Walking — it's simple, low-impact and doable just about anywhere, making it an ideal exercise. Like other physical activity, when done regularly, walking helps manage your weight, strengthen your bones, keep your cholesterol and blood pressure levels healthy, decrease your risk of heart disease and boost your mood. What it can't do, however, is directly tone your stomach like ab-specific exercises, such as crunches and planks.
But walking can help you lose extra fat, which reveals toned abs. When you walk with good posture, you also appear taller and leaner. A regular walking program helps build endurance in the ab muscles so you feel more stable through your torso and can last longer when hiking, walking or standing on your feet.
Walking to Lose Belly Fat
Get a toned stomach as a byproduct of walking to lose weight. You can't reveal any ab tone when a layer of fat covers them, and cardio activity — including walking — helps burn calories so you lose weight and excess fat. Rush University Medical Center points out that one of the best ways to lose belly fat is to adopt a physically active lifestyle and sit less.
A study published in the Journal of Exercise, Nutrition and Biochemistry in 2014 showed that obese women who committed to walking just 50 to 70 minutes three times per week for 12 weeks lost more abdominal fat than women who maintained a sedentary lifestyle.
Walking's Activation of the Ab Muscles
Walking doesn't really engage the muscles of the abdomen — especially those that form the toned-looking six pack. As pointed out by Len Kravitz, PhD, a sports researcher at the University of New Mexico, the muscles of the abdomen are barely engaged during regular walking. Only the internal obliques stay tense when you walk as they work to stabilize the pelvis.
If you suffer from low back pain, you actually use your ab muscles more as you walk, most likely to help take some tension off the back muscles. A study published in the Journal of Injury, Function and Rehabilitation in 2015 showed that the rectus abdominis, or front ab muscles, and external obliques, at the sides of your stomach, were more activated when walking in patients with low-back pain than in healthy subjects. But, even this activation isn't enough to create notable tone or definition.
Good Walking Form
Walking in a slouched position with relaxed abdominals won't do a lot for your health, appearance or abs. When you walk by a mirror or reflective window, notice if you tend to hunch from the shoulders, round from the upper back or hinge from the hips.
Adopt a tall, healthy walking form to build stamina in your torso, including your stomach, and appear slimmer and more fit:
- Walk with the very top of your head pointed to the sky and your spine extended.
- Consciously draw your shoulder blades together to keep your torso lifted.
- Move briskly for fitness walks; strolling casually burns fewer calories.
- Wear appropriate footwear when you plan to walk for exercise; avoid flip flops or heels, which offer little support for your feet.