You might often hear of those incredible weight loss stories, in which someone proudly reports that they’ve 50, 70, or even 100 pounds just by walking. And you might think to yourself, Surely not! There’s no way you could lose that much weight simply by walking! That’s too easy!

We understand why you might find it hard to believe. After all, walking is something most of us have been doing since we were about one year old. Plus, it’s free, you can do it almost anywhere, and it requires no special equipment other than a pair of sturdy shoes. Isn’t weight loss supposed to be about gym fees, grueling workouts, and tons of equipment?

No, not really. The truth is that weight loss, for all the fancy and complicated methods out there on the market, still boils down to a simple equation: You have to burn more calories than you consume through your diet. And walking happens to be an excellent way to burn calories.

So yes, you can lose weight through walking, but consider these factors as you get started.

You still have to burn more calories than you consume. So walking for ten minutes per day probably isn’t going to do much good (although it’s still a start, if even ten minutes of exercise is beyond your current regular level of activity).

On the other hand, if you use your new walking habit as an excuse to eat more, then you still might be consuming more calories than you burn. So watch your diet, and don’t fall for the old “I walked a mile today, so now I can eat four cookies” line of thinking.

Your time is limited. Walking does burn fewer calories than more difficult activities, such as running or swimming. So if your exercise is limited to only a short period each day, you’ll probably achieve better results by adding more intense activity to your schedule.

You can break it up. You don’t have to go for an hour-long walk every evening, although that would certainly be effective. You can walk to work, take a stroll on your lunch break, walk home, and so forth. It’s okay to simply fit more walking into your day.

You can challenge yourself. If you’re short on time, or if you reach a frustrating weight loss plateau, you can burn more calories by adding difficulty to your walks. Choose a route with a lot of steep hills, push a small child in a stroller, or wear a weighted backpack (or a child in a hiking pack). More effort translates into more calories burned.

As long as you put forth regular effort, and continue to challenge yourself by adding time or difficulty to your walking routine, this can be a terrific method of weight loss. Just grab a pair of sturdy shoes, get your physician’s all-clear signal, and hit the pavement!