Your complete guide to walking for weight loss

Your complete guide to walking for weight loss

Ditch the cardio and gym equipment. All you need is a good pair of walking shoes to get fit and lose weight. 

We do it every day and most of us don’t even think about it. Yep, the simple act of walking is one of the best things we can do for ourselves – and it’s so underrated.

Walking is an effective – and free – way to improve and maintain our overall health. It also perfectly complements other styles of training.

If you think that walking is boring, or not as sexy as yoga or weight training, you’re missing out. Here are just a few reasons to put your best foot forward:

1. Burns more energy

A brisk walk can get your heart rate up and burn calories. Speed and distance will determine how much you burn, but it’s a gentle way to work out at your own pace. To increase the intensity, try walking on different terrains and up hills – walking up hills and stairs will also help tone your glutes, so it’s a win-win.

2. No equipment required

I love using weights and a resistance band, but if I’m travelling or have my toddler with me, there’s not always room for equipment. That’s why walking is so good. You don’t need anything – just a good pair of walking shoes or runners, and you’re good to go.

I do recommend investing in a good pair of shoes – it’ll help prevent hip, knee and back injuries. A specialist store like Rebel or Athlete’s Foot have trained staff who’ll fit your feet correctly and can recommend styles based on your goals. Don’t be afraid to choose something colourful.

3. It preserves lean muscle

If you’re on a lifestyle overhaul and have adopted a new meal plan, you may initially lose some muscle as well as body fat. However, we need muscle as it’s more metabolically active than fat. Walking can help preserve lean muscle, and increase its strength and endurance.

4. It’s a wonderful warm-up and cool-down

I strongly encourage warming up and cooling down before and after exercise. Walking before a workout gets your muscles ready and increases blood flow, while walking after a workout helps your body return to its resting state and can help prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

5. Releases feel-good hormones

If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, walking can help improve your mental state. This is because when you’re walking, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with receptors in the brain that reduce pain and improve mood. It also increases serotonin levels in the brain – a neurotransmitter that influences mood. So, you can literally walk off that bad mood!

6. It tones the legs and booty

You don’t have to complete 100 squats and lunges to tone your lower half. Walking is low impact and is a safe way to strengthen the muscles in your legs. To build up more strength, ditch the office lift or escalator and take the stairs (your glutes will thank you), or leave the car at home and walk to the train station.

7. You only need 30 minutes

For optimum results, try walking 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. And by walking, I mean briskly – enough to break a little sweat and get your heart rate up.

8. It’s social

Walking is the perfect excuse to meet up with friends. You can meet at your favourite park, lake or beach track, and catch up on the latest goss. It’s also a great way to keep each other accountable and support each other’s fitness journeys.

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Fitness expert Sam Wood settles this debate…

This is a question I’m asked a lot and I think it stems from the confusion around which one really burns the most fat. Don’t get me wrong, walking and running are great ways to get active, but there are certainly pros and cons to both that can be considered when deciding between the two.

Put simply, the harder you work, the more fat you will burn. Fat may make up the greatest percentage of all energy burned from a walk but most people look at calories burnt as opposed to percentages. When we look at it this way, running wins every time.

Walking and running are both part of my workout routine; walking is an everyday thing for me and running is something I incorporate depending on my goals or how I’m feeling at the time. It’s not so much a question of which is better for you, but more so what you are trying to achieve. Your choice should always be aligned with your goals.

I personally recommend that your exercise routine should also include some form of resistance activity as the more lean muscle we have, the more efficiently we burn fat but in a two-horse race between walking and running. Here’s what you need to know.

Running takes the cake when:

  • Your goal is weight loss – running is great for burning calories.
  • You want a harder workout – it gets the lungs pumping.
  • You’re training for a running event or want to have a goal that isn’t related to weight (ie. PB’s, distance related goals etc.)
  • You want more bang for your buck – running burns more calories in less time than walking.
  • You’re chasing the endorphins: there’s nothing quite like that post run feeling.
  • You’re stressed: running is such a great way to switch off from everything else that’s going (just ask Julie Bishop!) on and get lost in the moment.

