Working out your midsection doesn't have to just be about sit-ups or crunches. You can also walk uphill or hop on a treadmill set to an incline to burn fat and strengthen your core.
Incline walking is convenient in that all you need is access to a treadmill or a hills in your neighborhood. But is walking up hills actually good exercise? In a word: yes. Ahead, we'll cover all the reasons you should give incline walking a try to benefit your core.
Video of the Day
The Benefits of Incline Walking for Your Abs (and Beyond!)
1. It Burns Calories
Incline walking blasts more calories than walking on flat ground. There is a greater demand placed on your body to walk uphill, which increases your heart rate and burns more calories.
For weight-bearing activities, your body burns calories in proportion to your body weight. For example, a 130-pound individual burns 224 calories per hour walking briskly on a flat surface at 3.5 miles per hour, according to NutriStrategy's calorie calculator. A 205-pound person burns 354 calories per hour.
The same 130-pound individual burns 354 calories per hour walking uphill at the same speed because of the increased intensity. A 205-pound person burns 558 calories per hour walking uphill.
An Important Note About Weight Loss
The science of weight management is rapidly changing, and weight loss is more nuanced than “eat less, exercise more.” Yes, cutting and burning calories is a key component of weight loss, but there's much more to it. Your ability to lose weight can be influenced by a wide variety of factors, including your genetics, sleep quality, insulin resistance, hormones, gut health and how you manage stress.
Talk to your doctor before you make any big changes to your exercise routine (or diet). They can help you determine if your weight-loss plan is healthy and appropriate for you based on your medical history, health status and medications.
2. It Builds Strength
Does incline treadmill work your abs? Yes, walking on an incline engages all the muscles of your core — abs, hips and back — to give you greater strength and mobility.
There are five major muscles of your stomach including your external obliques, internal obliques, transverse abdominis and rectus abdominis, according to the Cleveland Clinic. During an incline walk, these muscles are engaged to help stabilize your body.
Your transverse abdominis and rectus abdominis are activated to keep your core strong to help your upper body lean into your hill. Pumping your arms to help propel yourself uphill also activates both your internal and external obliques because of the slight torso twist performed with your arm swings.
As you walk uphill, your body must slightly lean forward to help propel yourself up your incline. More specifically, your hip flexors — the muscles at the bottom of the stomach that attach at the hip — are targeted. Each time your hip is flexed, when your knee comes up towards the body, the hip flexors are activated.
3. It Builds Muscle Mass
Incline walking is a weight-bearing exercise that helps you gain lean muscle mass. The more lean mass you have on your body, the more efficiently you can burn calories, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Having an increased lean mass means you can burn more calories at rest by increasing your metabolism. The more calories you burn, the more fat you can shed, if that's your goal.
So, does walking on an incline burn belly fat? Well, not specifically. Allow us to explain: You can't target fat loss from just your midsection (or any other specific body part), per ACE Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Institute.
With all that being said, if you want to lose fat near your abs, you'll need to decrease fat across your entire body. A combination of cardio (like incline walking), strength exercises (more on that below) and a nutrient-dense diet will help you lose total-body fat.
4. It's Efficient
Among the other benefits of walking hills is exercise efficiency. Being that it is harder to walk up hills than on flat ground, you'll get a higher intensity workout, according to NordicTrack, an exercise equipment manufacturer.
This means you don't have to workout for as long, which makes it beneficial if you have a busy schedule and don't have a lot of time to exercise.
5. It's Low-Impact
Running works your core muscles, but it places a high amount of stress on your knee, hip and ankle joints. Due to the intense nature of walking uphill, you will feel a similar intensity as running without all the impact.
Walking is a low-impact activity, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. This is because your body is never airborne. Your lower-body joints, including your hips, knees and ankles, don't have to absorb an increased force as your foot lands. This poses less of a risk for lower-body injuries that occur from the stresses of running.
However, you should gradually increase your duration and incline of walking, as additional stress is placed on your calves, Achilles tendon and shins.
You should get at least 150 minutes per week of moderately-intense cardio exercise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So, focus on walking on an incline for 30 minutes five days a week to improve your overall heart health and strengthen your core.
You can also add specific exercises that work your core muscles to your fitness routine to help develop strength in your abdominals. After your walk, choose three core exercises and complete three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions per exercise — the amount recommended to build muscle, per the Mayo Clinic.
Give the following exercises a try to strengthen your core:
- NutriStrategy: "Calories Burned During Activities, Sports and Exercises Chart"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Abdominal Muscles"
- Mayo Clinic: "Metabolism and weight loss: How you burn calories"
- ACE Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Institute: "Exercise Myths"
- NordicTrack: "What is a Good Incline To Walk on a Treadmill To Lose Weight?"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Walking for Exercise"
- CDC: "How much physical activity do adults need?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier"