The Number of Minutes You'd Have to Walk Each Day to Start Losing Weight Is Shocking

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POPSUGAR Photography | Maria del Rio
POPSUGAR Photography | Maria del Rio

It's tough to find time to exercise when you're balancing other obligations — but if months or years have passed without a consistent routine, you're probably ready to make some changes. Here's the good news: walking as little as 30 minutes a day can help you lose weight, as long as you couple it with a healthy lifestyle.

Walking falls into the category of NEAT (or nonexercise activity thermogenesis), the term used to describe any activity that expends energy but isn't formally exercise, like running the vacuum. "Boosting your daily activity levels with NEAT can play a huge role in helping you lose weight and maintain your weight loss," Eric Bowling, an NASM-certified personal trainer at Ultimate Performance in Los Angeles, told POPSUGAR. "For anyone new to exercise, walking is a good place to start."

That said, 30 minutes equates to roughly 4,000 to 5,000 steps, which is still considered sedentary, Eric explained — and the difference in calories burned when someone is active all day versus when they're sedentary is significant. "Estimations show the variation can be as high as 2,000 calories," he said. In other words, walking a half hour is good, but it won't be effective if you sit behind a desk the rest of the day. Instead, you should quickly work to build your step count to 10,000 or even 12,500 steps per day — the target Eric sets for clients who want to lose weight.

Finally, weight loss boils down to calories in, calories out. The scale won't budge if you're eating too many calories, no matter how many steps you get in. As you grow your confidence, aim to create a calorie deficit by reducing the number of calories you take in or increasing the number you burn — or a bit of both. A deficit of 500 calories per day should help you lose about one pound per week.