With running, think outside the square. Hill sprints or interval efforts will burn more calories than steady state running and is a great way to mix up your training.

BUT, walking takes care when:

  • You need low impact.
  • You’re just getting started: walks interspersed with short bursts of running is a great place to start as you build your fitness.
  • You’re just looking to add some incidental exercise into your day. Ditch the car and walk to work, the shops or your local café. Aim for at least 10,000 steps per day.

You can still increase the intensity of walking by adding in hills or ankle weights, or slowly build towards running.

Walking is such a fantastic low-impact way to move your body and a popular form of exercise but as far as getting bang for your buck, from a fat-burning perspective there are some things we probably need to do to maximise this.

1. Pace

Incidental exercise adds up but if you’re trying to level up your daily walk then you need to be walking briskly. Everyone’s brisk pace is different so you can determine your exertion by your heart and breathing rate.

2. Hills or stairs

If you can, find a route that incorporates hills and/or stairs for an extra lung-buster and to really work those leg and glute muscles.

3. Jogging/running intervals

If you’re not yet a runner but it is on the horizon, start by implementing some jogging/running intervals into your walk. Walk for 3 minutes, jog/run for 30-60 seconds and repeat.

4. Stop and drop into a circuit

Every 3 minutes stop and do some exercises such as squats, squat jumps, step-ups, lunges… anything that will increase muscle activation and elevate your heart rate.

Then, go back into your walk as a quality 3 minute active recovery between efforts.

Whether you’re trying to increase the variety and intensity of your walks to turn them into a workout, or you’re just using walking as a great way for extra incidental activity on top of your HIIT or gym workouts, it really can play an integral role in achieving your fitness goals.

Follow these tips to perfect your walking style, pace and posture – because yes, they all matter.

1. Zip up

To help activate your stomach and core, draw an imaginary line from your pubic bone to your bellybutton and imagine zipping it up.

2. Neck long

Keep your head up and your neck long. This aligns your trunk, engages your shoulder muscles and activates your stomach muscles.

3. Lift your toes

As you walk, lift your toes up to engage your feet and arches.

4. Kneecaps forward

Occasionally, look down at your knees, particularly when walking uphill. Ensure they are in a straight line over your feet.

5. Shock absorbers

Imagine your legs are dynamic shock absorbers. Walk like Road Runner, the cartoon character. Visualise your tray floating as your legs “scoot” underneath you.

6. Breathe through your nose

During low activity levels, regulate the amount of oxygen you take in by only breathing through your nose. As the challenge increases, you can breathe through your mouth and increase the amount of oxygen.

7. Imagine walking along a narrow corridor

When you walk, don’t allow your hips or shoulders to touch the imaginary walls of a narrow corridor.

Here, we’ve gathered the most scenic trails around Australia that will not only keep you fit and happy, but will also get you those stunning shots for your ‘gram grid.

Scenic Rim Trail, QLD

Drive an hour south of Brisbane to get to the start of the Scenic Rim Trail, a 33km playground of volcanic plateaus, towering peaks and native bushland.

Although it takes just four days to complete, the tricky ascents up Mount Mitchell and Spicers Peak will test your quads, but the views are so worth it.

Where to start: Book a guided tour with Spicers Retreats; prices start from $2,190 per person.

For something different: Try the eight-day Fraser Island Great Walk, or meander through the many trails of Carnarvon Gorge located in Carnarvon National Park.

Larapinta Trail, NT

Give the four-wheel drive tour a miss and follow the spine of the West MacDonnell Ranges a belt of ochre-stained mountains, fresh water gorges and tangerine-coloured chasms – on your own two feet. The 223km track begins at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station and ends once you summit the soaring Mount Sonder, so be sure to pack your walking poles as well as your camera.

Where to start: Do a short three-day tour or walk the entire 16-day trail with Trek Larapinta. Prices start from $1,395 per person.

For something different: If you only have a few days, drive from Darwin to Litchfield National Park and do the two-day Tabletop Track from Wangi Falls to Walker Creek.

