Walking doesn't always conjure up images of strenuous, sweat-inducing physical activity, so you might be surprised to know how effective a fat-buster it can be. When done regularly for the appropriate length of time, walking can effectively burn calories and help you lose weight in all areas of the body, including the abdominal region.
Harvard Health Publishing recommends doing 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day to combat abdominal fat.
You Can’t “Target” Belly Fat
As appealing as targeting that one "trouble area" in your body may sound, it's simply not effective. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), losing weight in specific areas of the body requires a comprehensive exercise regimen.
Spot reduction — the idea that training certain parts of the body will lead to fat loss in those areas — is a widely held misconception. That goes for belly fat, too. A magazine may offer advice on zapping those "muffin tops" or melting away those "spare tires," but the truth is that those areas can't be slimmed in isolation.
Calories Burned From Walking
For context, in order to lose a pound a week, you must create a calorie deficit of about 500 calories per day or 3,500 calories per week.
How Much and How Often
The simple answer to whether walking can help you lose belly fat is, yes, though it depends, at least in part, on how often you do it and for how long. Harvard Health Publishing asserts that you can combat abdominal fat with about 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day.
One 2014 study from the Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry found that walking can "provide a safe and effective lifestyle strategy" against abdominal obesity. The study, which monitored participants over a 12-week period, found that the women who walked 50 to 70 minutes a week three times a week, lost more weight than the sedentary control group.
Walking Plus Diet
The best way to lose belly fat is not through diet alone. Rather, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, diet should be paired with walking regularly if it's to be effective.
In a 14-week study of 33 women, the participants who only went on a low-calorie diet did not lose belly fat, but those who walked for 50 minutes, three times a week and went on a diet, lost weight.
The study also found that those participants who only went on a low-calorie diet did not shed weight, while those who only walked did. In this case, exercise, specifically walking, was a key component of losing belly fat.
Monitor Your Activity
Between work, friends, family and more, it's not always easy to keep track of your exercise regimen and its effectiveness. That's why it's important to pay particular attention to your progress. You can monitor your diet, activity and weight through a couple of methods.
Keeping a food and activity journal, for example, can help you keep track of your development. For example, you may notice that in periods of heavy work activity, you're gaining more weight. Perhaps this is because you're eating unhealthy food or not exercising enough.
You can also keep track of your weight, should you need to adjust your exercise or diet regimen accordingly. If you'd like to keep track of how many steps you're walking per mile, you can use a steps-per-mile calculator.
- ACE: "Myths and Misconceptions: Spot Reduction and Feeling the Burn"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It"
- Journal of Exercise, Nutrition and Biochemistry: "Effect of Walking Exercise on Abdominal Fat, Insulin Resistance and Serum Cytokines in Obese Women"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "The Skinny on Visceral Fat"
- CDC: "Keeping it Off"
- Mayo Clinic: Counting Calories: "Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"