The Misconception of Walking and Fat Loss

Gotta get your steps in for the day, right? Maybe you’re using your new Fitbit and are in the midst of a “step contest” amongst friends? Gotta burn that fat, lose weight and tone up for summer!


I’m confronted with this often. Today I hope to empower you with the truth behind walking and lasting fat burn.

Remember my coworker Dave’s quote from my first blog?

“You can’t work less hard and expect better results.”

Now one might hypothesize that some people don’t want to be told that they actually have to work hard. So they figure that some activity is better than none.

While this might be the case some of the time, not wanting to work hard certainly isn’t always the case. There are plenty of hardworking people who have every good intention of getting in better shape, but are simply misinformed.

So why then do so many fitness and health experts recommend walking for weight loss?


It’s true that the body utilizes fat as its primary fuel source while walking. However, it’s important to note that the human body can store unlimited amounts of fat (yikes!)

By this logic, we’re tapping into our fat stores even while we sleep! Side note: I don’t know about you, but I don’t know of anyone who’s ever woken up from a solid nap and found that they’ve magically taken shape and their body composition has drastically improved (as nice as that would be!)

The problem is that walking is too low in intensity. In the end, you actually burn very little fat. You’d have to exercise at that slow, steady pace for hours each day in order to make any progress.

And let’s be real, ain’t nobody got time for that.



For most people, even severely deconditioned folks, walking is not nearly intense enough to consider it adequate enough for standalone value. It does not place external strain on your muscles and bones, nor does it place enough stress on your cardiovascular and respiratory system to create an afterburn that will sustain long after you’re done walking, if at all.

Consider a quote from one of my favorite strength and conditioning blogs to follow, This is from their article “The Right Way to Lose Fat: How To Exercise:”

Will you be out of the “fat burning zone” by working harder? Yes, but you’ll be depleting your glycogen stores with the higher-effort training. You could even add a lower carbohydrate diet. The glycogen depletion forces your body to tap stored adipose fat and use it as energy, both in workouts and post-workout during recovery.

As I’ve talked about in previous blog posts, a true change in body fat happens through proper diet modification – in combination with an intense, consistent and progressive resistance and interval training program. This is how you will achieve a strong afterburn and continue to burn calories at a high rate even when the workout is over.

I will continue banging on the drum of resistance training. No other form of exercise can boast such impressive benefits:

  • Strengthens muscles, tendons and ligaments
  • Builds bone density
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Creates a long-lasting afterburn
  • Improves flexibility
  • Improves cognition and motor control
  • Positively affects the cardiovascular and respiratory systems
  • Relieves stress
  • Has the closest mirroring effect to the activities you already do in every day life, (AKA functionality)
  • Improves balance and coordination



Take home point is this – this post was in no way meant to discourage anyone from walking. I do, however, believe it’s important to ask yourself why you walk.

Do you walk to relieve stress? Because the dog needs it? Or perhaps you just genuinely enjoy doing it?

If you answered yes to any of those above questions, great! Keep struttin’ your stuff. Do not let me dissuade you from walking.

However, if you’re someone under the belief that walking enough will help burn that stubborn belly or thigh fat and help you tone up, I hope this shed some light for you.

I will conclude by quoting none other than Spectrum Fitness Consulting’s eNewsletter. This is an old excerpt discussing exactly this topic. Spectrum eNewsletters are a great resource of fitness and nutrition information that you can get sent to your inbox by clicking here:


People are under the impression that the more they walk, the more fat they will burn and the healthier they will be. This is far from the truth. Now, walking is certainly not a bad thing, but when it comes to overall fitness, you really aren’t getting much out of it. The intensity is very low making it a poor cardiovascular, strength, and fat burning activity. This is why, although it’s a great activity to get outside for some fresh air, it’s not a good way to get you in shape… Resistance training is really the best type of exercise that burns fat, builds muscle, bone density, and makes you stronger. No other form of exercise can deliver such impressive benefits.


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