Six Foot Walking Track, NSW

Located deep in Sydney’s Blue Mountains, this 44km route takes you through national parks, across the Bowtells Swing Bridge (below) and drops you inside spectacular Jenolan Caves, which were formed more than 340 million years ago.

Where to start: Follow your map or join a three-day guided “pack-free” walk with Life’s an Adventure; prices start from $1099 per person.

For something different: Have a picnic on Careys Peak Walking Track in Barrington Tops National Park, or explore the escarpments of the Royal National Park south of Sydney with the 26km Coast Track.

Great Ocean Walk, VIC

One of Australia’s premier walking tracks, the Great Ocean Walk leads you on a 100km tour of the rugged Victorian coastline. Beginning in Apollo Bay and passing through Cape Otway, it offers unhindered views of the Twelve Apostles at the end of the seven-day trail.

Where to start: Walk end-to-end with a guide from Inspiration Outdoors; prices start from $2,355 per person.

For something different: Get your fill of the Victorian Alps on the Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing. It may not have coastal vistas, but the dramatic ridgelines, peaks and riverside valleys are definitely sights worth walking for.

Canberra Centenary Trail, ACT

Designed for walkers of all abilities, this 145km track around Canberra rarely strays from a 10 per cent gradient, which means you can go ahead and bring the kids. Once you leave the urban paths, you’ll spend seven days wandering over grassy plains and down forest trails.

Where to start: Download your free map from

For something different: Pull your boots on early and watch the sunrise from the top of Mount Ainslie. Only 4.5km long, the trail’s tough enough to work your lungs but gentle enough that the whole family can join in.

Cape to Cape Track, WA

Walk your way from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin and enjoy a mix of limestone cliffs, eucalypt forests and soft-sand beaches with both easy paths and tough scrambles. Conquering all 135km will require some training, but since there’s ample vehicle access, you don’t have to do it all.

Where to start: Explore the southwest coastline with Australian Walking Holidays; prices start from $2,300 per person for an eight-day hike.

For something different: Flex your muscles on the steep but out-of-this-world 28km Stirling Ridge Walk, or take a gentler (but longer) wander through the Perth Hills on the 75km Kep Track.

Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail, SA

Go off the grid with a five-day trek along the southern end of Kangaroo Island. Packed with Aussie wildlife (echidnas, wallabies and, yes, kangaroos), the recently opened 61km trail leads you past secluded beaches and the Remarkable Rocks, which have been sculpted by more than 500 million years of waves and wind.

Where to start: Secure a tent with Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail, from $161 per person. Or go with Trek Tours Australia; prices start from $2,295 for a five-day hike.

For something different: Explore the wetlands of Australia’s longest river on foot, as well as via a houseboat, with the four-day Murray River Walk. Or follow the sea on one of the many trails on the 500km Walk the Yorke coastal track.

Overland Track, TAS

Then set your sights on the Overland Track. Cutting through 65km of Tassie wilderness (and providing you with front-row views of Cradle Mountain, Lake St Clair and Du Cane Gap), this is one of Australia’s most remote (and popular) alpine tracks, so make sure you train before you go!

Where to start: Keep things hassle-free on a group tour with Tasmanian Expeditions; prices start from $2,195 for a six-day hike.

For something different: If you’re not quite ready for the Overland Track but still keen to see Tassie’s dramatic landscapes, the Three Capes Walk is a great compromise thanks to its timber walkways and cosy cabins. It’s very manageable for children, too, with a guidebook introducing stories along the way.

Day breaks

Try one of these walks that will take less than a day to complete.

Kings Canyon Rim Walk, NT

Visit the Garden of Eden, Priscilla’s Crack and the sandstone marvels of the Lost City in just four hours.

Thredbo to Mount Kosciuszko, NSW

Add this 13km walk to your itinerary and reach the summit of Australia’s highest peak outside of snow season.

Wineglass Bay/Hazards Beach circuit, TAS

Work up a sweat on a five-hour trek around Wineglass Bay, then cool off with a dip in the turquoise waters.

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