Thinking of the calories burned from walking in terms of your favourite foods may help you be realistic with your weight loss goals. While you don’t have to offset everything you eat with walking, knowing how hard you’d need to work to burn off a treat can help motivate you to pass on desserts and snacks.
Your calorie burn varies by weight and other factors, but you can still get a sense of how impactful walks of different lengths are. Armed with this knowledge, you can make better decisions on what to eat and how much to walk.
We’ll cover walks from 5 minutes to over an hour and show what a man (200 pounds / 14 stone / 90kg) and woman (170 / 12 stone / 77 kg) pounds) might burn off.
CALORIES BURNED WALKING – IN TERMS OF FOOD
When you’re walking for weight loss, it can be helpful to think of your calories burned in terms of common foods. This can also help you eat healthier once you realise just how much walking you’d need to do to burn off the calories from a single doughnut, chocolate bar or fizzy drink. Your calories burned depend on your weight, but here are a few examples to get you started.
CASE 1: WOMAN 170 POUND / 12 STONE / 77 KG
For this example, we assume that our 77kg woman is walking at 3 mph on relatively level ground. She’ll burn around 250-260 calories per hour.
Here’s what that calorie burn might look like in terms of food items:
- 5-minute walk: 1 small piece of chocolate or 3-4 peanuts (21 calories)
While one 5-minute walk doesn’t burn a huge number of calories, if you add up enough of them and you can burn a fair number of calories. That 5 minute of walking is important for other health reasons as well. Long periods of sitting are bad for both your mental and physical health, so getting up and walking for 5 minutes will make a difference.
- 15-minute walk: 1 peach or 2-3 marshmallows (64 calories)
15 minutes is perfect for a short walk. You’ll burn some calories with enough time to warm up, cool down and still get brisk walking done in between. It is important to realise that you can eat back this walk time with just a single drink or half an energy bar.
- 30-minute walk: 1 regular latte or just under 2 hard-boiled eggs (122 calories)
A 30-minute walk lets you hit your daily minimum recommended steps with just one walking session. You’ll feel great, see some sights and burn a decent number of calories. Most energy bars do contain over 120 calories, and it’s still possible to eat back these calories relatively easily by mindlessly snacking.
- 1 hour walk: 1 Glazed doughnut or a small serving of chips (250 calories)
An hour of walking daily will put you on pace for 300 minutes of walking per week, which gives even more health benefits than the minimum recommendation. 60 minutes of brisk walking will burn a lot of calories, provided you can keep up a brisk pace for the whole hour. You can try varying your pace or doing modified intervals so that you have time to rest while keeping moving. Do keep in mind that even an hour of walking is still moderate exercise, and it can be hard to outwalk unhealthy eating.
- 6.5 hours of walking: 1 medium-large cheese pizza (1600 calories)
This goes to show that even an intense exercise routine (at least through walking) can’t burn calories as fast as you can eat them. While it’s ok to indulge occasionally, if you’re eating huge numbers of calories every day there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to walk them off.
It’s important to note that walking is great for you even if you’re not eating healthy. Burning some calories is better than burning none, and you’ll also benefit your mental health, heart health, joints and more. Best yet, you’ll feel great which can help put you in a better frame of mind when it comes to eating.
CASE 2: A 200 POUND / 14 STONE / 90KG MAN
For this example, we assume that our 90kg man is walking at 3 mph on relatively level ground. He will burn around 300 calories per hour. Here’s what that calorie burn might look like in terms of food items.
- 5-minute walk: 1 tomato or 4-5 peanuts (25 calories)
Every 5-minute walk you take adds up, so if you can get 5 minutes of walking in it’s a great idea to do that. It also breaks up sitting time, while boosting your energy and creativity. It’s important to be realistic in that a 5-minute walk by itself doesn’t burn many calories. You should still get those steps in when you can, however!
- 15-minute walk: 1 small apple or 3 marshmallows (75 calories)
While 15 minutes in the morning won’t burn off your entire breakfast, you’ll feel energised and you’ll start to make an impact for weight loss. 15 minutes also gets you halfway towards your minimum of 30 minutes daily walking. With a dedicated 15-minute walk you’ll almost certainly get the other 15 in your day.
- 30-minute walk: 1 can fizzy drink or 2 hard-boiled eggs (150 calories)
30 minutes gets you your minimum daily recommended steps in one walk, which means you’ll get even more walking by the end of the day. While we don’t recommend drinking fizzy drinks, you’d have burned one off in your 30-minute walk. That drink might only take a minute to drink, however, which goes to show how much easier it is to take in calories than to burn them off.
- 1 hour walk: 1 small fast-food cheeseburger or a baked potato (300 calories)
An hour of walking sets you up for 300 minutes of walking per week (which gives additional health benefits), plus you’ll almost certainly hit 10,000 steps given the rest of the daily walking you’ll do.
While you’re burning serious calories, it is important to be realistic with your weight loss goals. There may be an instinct to treat yourself since you finished your walk, but even an extra medium chips or large burger can be more calories than you can burn off in an hour.
- 5.33 hours: 1 medium / large cheese pizza (1,600 calories)
Eating huge meals on a regular basis is very hard to offset through walking, as this illustrates. It’s fine to treat yourself now and then, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can eat whatever you want simply because you do a 20-minute daily walk.
Note: Walking will be great for your health regardless of your weight, but if you are looking to lose weight you can make as big or a bigger impact by eating healthier than you could by walking more.