Some people exercise for the health benefits. Others to lose fat in areas like their belly. Can you lose belly fat by walking?
Unfortunately, it is generally not possible to choose where you lose fat. So to lose belly fat your best bet is to burn fat overall until your abdominal area is next.
An important factor in how much fat you lose is how much energy, calories, your body uses. Exercises like walking can help you with this to some extent.
However, walking is an exercise that burns a relatively low number of calories for any time frame.
You do have to keep in mind that in some situations walking can be the better choice because it is softer on body parts like the knees, back, and if you’ve been very inactive, heart.
Other lifestyle factors like what you eat are also very important factors in whether or not you will lose belly fat.
There are also situations where your belly can be bloated that have nothing to do with accumulating fat. By resolving the root cause of that you might be able to slim down your belly to some extent without fat loss.
Why you generally can’t focus fat loss
Some people get the impression that to burn fat you have to stay at a certain heart rate, eat certain foods, or do specific workouts.
Unfortunately, targetting fat loss in a specific area like your belly is generally not possible. To burn fat, or more specifically belly fat, you have to lose weight overall.
Some people claim that you can feel a “burn” in a specific place when you are working the muscles in that area with a certain exercise.
However, it’s not because specific muscles are working that your body only uses energy from that place.
Your body looks at your body fat as a single store of energy. It does prioritize certain areas but you generally don’t have a say in the order this happens.
How do you gain body fat?
Every day you do all kinds of activities that require energy. Walking, breathing, sleeping, eating, etc. You need energy to do all these things. Your body gets this energy, which is measured in calories, from food.
When you absorb more calories from your food than you use your body stores this energy for later use. As body fat and in other ways. Ultimately, the more excess calories you consume the more body fat you will gain.
Your body prefers some areas over others for fat storage. Most often the preferred areas are places like your abdomen and hips.
At a certain point, it can be more useful for your body to have the excess body fat divided into different areas. From a certain point on you will gain gradually gain body fat in other areas too.
The problem is that excess body fat increases the risk of all kinds of diseases and is generally not considered visually appealing.
In what order does fat loss happen?
Luckily it is also possible to reduce these excess energy stores again. When your body wants to use more energy than there is coming in from food it starts using its energy stores.
Once you start losing body fat, the reverse of this storing process usually happens. The last place you gained fat will most likely be the first place you will lose fat again.
This means that in the beginning, you will lose a lot of body fat in places like your face, hands, and feet.
The places where you gained fat first will most likely be the last where you lose fat. That’s why you may have heard from “stubborn belly fat”.
The main reason this order of fat loss is different in different people is mainly due to genetics. Some people easily gain weight on their bellies. Others easily store fat in their thighs. There is little you can do to influence this order.
Is walking good for calorie burning?
A popular way to increase the number of calories burned and thus tap into body fat energy stores and move towards losing belly fat is by exercising.
By moving more intensely and building muscle you increase the amount of energy your body requires.
Walking is a popular way to get in some extra cardio workout time.
Partly because it is so easy to implement in your routine but also because it is not as hard on body parts like knees and back compared to other workouts like running.
This is especially great if you’re just starting out a weight loss journey and have a lot of pounds to lose.
Below you can find rough estimations for calories burned for individuals walking at different speeds for 30 minutes. Keep in mind that the real numbers will likely look different for you (1).
If you want more in-depth walking stats like calories burned per step, calories burned for specific distances, and techniques to burn more calories while walking, make sure you read the article on how many calories walking burns.
|Walking (3 mph/4.8 kmh)||Walking (3.5 mph/5.6 kmh)||Walking (4 mph/6.4 kmh)|
|125 Pounds (56 kg)||103 calories||118 calories||133 calories|
|155 Pounds (70 kg)||128 calories||146 calories||165 calories|
|185 Pounds (83 kg)||153 calories||175 calories||197 calories|
|215 Pounds (97 kg)||178 calories||203 calories||229 calories|
Is walking a good way to lose belly fat?
Whether walking burns any calories, and thus can help you lose belly fat, is not the only question. How does this workout compare to the amount of energy in food and other exercises?
