Many of you will be aware of the benefits to your health of exercising regularly and not just on you physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. During your weight loss journey as you begin to feel lighter and have more energy it is more than likely that you will feel the inclination to become more active. It can be difficult deciding which type of exercise will suit you and your lifestyle best, and for everyone this will be different. If you are new to exercising and want to continue your weight loss evolution, walking is a gentle, inexpensive exercise that may help you to continue to reduce weight and belly fat.
As cool as it would be to be able to target specific body areas for weight loss unfortunately there is no effective exercise or diet in which this is possible. Spot reduction or slimming areas in isolation may be something we see as a way of promoting a new product like an exercise machine however, for the most part this is a marketing ploy and extremely misleading. The good news is though if you can commit to a consistent, walking practice you can most definitely work/walk towards reducing belly fat.
How long does it take to lose belly fat by walking?
Ahhh the million-dollar question and like many things that we discuss in these blogs it depends on a few different factors. How much you currently weigh, how far you walk, how fast you walk and how often you walk. According to Harvard Health Publishing it is recommended that you need 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a day to combat belly fat.
The following study from the Journal of Exercise Nutrition and Biochemistry monitored the study participants over a 12-week period and found that women who walked between 50-70 minutes three times a week compared to the non-exercising control group lost more belly fat.
This brings into question the power of a combination of diet and exercise when it comes to weight loss. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, diet combined with a regular walking practice and resistance exercise is paramount in reducing belly fat.
A 14-week study of 33 women were broken into groups, those on a low-calorie diet only with no exercise did not lose belly belly fat, the participants that walked for 50 minutes three times a week and followed a low-calorie diet lost belly fat.
We know that Life is busy! Between working, family, friends, pets and more it is difficult to find time to exercise but if you schedule a regular exercise regimen into your life you will find that the benefits far outweigh any negatives.
We have discussed keeping a diet journal in previous blogs, and there is no reason at all that you can’t also track your exercise using the same journal. This is a great way of monitoring your diet, activity, weight, and moods for overall effectiveness.
Keeping a journal is a great way of noticing changes in your eating and mood patterns, for example if you currently have a big project on at work you may find that you are not motivated or are simply too busy to exercise and during this period of time you may be more inclined to crave carbohydrates or sugar ladened foods while mindlessly eating staring at your computer screen. Without the help of a journal it is easy to forget how you were feeling during a time like this let alone what you were eating or drinking. It may also surprise you how your moods and motivation may change during times like these when you are often busy and stressed.
Walking for fitness and emotional health is a great way to stay in shape, lose or maintain weight, lessen stress, without increased impact on your body and potential risk of injury. Particularly if you currently have health issues.
How much walking does it take to lose belly fat?
It is possible to burn up to 300 calories in one hour of walking at an average speed of 6.5km/hr. Although as mentioned above spot reduction is difficult, but if you are passionate about having a flat stomach you can try pulling your stomach in when walking and breath in and out consciously using your stomach muscles, bonus being at the same time you are toning your abdominal muscles. You must also walk with enough speed and intensity to burn fat, again the longer that you walk the more likely you are to burn stored visceral fat.
When walking faster, it is also important to ensure that you maintain good posture, and a powerful stride. Even if you are just starting a walking practice start thinking about some goals that you would like to achieve around your walking, aim to gradually increase your speed, increase your distance, and shorten the length of time. This shocks your body into working harder. Keeping at a brisk pace will burn more stored fat, and if your heart rate is below 60% (fitness heart rate zone) of your maximum you will need to increase the intensity in order to burn more fat. In this 60-70% zone of exercise intensity most calories that are burned will be fat. This zone varies though depending on your age, you can use a chart of heart rate zones by age to find the correct rate for you. There are also apps on your phone or smart watch that can help keep your finger on the pulse so to speak.
When exercising in this zone you should find that your breathing may be a bit heavier, you should be feeling a little sweaty and feeling an increased exertion however, should still be able to carry on a conversation.
There are other strategies you could incorporate into your exercise regime to increase fat burning; one tactic is to add intervals. I love interval training; it mixes your workout up and helps you to gradually increase your overall fitness and pace.
Speaking of mixing up your work out, there is nothing like a hill or stair workout that will do just that and at the same time make your workout more intense. This can also be done on a treadmill, think about using walking poles, this not only adds intensity but a good upper-body workout without you feeling as if you are working too much harder.
It is important to mix your workout up to stop you from getting bored and to shock your body out of complacency. Try different types of walking workouts through the week, intervals, short and fast walks, long and moderate walks. If time is an issue think about breaking up your walks to 2 a day instead of one long walk. This is great particularly if you are stuck behind a computer all day, by breaking up your workout you will be challenging your body to build new muscle, boost your metabolism and burn more calories. Eventually you may want to add other exercise into your routine such as bicycle riding, water aerobics, tennis or even dancing. Challenging your body in new ways improves muscle development and keeps you motivated.
Walking is inexpensive, you do not need to invest in a mountain of equipment, and it can be done anywhere and in most weather conditions.
From looking at the studies above it is clear that a consistent walking practice can help you lose weight and body fat so let’s take a look at some tips or things you can do to get the most out of your walking practice.
Top tips to get the most out of walking to reduce weight and belly fat:
- If you are going to be walking consistently it’s important to ensure that you have supportive, comfortable shoes, it would be worthwhile doing a little research as you may need more arch support or heel support depending on your feet.
- There is nothing more motivating than listening to some great tunes while you are exercising. Good music will enable you to push yourself harder and to go further, there are some great walking tracks, tempos of 75-1350 BPM will keep you strutting your stuff along that walking track with much less effort.
- I have mentioned previously mixing up your routine will help prevent you from getting bored, the same goes for switching up your walking track, take some time to think about it and look for alternate routes before heading out, this will prevent you not only from getting lost but keep your practice from becoming too repetitive.
- Having a walking buddy is also a great way to keep you motivated and let’s face it keep you from making excuses not to go for your walk, it will keep you accountable and make your walk more enjoyable, several studies confirm that having a walking buddy or being in a walking group will increase your weight loss success.
- Unless you live in a city in which you must deal with drastic weather changes there are many different weather conditions in which you can walk. Just prepare the night before to ensure that you are as comfortable as possible. Remember consistency is the key.
We often speak about the importance of movement, not just for weight loss but for muscle strength, bone density and mental health. Most of us spend way too much time sitting, so stop thinking about it and just get outside and do it!
Adv Dip Health Science Naturopathy, Nutrition