Any form of exercise can help you burn calories and shed fat, including walking. Walking at a moderate pace for about 30 to 60 minutes per day can help you start to lose belly fat, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
When you picture walking, you probably don't imagine the most sweat-drenched activity. So, you might be surprised to learn how effective of a fat-buster it can be.
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But as appealing as targeting one particular zone on your body may sound, walking won't spot reduce fat. And for that matter, no exercise or diet can spot-reduce fat, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
But, if spot reduction is a myth, does walking burn belly fat? Yes! When you keep a consistent exercise schedule (paired with a healthy diet), walking can burn calories and help you lose weight in all areas of the body, including your abdominal region.
5 Tips for Walking to Lose Belly Fat
To shed fat, you need to burn more calories than you consume, also known as creating a calorie deficit. Using an app or food diary, you can keep track of how many calories you generally take in each day. Then, tailor your exercise and diet to help you burn a little more than you eat (more on that below).
1. Know How Many Calories You Burn Walking
When you're walking for fat loss, the amount you burn depends on your intensity and weight. Walking at about 4 miles per hour (that's a 15-minute mile pace), the average American can expect to burn somewhere between 175 and 189 calories in a half hour, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
You can safely cut about 500 calories per day to start burning fat (for reference, there are 3,500 calories in one pound) — that's about a pound per day of loss, according to the Mayo Clinic. In reality, the math isn't quite as clear cut, but this gives you a good estimate.
2. Prioritize Consistency
While you can lose belly fat walking, it requires some time and effort. You can start burning abdominal fat with about 20 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity per day, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
After tracking walking habits across a 12-week period, researchers of a September 2014 study from the Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry found that women who walked three times per week (for 50 to 70 minutes at a time) effectively lost weight.
3. Slowly Increase Your Intensity
As you walk to lose weight in your stomach are, you can switch up your distance, speed or incline and decline to boost your total calorie burn.
"Keeping a timer or using a walking app is a great tool if you're wanting a higher calorie burn while you walk," says New York-based certified personal trainer Carolina Araujo, CPT. It can help you stick to a certain pace or even heart rate range.
Especially if you're new to walking, increase your distance slowly. Start by walking 5 or 10 minutes each day, then add a handful of minutes week after week. That way, you give your body's connective tissues plenty of time to adapt to the new challenge, decreasing your risk of injury.
If your schedule doesn't allow for longer walks, doing walking intervals is another way to raise your total fat burn. Alternating between short, fast walking intervals and longer recovery rounds is one option you can try.
Ramping up your elevation gain and loss with some hills will also spike your heart rate and ultimately your total calorie burn, Araujo says. Try walking outdoor hills or doing an incline treadmill walking workout.
4. Vary Your Workouts
Araujo recommends varying your walks as much as possible, switching up between longer distances and shorter interval sessions. This will keep your exercise routine interesting and train both your aerobic and anaerobic metabolism for weight loss.
If your schedule allows, try adding some strength training sessions to your week, too, she says.
"Building muscle through strength training can help increase your basal metabolic rate, which is how many calories you burn doing day-to-day activities," Araujo says. "For beginners, even just two or three days of total-body strength training exercises is a good place to start."
But when you're short on time during your week, you can combine walking and strength training sessions into one workout.
5. Don't Forget About Healthy Eating
Pairing your regular walking routine with a nutritious diet will help support the fat-burning process, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Start with filling plate with plenty of fruits, vegetables and other plants. Whether you're eating leafy salads or whole roasted veggies, these foods are full of nutrients like fiber that will make your meals more satiating and promote weight loss.
Protein is another nutrient you won't want to skip. It's crucial for building lean muscle, which helps lower abdominal fat levels. Prioritize lean protein sources like chicken, fish, low-fat dairy and soy.
- ACE: "Myths and Misconceptions: Spot Reduction and Feeling the Burn"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It"
- Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry: " Effect of Walking Exercise on Abdominal Fat, Insulin Resistance and Serum Cytokines in Obese Women"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "The Skinny on Visceral Fat"