And these are relatively weight loss friendly food examples. It’s clear that what you eat plays a big role in whether or not you will lose belly fat while walking.
The following numbers are calorie-burning estimations for a 155-pound person walking vs other workouts for 30 minutes (4).
- Walking: 3.5 mph: 149 calories
- Walking: 4 mph: 167 calories
- Walking: 4.5 mph: 186 calories
- Water Aerobics: 149 calories
- Stretching (Hatha Yoga): 186 calories
- Dancing (Fast, ballet, twist): 223 calories
- Stair Step Machine (general): 223 calories
- Rowing, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
- Bicycling, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
- Elliptical Trainer (general): 335 calories
- Running 5.2 mph: 335 calories
- Swimming (crawl): 409 calories
- Running 6.7 mph: 409 calories
- Bicycling 16-19 mph: 446 calories
- Running 10 mph: 614 calories
Compared to typical walking alternatives and other exercises in general, walking is not a great cardio workout in terms of calorie burning and thus losing belly fat in a short amount of time.
How long should you walk to burn fat?
One pound of body fat is about 3500 calories (one kg +-8000). How long it takes to burn fat with walking will also depend on the number of calories in your diet.
One person might eat more than the other. This might make it so they need to exercise longer or more intensely to see the same weight loss results.
You can even lose weight without exercising so there are many factors that influence it.
15 minutes of walking a day at 4 mph could help you burn an extra 835 calories in 10 days which is about 0.24 pounds of body fat. 30 days 2505 calories and so on… You have to do a lot of walking to burn a lot of energy.
Keep in mind that losing weight too fast can be suboptimal. In general, a 500-calorie deficit per day is considered to be a healthy weight loss rate.
Based on the things that are known about fat loss, walking can certainly help you lose belly fat. When put into practice there are studies that confirm this.
One small study with 20 obese women found that the group who walked for 50-70 minutes 3 days a week for 12 weeks lost more belly fat than the control group that didn’t exercise (5).
How to improve appearance in body areas
There are many reasons why someone would want to lose belly fat. One of these reasons is simply improving their appearance.
While you can’t target fat loss you can sometimes improve the appearance of certain areas of your body.
The first way you can make your belly appear less fat is by reducing swelling. You do have to keep in mind that not everyone who has feet that appear fat necessarily has swelling.
You can learn what some possible causes are. By excluding these you know whether or not you need to lose fat in your feet if you want to see a visual change.
Here are some possible reasons your belly might be bloated (11):
- Eating a lot of salt
- Fluid retention
- Drinking too many carbonated drinks
- Certain medicines
- Medical conditions
While excluding these factors can help, keep in mind that if the number on the scale is high too you likely have to focus on losing fat too.
Toning body parts
The second way you can make body parts appear less fat is by building muscle in these areas. This won’t improve fat burning in the area but the muscle can make it look better.
In the case of your belly, you can do exercises that focus on your abdominal muscles like for example sit-ups.
Things to keep in mind
In terms of calorie-burning alone, walking is not a great exercise choice. You do need to keep some other things in mind when choosing a workout to burn belly fat.
First of all, if you’re currently not used to exercising you likely don’t want to jump straight into high-intensity workouts. You want to get your muscles, including your heart muscle, back into decent shape first.
This is where something like walking can be a great workout to start out with before more intense workouts like running, cycling, and the elliptical trainer.
Another benefit of walking that may be important for injury-sensitive individuals is that walking is generally not too hard on body parts like knees and back.
This can be especially important to keep in mind when carrying around a lot of extra weight.
There are however other exercises like swimming, the elliptical trainer, and cycling that share this benefit while burning more calories.
If burning belly fat is your main goal it may also be smart to implement some exercises in your schedule specifically for building muscle.
The extra muscle mass will help you burn more calories day in, day out, including during walking.
Walking can be a decent workout choice to lose belly fat in certain specific situations but there are often better exercises for this purpose.
Lastly, keep in mind that the things you eat stay important no matter what exercise routine you’re following. It’s hard to out-exercise a bad diet.