Walking for the Management of Obesity


Walking during weight reduction leads to modest weight loss, abdominal fat loss, and total fat loss. The response is barely observable at a prescribed level of 150–200 min/wk. Hence, 250–300 min/wk (or 35–45 min daily) seems more suitable for weight reduction purposes. The walking can be split into shorter (10–20 min) periods. There is a dose response between the amount of completed physical activity and weight-loss maintenance. An exercise energy expenditure of 9–10 MJ/wk (2200–2400 kcal), corresponding to walking 70–80 min/day, seems to be associated with stable weight after weight reduction. A smaller amount of walking may slow down, although not prevent, weight regain.

Walking studies among people with obesity do not clearly show improvements in lipids or insulin sensitivity. Meta-analyses, including all kinds of physical activities, have shown positive changes in high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C) levels and insulin sensitivity. The amount of exercise, in the absence of weight loss, corresponding to improvements of insulin sensitivity, is around 4.2 MJ/wk (walking 150–180 min/wk). A greater amount of exercise may be needed to improve lipoprotein profiles.

The minimum recommended amount of walking for the management of obesity, which is 150–200 min/wk (25–30 min/day or 3500 steps/day added above the basal, sedentary daily activity of 5000–7000 steps/day), may improve insulin sensitivity and cardiorespiratory fitness; however, a significant effect on weight should not be expected. Increasing the duration of walking to 250–300 min/wk (35–45 min/day or 5000 added steps/day) should lead to beneficial changes in weight and HDL-C. Much more than 300 min/wk of walking may be needed to prevent weight regain after substantial weight loss.

Cross-sectional studies suggest that a combination of walking and vigorous exercise activity is optimal for weight management and the prevention of cardiovascular deaths. Moreover, individuals who are able to maintain their weight loss long-term expend almost 30% of physical activity energy in vigorous activities. Perhaps high-intensity activities are also needed to increase the total physical activity to efficacious levels for the management of obesity.

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No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this review. The author has no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review.

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Fogelholm, M. Walking for the Management of Obesity. Dis-Manage-Health-Outcomes 13, 9–18 (2005). https://doi.org/10.2165/00115677-200513010-00002

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  • Physical Activity
  • Weight Reduction
  • Cardiorespiratory Fitness
  • Total Physical Activity
  • Daily Step