Mount Doom! Never thought of doing that. Thanks for the Google Docs file. 🙂

    Just reviewed Fitbit’s Flex 2 a few months ago. My assessment of its best feature is pretty much the same as yours. Not really super obsessed about the exact number of calories I burn per day. What I love is that it reminds desk jockeys such as myself to move. That, to me, is gold.

  • I think it’s cool that you actually calculated the distance from Hobbiton to Mount Doom! Never thought of doing that. Thanks for the Google Docs file. 🙂

    Just reviewed Fitbit’s Flex 2 a few months ago. My assessment of its best feature is pretty much the same as yours. Not really super obsessed about the exact number of calories I burn per day. What I love is that it reminds desk jockeys such as myself to move. That, to me, is gold.

  • Jay

    This might explain why I’m losing weight faster than I’d like to. I work fast food. I walk a mile to work (without breakfast), and then I’m walking and jogging between stations at work for seven hours before the mile back, so if I call that ~12 ‘miles’ then it’s about 8-900 gross calories in that nine hours. Stress kills my appetite so I’d guess I tend to eat around 1500 calories or less every day, or two small burgers, thirty ounce soda, and some cheese crackers 😅
    Now that I know what all that walking is actually doing, time to up my cooking game a bit.

  • Julia Arndt

    Excellent article Steve, as always! I finished the Walk to Mordor 2yrs ago and just decided to start again then I saw your article. timing! oooh, spooky! I like to take one of my dogs with me (can’t take ’em both, they’re pretty big & can be hard to handle if they both decide to get unruly!) So, 1 walk per dog=2 walks! I’ve had some health issues and walking is easy. My goal is to get running again (love running!) although I really enjoy just taking time for a good hike. I found a great walking stick (staff sounds cooler) to fight off any pesky trolls might try to get past a big dog. So, I’ve got the new sheet & I’m starting today!

  • Anonymous

    Steve, you’re a city-dweller: what advice do you have for women in places like NYC who want to walk outside early in the morning but are worried about doing it when it’s still dark outside, especially in the winter? Is walking on a treadmill the same? What if you don’t have access to one?

    Thanks!

  • Bryan Ewbank

    I love walking – much more than running – and have started to explore “rucking” (walking, with weight) because it’s more work than walking, but less injurious than running.

    BTW, I did the “50# in a year” too. Great story, and it’s possible for anyone. As my (long ago) pediatrician used to say, the best way to lose weight is to do push aways. Push away the dessert; push away from the table, etc.

  • Peter Schott

    Re-read this article for the first time in a while. I’ve been having some foot trouble that’s kept me from walking as much as I’d like but I think it’s time to start again and go back to the doc if the foot gets worse. Just being active will be better than not and maybe I can convince my wife to join me. I’m not built for running, but I can usually walk or hike without too much trouble.