Walking 3 Miles a Day and Eating 1200 Calories: The Surprising Results

two women for for a walk

Written by Megan Ayala. Last Updated: October 28, 2021

Walking is an exercise that has definitely picked up in popularity again not only in fitness circles, but seemingly in weight loss circles, as well. Walking is low impact, can help drop stress levels, and is a good way to ease back into a more active lifestyle.

It’s also far less stressful on the body when cutting calories and mixing in more intensive exercises like biking, running, or swimming.

Walking also isn’t a calorie barn burner when it comes to burning calories, with the average range of calories burned per mile of walking being as low as 53 and only 160 calories even in obese individuals at 300 lbs or slightly more.

But combining a little bit of exercise with a calorie deficit has long been agreed upon as the best way to safely lose weight over time.

1200 Calories + Walking 3 Miles/Day Weight Loss Results

The problem with accurately predicting weight loss results is that there are a few factors that are going to affect how much weight an individual can expect to drop.

The four major ones are:

  • Age
  • Fitness Level
  • Sex (gender)
  • Current weight

A massively overweight 25 year old male with no exercise background could see huge results from the 1200 cal + 3 mile per day regimen while a relatively fit 40 year old female who was moderately active would see less results from the same setup.

That said, 1200 calories is low enough that most individuals need more than that to maintain. Add in even mild to moderate exertion like walking three miles a day, that could help to jumpstart the metabolism a bit and add to the daily caloric deficit.

Figuring out the average calories burned by weight is going to be a challenge, especially since the average male and female bodies burn calories at different rates, even when they are the same age, weight, etc.

However, a very general rule of thumb of how many calories are burned for walking a mile for some common weights:

  • 100 lbs – 53 calories
  • 120 lbs – 64 calories
  • 160 lbs – 85 calories
  • 170 lbs – 90 calories (The average weight for an American woman is 170.6 lbs [1]
  • 180 lbs – 96 calories
  • 200 lbs – 106 calories (The average weight for an American male is just short of 198 lbs [2]
  • 220 lbs – 117 calories
  • 250 lbs – 133 calories
  • 275 lbs – 146 calories
  • 300 lbs – 160 calories

Individuals can find decent online calculators to put in other factors like gender, age, and overall activity level to get at least a slightly more accurate idea of what the calorie burn might be that actually applies to them.

RELATED READING: Weight Loss Diets for October 2021

As a short-term kickstart to a weight loss plan, the combination of a 1200 calorie limit added to 3 miles/5 kilometers of walking does appear to have some merit. Especially with individuals who aren’t extremely fit or active in their current states.

What 1200 Calories a Day Does

This almost certainly creates a calorie deficit. As long as the body takes in less calories than it burns, then weight loss will occur over a long enough timeline. The limitation to 1200 calories achieves that with the far majority of adult males and females, which helps to start the weight loss.

The other thing that such a limit does is it forces individuals to plan their meals. With only 1200 calories, you can’t waste 400 calories on a candy bar or 1,000 calories and sugar-rich juice. To get three meals to fit into a 1200 calorie meal plan means that in all likelihood the person eating is forced to eat healthier than average.

That, as much or more than the strict number of 1200, will likely have a major impact on most individuals looking to lose weight.

Especially if their previous diet was short on important nutrients.

What Walking 3 Miles a Day Does

Walking directly burns some calories from the exercise itself. This is important because it helps to add to the daily caloric deficit which will encourage weight loss.

That’s the direct benefit, with the numbers in the section above a general guideline for how much they help. However, walking also has many indirect benefits that also increase the benefits of the weight loss.

These benefits include:

  • Reduces stress (Cortisol, the stress hormone, is tied to obesity)
  • Loss of excess water weight (can also make a person look and feel better, staying with their weight loss program)
  • Fat loss (walking tends to put the calorie burn in the famous “fat burning” zone)
  • Better blood pressure (can lead to extra energy and more activity in the rest of the day) [3]

The combination of reducing stress and improving blood pressure can both have notable positive effects on general health and weight loss even in and of themselves.

Is the Sum Greater Than the Parts?

Since we’re talking specifically about weight loss and not narrowing it down to just fat, it makes sense that the combination of these two things together actually does more than what their parts would suggest.

Experiential evidence can be seen of this from multiple YouTube channels in the self-help, life improvement, or even fitness channels where individuals practiced concerted walking over a time period.

In fact many of these videos show the difference in one week.

Examples:

The math can seem easy. If 1200 calories in a day means a 700 calorie a day deficit and walking 3 km a day means burning 300 calories a day, that’s 1000 calories. Times 7 for a week and you have 7000 calories.

Since a pound of fat is 3500 calories that means 2 lbs gone per week, right? Nice easy math.

Except real life experience whether careful documentation by fitness channels on YouTube, first-hand accounts on blogs, and limited studies actually seem to indicate that more weight is often lost than expected. Sometimes from individuals in relatively good shape.

Is Doing Both Sustainable Long-Term?

In some cases this could be sustainable, especially for low weight individuals who naturally seem to need less calories in order to function well. Most people are going to need more calories outside of a diet phase. Especially considering as they get in better shape their body will adjust to the walking meaning more walking or exercise will be needed.

RELATED READING: What Happens When You Walk Consistently for 2 Months?

And to stay safe, that also means more calories to keep healthy. Which means less of a deficit. At some points adjustments need to be made – but if a dieter has stayed true to this point then the habits that have resulted should serve them well to continue.

Bottom Line: Is This Healthy?

Long-term for most people the answer is gray area no. Here are the issues: 1200 calories per day is the average minimum a person can have long-term and stay healthy as long as they are not doing strenuous exercise or are overly active [4].

While 3 miles isn’t an enormous amount for all but the most out of shape, it does qualify as moderately active for many people.

Short-term this is healthy for most individuals, and for people who are morbidly obese getting started with weight loss and better health habits is almost certainly better than doing nothing.

This is not a permanent diet plan or solution. A person should increase their steps over time and more calories will be needed. However, as a weight loss plan that helps transition to a more permanent healthy lifestyle, this is a solid plan with minimal risks and a high chance of success that could jumpstart results.

Resources

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/average-weight-for-women
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/mens-health/average-weight-for-men
  3. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/walking-for-good-health
  4. https://www.everydayhealth.com/weight/can-more-calories-equal-more-weight-loss.aspx