Walking is a great form of exercise - it doesn't require a gym membership or special training. The number of calories burned on a walk depends on a variety of factors including, but not limited to, your body composition and the level of exertion you experience on the walk.
Wide Range of Exertion Levels
On its own, the activity of walking is considered light to moderate exercise and isn't really a calorie-busting exercise. It's fairly easy on the joints though, making it an excellent option for cardiovascular exercise for people who can't tolerate higher impact exercises like jogging or running.
The speed at which you walk has an impact on how many calories you burn walking; the faster you walk, the more calories you will burn. For example:
- An 165-pound person walking at a slow pace (around 2.5 miles per hour) will burn around 115 calories in a half hour.
- That same person walking for thirty minutes at a much faster pace (around 4 miles per hour) burns closer to 200 calories.
The terrain has a significant impact on the calories burned walking. It requires more physical effort (and thus, calories) to navigate uneven terrain or terrain that slow you down (such as mud or sand). This makes a clear difference when comparing calories burned:
- A person weighing 165 pounds walking 4 miles an hour on a gravel road with a small slope will burn around 355 calories in a half hour.
- The same person walking the same speed in a swampy terrain (though that would be quite difficult) can burn up to around 900 calories in the same amount of time.
Weighted Gear Considerations
Adding a weighted vest or backpack while walking will also increase the number of calories burned. Using the same examples as above, the 165 pound individual walking for a half hour on sloped gravel carrying an additional 8 pounds will burn around 370 calories - an additional 20 or so calories for the walk thanks to the added weight.
The number of calories you burn in any activity depends not only on the intensity, but also your body composition. In general, larger people burn more calories in movement than smaller people and people with a great deal of muscle burn the most since muscle utilizes more energy than fat. In comparison:
- A 165 pound person burns 115 calories on a slow half-hour walk (or 230 in an hour).
- A person weighing 210 pounds burns around 150 calories on the same walk (or 300 in an hour).
It's impossible to put a definitive number to the number of calories burned walking for a mile (or any other distance) because of the numerous variables involved. The distance traveled while walking doesn't necessarily dictate the number of calories burned for a few reasons:
- People walk at different speeds.
- The terrain may cause increased exertion - a mile walk on a flat trail is different from a mile walk on uneven terrain.
- Body composition and any additional gear can affect calories burned regardless of the distance.
Estimate Your Calories
Use an exercise calorie counter calculator (WebMD offers a good, free one) or use the MET formula to calculate number of calories burned walking. Wearing an activity tracker can also help you discover your calorie burn on walks. Regardless of calories burned, walking is an excellent way to stay active without aggravating your joints excessively.