It’s no secret that walking is a great way to improve your health or lose weight, but can walking actually help you lose that stubborn belly fat? Weight loss is a common walking goal, but by “weight loss” many people specifically mean burning fat around their stomach for a more flattering figure. It turns out losing belly fat isn’t just for looks – excess abdominal fat can be dangerous to your health. So, can your walking help you lose belly fat and reduce the size of your stomach? The answer is yes, but not exactly in the way you’d expect.
Walking actually can help you lose weight and burn fat, including belly fat. In fact, it’s right up there with running on the list of cardiovascular exercises that can help you blast those extra pounds around your midsection. However, a few weeks of walking (or any other exercise) isn’t going to give you those six-pack abs you may have been hoping for. It takes a combination of exercise and a healthier diet to make big changes to your body composition, but walking already has you on the right track.
Is Walking Good for General Weight Loss?
Walking is a great way to lose weight. In fact, many doctors recommend walking for weight loss to patients who need to shed pounds. Walking is an efficient way to burn calories, strengthen your legs, and get your heart pumping. Besides being an effective cardio workout, walking is an activity that’s easy to stick with because:
- Walking can work at practically every fitness level.
- It requires no expensive equipment
- You can do it anywhere.
- Walking is enjoyable enough that most people look forward to their daily workout.
Walking burns calories, and creating a calorie deficit is how you lose weight. It’s easier to lose weight if you combine walking with healthier eating as well. If you increase your walking and hold everything else the same, you can still see great results – it may just take a bit longer. You need to burn around 3,500 calories to lose one pound, but if you stick with your walking routine you’ll get there.
Staying with a workout for the long-term is key in losing belly fat and keeping it off. All too often, people who begin with drastic workouts to lose weight quickly, burn out and quit without seeing the real results. That’s why a walking plan is such a good choice. You can start walking at any fitness level, and it’s flexible enough to stay interesting and keep you at it for the long term.
Can You Wipe Out Belly Fat with Targeted Exercises?
Let’s just say it – most research shows that it’s not possible to burn fat in a specific area of your body by exercising that body part. That means that while doing an incredible amount of planks, situps, and other exercises can give you a strong core, they can’t specifically target that belly fat directly.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still work your core. Your abs and core muscles help you keep a strong posture, and you use them in virtually every movement and exercise you do. Working your core may also tighten your stomach muscles a bit, but ab exercises alone will not get rid of extra belly fat or give you instant abs.
What research shows is that as you burn fat – whether it’s cardio, lifting weights, or eating less, the fat will come off throughout your body. Some people may find that their belly fat is the first to go, while others may find it takes a bit more time. That’s ok!
Walking burns about 200-300 calories per hour, but you can increase that calorie burn through incline walking, walking stairs, or increasing your walking speed. You need to burn about 3,500 calories to burn one pound of fat, so you can see that could be 14 hours keeping everything equal. Remember, a large blended coffee drink at Starbucks could be up to 600 calories (2-3 hours of walking) and even a small McDonalds cheeseburger is around 300 calories (1-1.5 hours of walking), so making sensible eating choices is critical.
Getting into the fat-burning zone requires you to increase your heart rate to 65% to 70% intensity and extend your walking workout to at least 45 minutes.
Belly Fat Poses Health Risks
You may know that being at a healthy weight is good for your overall health, but did you know that belly fat, in particular, has been tied to a variety of health risks? It’s actually possible to be at a healthy weight overall, but still have relatively high levels of fat around your stomach. Visceral fat (deep belly fat that is located around the abdominal organs) has been linked to heart disease, dementia, and cancer. You may think this effect is limited to men, but it affects women as well. Studies have shown that people of normal weight with a “spare tire” around their waist had higher risks of serious heart issues and women may be at an even greater risk.
Despite the old adage of a “beer belly,” you don’t necessarily have to drink a lot of alcohol to gain fat around your midsection. There is some evidence that alcohol may contribute specifically to belly fat, but beer is also high in calories. Some people are more predisposed than others to gain weight around their midsections. Other factors include height, age, and gender. As we get older, muscle mass decreases which leads to a slower metabolism. Post-menopausal women have an easier time gaining weight due to decreased estrogen levels.
By moving more and taking in fewer calories, you can burn fat and lose weight overall. That will eliminate belly fat eventually, as well as from other areas of your body.
How Can I Get a Six-Pack?
For most people, getting healthier is the overall goal. If you’re looking for really defined abs, you may be surprised to know that ab definition is due more to low body fat than to serious exercise. No matter how strong your abs are, most people have a layer of fat that obscures the muscle. That’s totally normal for most people. Women, in general, naturally have more body fat than men, which makes getting defined abs more difficult.
It’s important to be realistic and set reasonable goals for your health and fitness. The movie stars or athletes that you may see with incredibly defined abs usually have a team of nutritionists, exercise coaches, and trainers and can dedicate much of their day to training and eating extremely healthy. Even then, many actors go through unsustainable diets for a specific role that even they can’t maintain for long. It is possible to have defined abs as a regular person, but it does take a lot of work. Instead of having a goal to look like your favorite movie star, a more realistic goal for most people is reaching a healthy weight.
How to Safely Lose Weight (and Belly Fat)
If you’re already walking, you’re off to a great start. Maintain a consistent walking routine, and gradually up the intensity over time. This prevents you from burning out or injuring yourself from trying to increase the intensity too quickly. Here are some other great things to try:
Make small changes to your diet
Instead of going on a drastic diet, make small changes to target your overall health. Cut sugar and salt, and introduce more fruits and veggies.
Don’t drink your calories
High-calorie soda, juices, energy drinks, and coffee drinks are some of the easiest ways to mess up your healthy eating plan. They don’t fill you up, and you may not even realize how many calories you’re consuming. Cutting out soda will make a big impact because, in addition to being high-calorie, it’s linked to a whole host of health problems.
Add high-intensity bursts to your routine
Fast walking intervals during your regular walk will help you blast more calories. Alternate these with regular or slower walking periods to catch your breath.
Up the intensity
Try incline walking, walking stairs or other higher intensity walking types to burn more calories in your walking routine.
Walk for longer periods of time
Alternate your daily walks with longer fat-burning walks to amp up your results.
Calculate your calorie numbers
There are a variety of calorie calculators online that can help you understand just how many calories you need to be eating every day. Everyone is different, so no calculator will give you your exact number. Still, this can give you a sense of what number to shoot for.
Try strength training.
Increased muscle mass helps increase your metabolism and tightens your muscles to help you look trim. Getting more functional strength is always good. You can try Pacer’s bodyweight workouts, or ask a trainer. It’s very important to use proper form when strength training so if you’re new it’s best to ask a professional. If you can’t find one, look for resources online and pay strict attention to form, using the lowest weights possible until you know how to do each movement.
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