AUTHORITY NUTRITION

How Walking Can Help You Lose Weight and Belly Fat

Written by Helen West, RD on November 5, 2017

If you want to stay fit and healthy, it’s important to exercise regularly.

This is because being physically active reduces your risk of developing health conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer (, ).

In addition to helping you live a longer and healthier life, exercise can also be beneficial for weight loss and maintenance (, ).

Fortunately, walking is a great form of physical activity that’s free, low risk and accessible to most people ().

In fact, walking isn’t just good for you — it’s one of the easiest forms of exercise to incorporate into your day-to-day life.

This article explores how walking more often can help you lose weight and belly fat.

Walking Burns Calories

Couple Walking Dog Outside

Your body needs energy (in the form of calories) for all the complex chemical reactions that allow you to move, breathe, think and function normally.

However, daily calorie needs vary from person to person and are affected by things like your weight, sex, genes and activity level.

It’s well known that you need to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight ().

Furthermore, people who are more physically active burn more calories (, ).

However, modern living and work environments may mean that you spend large parts of your day sitting, especially if you have an office job.

Unfortunately, a sedentary lifestyle can not only contribute to weight gain, it can also increase your risk of health problems ().

Trying to get more exercise by walking more often can help you burn more calories and reduce these risks ().

In fact, walking a mile (1.6 km) burns approximately 100 calories, depending on your sex and weight ().

One study measured the number of calories burned by non-athletes who walked at a brisk pace of 3.2 miles (5 km) per hour or ran at a pace of 6 mph for about a mile. It found those who walked at a brisk pace burned an average of 90 calories per mile ().

Furthermore, although running burned significantly more calories, it only burned around 23 more calories per mile, on average, meaning both forms of exercise contributed significantly to the number of calories burned.

To increase the intensity of your walk and burn even more calories, try walking on routes with hills or slight inclines ().

Summary: Walking burns calories, which may help you lose weight and keep it off. In fact, walking just one mile burns about 100 calories.

It Helps Preserve Lean Muscle

When people cut calories and lose weight, they often lose some muscle in addition to body fat.

This can be counterproductive, as muscle is more metabolically active than fat. This means it helps you burn more calories each day.

Exercise, including walking, can help counter this effect by preserving lean muscle when you lose weight.

This can help reduce the drop in metabolic rate that often occurs with weight loss, making your results easier to maintain (, , , ).

What’s more, it can reduce age-related muscle loss, helping you retain more of your muscle strength and function ().

Summary: Walking can help prevent some of the muscle loss that occurs when you lose weight. This helps minimize the drop in metabolic rate that occurs when you lose weight, making the pounds easier to keep off.

Walking Burns Belly Fat

Storing a lot of fat around your midsection has been linked to an increased risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease ().

In fact, men with a waist circumference greater than 40 inches (102 cm) and women with a waist circumference greater than 35 inches (88 cm) have abdominal obesity, which is considered a health risk.

One of the most effective ways to reduce belly fat is to regularly take part in aerobic exercise, such as walking (, ).

In one small study, obese women who walked for 50–70 minutes three times per week for 12 weeks, on average, reduced their waist circumference by 1.1 inches (2.8 cm) and lost 1.5% of their body fat ().

Another study found that people on a calorie-controlled diet who walked for one hour five times per week for 12 weeks lost an extra 1.5 inches (3.7 cm) off their waistlines and 1.3% more body fat, compared to those who followed the diet alone ().

Other studies on the effects of walking briskly for 30–60 minutes per day have observed similar results ().

Summary: Regularly taking part in moderate-intensity aerobic exercise like walking has been shown to help people lose belly fat.

It Improves Your Mood

Exercise is known to boost your mood.

In fact, physical activity has been shown to improve your mood and decrease feelings of stress, depression and anxiety (, ).

It does this by making your brain more sensitive to the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine. These hormones relieve feelings of depression and stimulate the release of endorphins, which make you feel happy ().

This is a great benefit in itself. However, experiencing an improvement in mood when you walk regularly might also make the habit easier to keep up with.

What’s more, some studies have found that if you enjoy a physical activity, it can increase the likelihood that you will continue to do it (, , ).

People tend to exercise less if they don’t enjoy it, which can be a result of the exercise being too physically demanding ().

This makes walking an excellent choice, as it’s a moderate-intensity exercise. That’s likely to motivate you to walk more, rather than give up.

Summary: Regularly taking part in exercise that you enjoy, such as walking, can improve your mood and make you more motivated to keep it up.

Walking Can Help You Keep Weight Off

Many people who lose weight end up gaining it all back ().

However, regular exercise plays an important role in helping you maintain weight loss ().

Regular exercise like walking does not only help increase the amount of energy you burn day-to-day, but it also helps you build more lean muscle so that you burn more calories, even at rest.

Furthermore, participating in regular, moderate-intensity exercise like walking can improve your mood, making you more likely to stay active in the long term.

A recent review estimated that to maintain a stable weight, you should walk at least 150 minutes per week ().

However, if you’ve lost a lot of weight, you may need to exercise more than 200 minutes per week to prevent yourself from regaining it (, ).

In fact, studies have found that people who exercise the most are usually the most successful at maintaining their weight loss, whereas people who exercise the least are likely to regain the weight ()

Incorporating more walking into your day can help you increase the amount of exercise you do and contribute towards your daily activity goals.

Summary: Staying active and moving more by walking throughout your day can help maintain weight loss.

How to Incorporate More Walking Into Your Lifestyle

Being more physically active has a host of benefits, including improved fitness and mood, a reduced risk of disease and an increased likelihood of living a longer, healthier life.

Because of this, it’s recommended that people participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

In walking terms, that means walking for around 2.5 hours per week (at least 10 minutes at a time) at a brisk pace. Doing more exercise than this has additional health benefits and reduces your risk of disease even further.

There are many ways to increase the amount of walking you do and achieve this target.

The following are some ideas:

  • Use a fitness tracker and log your steps to motivate yourself to move more ().
  • Make a habit of taking a brisk walk on your lunch break or after dinner.
  • Ask a friend to join you for an evening walk.
  • Walk your dog every day or join a friend on their dog walks.
  • Take a walking meeting with a colleague, instead of meeting at your desk.
  • Do errands like taking the kids to school or going to the store on foot.
  • Walk to work. If it’s too far, park your car further away or get off your bus a few stops early and walk the rest of the way.
  • Try picking new and challenging routes to keep your walks interesting.
  • Join a walking group.

Every little bit helps, so start small and try to gradually increase the amount you walk daily.

Summary: Incorporating more walking into your day can help you burn more calories and lose weight.

The Bottom Line

Walking is a moderate-intensity exercise that can be easily incorporated into your daily life.

Simply walking more often can help you lose weight and belly fat, as well as provide other excellent health benefits, including a decreased risk of disease and improved mood.

In fact, walking just one mile burns about 100 calories.

If you want to lose weight, you’ll get the best results by combining your increase in physical activity with healthy changes to your diet.

An evidence-based nutrition article from our experts at Authority Nutrition.

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