Exercise doesn't have to be vigorous to deliver big health benefits. Walking is a low- to moderate-intensity activity that's mild on the joints and easily accessible — and it's a great way to burn calories and lose weight. However, it won't work miracles. Combined with a healthy diet, it can definitely help you trim fat around your waist, but it can't change your natural body shape.
Walking can help you flatten your stomach, but it can't give you a tiny waist unless you have a small bone structure.
Walking Does Wonders
There are almost too many benefits of walking to name them all. Especially in today's society where people often go from desk to car to couch, getting out for a walk can do a lot for your health.
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As a weight-bearing exercise, walking can help you strengthen your muscles and bones. When you walk briskly, you can burn a fair amount of calories — the faster you walk, or the more challenging the terrain, the more you'll burn. And walking provides the same disease-prevention benefits of any exercise, helping to lower your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
There are also mental health benefits that you can gain from walking. A study published in 2015 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that among 1,904 women with depression, those who walked frequently reported higher levels of health-related quality of life than those who walked little or not at all.
Read more: 10 Surprising Flat-Belly Foods
Walking and Weight Loss
The quest to lose fat and get a flat tummy and small waist is often a quest to find a type of exercise that's both effective and enjoyable.
That's no easy feat. It's true that vigorous activities tend to be more effective for weight loss than low to moderate-intensity activities like brisk walking — simply because they burn more calories in a shorter amount of time. But many people can't or don't want to do those types of exercises. And that's OK.
As long as you're walking for exercise — and not just strolling around — you can get your heart rate up, burn calories and lose fat. It may take you a little longer to see results, and you may have to be more careful with your diet, but you can get there.
Creating a Calorie Deficit
To burn fat, you have to burn calories. Some fat is essential for good health. All the other fat in your body is stored energy — most often from eating more calories than your body burns each day.
To lose fat, you have to flip the equation, burning more calories than you consume. While your diet plays, perhaps, the most important role, regular exercise helps you torch calories to increase the calorie deficit. That's where walking comes in.
Calories Burned Walking
There are many factors involved in calorie burning. Gender, age, weight, pace, terrain and climate, among other things, affect how many calories you burn during a particular activity. However, you can get a pretty good idea from these estimates from Harvard Health Publishing. In 30 minutes, depending on your weight, you can burn:
- 120 to 178 calories walking at a pace of 3.5 miles per hour.
- 135 to 200 calories walking at a pace of 4 miles per hour.
- 150 to 222 calories walking at a pace of 4.5 miles per hour.
- 195 to 289 calories race walking.
If you walk for an hour a day at a moderate pace, you could burn around 400 calories, which is enough to create a significant deficit as long as you're keeping your diet in check.
How Much Should You Walk?
To achieve a flat tummy and small waist, you're going to have to walk regularly and frequently. Because walking is less intense than other types of aerobic exercises, you'll have to do more of it to get similar benefits.
That's why the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends all adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, each week or a minimum of 75 minutes of vigorous activity, such as running. But don't stop there. By striving for 300 minutes — or more — of brisk walking each week, you'll reap even more benefits for your waistline and your overall health.
Your Goals and Body Shape
Once you've been walking for a while — and watching your diet — you'll likely start to notice some changes in how you look and feel. Perhaps the waistbands on your pants will be a little looser or your belly will look a little less like a mountain and a little more like a hill in profile. That's great progress — and good motivation to keep going.
But it's time to get real. Unless you have a small frame and small bones, you're not going to be able to achieve a "tiny" waist. But tiny is relative, and you're on track to achieve a smaller waist than you had before.
In addition, it often takes more than just walking to make big changes to your body shape. For example, building lean muscle mass through strength training has marked effects on your metabolism and can help you burn more calories for a flatter stomach and smaller waist. And, you can manipulate muscle size — increasing your buttock muscles, for example, in a way that can make your waist appear smaller.
Getting Even More From Walking
Going out for a walk at a good clip on flat terrain is great exercise. But just by turning up the intensity a little, you can get a whole lot more out of it. You're probably aware that walking up hills is significantly more challenging than walking on a flat surface. For that reason, it also burns a lot more calories.
So find some hills in your neighborhood and tackle them — don't take the easy route all the time. Another fun way to get in your walking is to go for a hike — which is technically walking, but in nature, and often uphill. Feel your legs work and your heart pound and know that you're getting even closer to your flat-tummy goals.
- Mayo Clinic: Walking: Trim Your Waistline, Improve Your Health
- American Journal of Preventive Medicine: Physical Activity, Walking, and Quality of Life in Women With Depressive Symptoms
- University of New Mexico: Getting a Grip on Body Composition
- Harvard Health Publishing: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Physical Activity Guidelines
- University of New Mexico: Controversies in Metabolism
- Breaking Muscle: Butt-Ology 101: How to Enhance Your Gluteal Muscles