Walking is one of the fastest and most successful ways to lose weight, and keep it off.

How to Walk to Lose Weight

There’s no simpler, easier way to burn more calories than to walk more. And walking is also the simplest way to get your doctor-recommended 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week. But some people get frustrated with walking, feeling it doesn’t peel off the pounds off quickly enough. If this is you, take heart. Here’s how to turn walking into a serious weight-loss workout.

1. Evaluate Your Intensity Rate

The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion is widely used by experts to measure the intensity of physical activity. It’s actually pretty simple. As you’re walking, evaluate how strenuous the activity feels to you. How hard are you pushing yourself beyond your comfort level? What do your muscles feel like, are they fatigued? How about your breathing and heart rate, are they above normal? Then compare your perceptions to the Borg scale of 6 to 20:

  • 6 = no signs of exertion at all
  • 7-9 = extremely light (walking at your own natural pace)
  • 10-12 = light
  • 13-14 = somewhat hard (you’re stretched, but still okay)
  • 15-16 = hard
  • 17-18 = very hard (you’re really pushing your limits)
  • 19-20 = maximum exertion (you’ve never worked out so hard in your life)

2. Build Your Intensity Over Time

As you get in the habit of tracking your exertion rate, start to increase it slightly each time you walk. Try adding hills, upping your pace, and increasing distance covered in the same amount of time. Then see how you feel. That hill that made you feel out of breath last week; can you climb it faster today? That 8-block route that tired you last month; do you notice you’re walking 10 blocks now without additional fatigue?

3. Focus on Strength and Fitness

Whether or not you toss the scale is a matter for debate. But experts agree that people are much more successful at losing weight when they focus on feeling better, not looking better. As you develop a walking program that works for you, keep your focus on how much fitter you feel as you build strength and stamina.

4. Use a Pedometer

Every step you take helps you lose weight. And studies show that when you track your steps with a pedometer, you’re naturally motivated to walk more throughout the day.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.