How to Reduce Your Appetite with Walking

By Erin Palinski-Wade

In addition to the metabolism‐boosting benefits of walking and the increased calorie expenditure walking offers, walking may help you to shed pounds in other ways. One way is by impacting your appetite.

Vigorous exercise, such as running, may suppress appetite for about an hour after completion. However, this benefit is short‐lived, as appetite may then increase after this period of time. If you work hard to burn a large amount of calories during exercise only to feel ravenous and eat them all back — plus more — later on, you may feel like you’re spinning your wheels when it comes to weight loss. That’s where walking can help.

A study out of Brigham Young University found that exercise, specifically walking, may have an appetite‐reducing effect on the body. These researchers found that subjects produced a lower brain response to food images on days when they performed a 45‐minute, brisk walk in the morning as opposed to days when they didn’t walk.

Other research has shown that aerobic exercise, such as walking, may impact the release of ghrelin and peptide YY, two hormones that are key to your body’s appetite regulation. It appears that aerobic exercise, such as walking, has a larger impact on suppressing appetite than nonaerobic exercise, such as weight lifting.

What does this research mean for you? Taking brisk walks throughout the day may help to take your mind off of food. In addition, walking may help your body to better process appetite hormones, allowing you to feel less hungry throughout the day and to feel fuller sooner when eating. All of these benefits can result in consuming fewer calories, which can help to speed weight‐loss results.

Walking away the cravings

Walking can impact more than just your appetite. Food cravings, such as that late‐night ice cream craving or that midday desire for a salty snack, can be weight‐loss sabotages. If you often experience food cravings, you know just how difficult they can be to overcome, especially if you are tired or stressed. If you’ve tried everything to overcome food cravings and haven’t been successful, you may want to give walking a try!

A new study published in Appetite found that just a short bout of walking (only 15 minutes) was found to significantly reduce cravings for chocolate. Previous studies also found that moderate walking on a treadmill, at a pace considered brisk but not tiring, also helped individuals to overcome cravings for chocolate and pass by the stuff when tempted.

One of the reasons walking may help to curb these cravings is its ability to increase dopamine in the body. This hormone provides you with an increased sense of pleasure and satisfaction (the same way you may feel after indulging in a chocolate bar). Because walking alone helps to improve your pleasure signals, you may not feel the desire to use food to boost this hormone as well.

It may not be all about hormone production when it comes to fighting cravings either. If you don’t get enough sleep and walk around chronically tired, you have a higher likelihood of experiencing food cravings throughout the day.

Studies have shown that individuals who get poor sleep tend to consume more calories and often crave higher‐calorie, lower nutrient‐dense food such as candy and sweets. Because walking has been shown to improve both quality and quantity of sleep, a more‐rested you may have fewer food cravings to battle.

Managing post‐workout hunger

Many times, especially if you are new to exercise, you may experience an increase in appetite. If you aren’t careful, this effect can sabotage your weight‐loss efforts. As research has shown, walking may have less of an impact on post‐workout‐induced hunger than other forms of exercise, but it can still happen. How much your appetite increases after exercise can be based on many factors, including the following:

  • The timing and balance of your meals and snacks

  • Your hydration levels

  • The intensity of your workout

  • The duration of your workout

Typically, a workout that is higher in intensity and duration results in a larger boost in appetite after completion.

If you find that your appetite is constantly higher after walking, you can try a few strategies to improve your situation:

  • Slightly decrease the intensity of your walk by walking a bit slower or at less of an incline. You can increase the length of the walk at a lower intensity, which may help to better control appetite.

  • Make sure you stay well hydrated. You should drink an extra 8 to 10 ounces of water for every 30 minutes of walking.

  • Space out your workout during the day. For instance, instead of walking for one hour, walk for 20 minutes three times during the day.

  • Plan to have a snack or meal within 30 minutes of completing your workout.