Excess body fat, including belly fat, is very dangerous to your health. Excess weight around the belly increases the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer and other diseases and ailments. The most beneficial way to lose belly fat is through aerobic exercise. Walking is the easiest, most natural form of aerobic exercise that can help eliminate excess belly fat quickly.
Researchers from the University of Virginia found that women who did three shorter, fast-paced walks a week (plus two longer, moderate-paced ones) lost 5 times more belly fat than those who simply strolled at a moderate speed 5 days a week, even though both groups burned exactly the same number of calories (400) per workout. Those power walking also dropped more than 2 inches from their waistlines, pared about 3 times more fat from their thighs, shed 4 times more total body fat, and lost almost 8 pounds over 16 weeks—all without dieting!
The improvements didn’t stop there. The high-intensity exercisers lost about 3 times more visceral fat—the dangerous belly fat that wraps around organs such as the liver and kidneys and has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. “Vigorous exercise raises levels of fat-burning hormones,” says lead researcher Arthur Weltman, PhD, director of the exercise physiology laboratory at the university. It also increases afterburn (the number of calories your body uses postexercise as it recovers) by about 47% compared with lower-intensity workouts.
The key to fat loss is boosting your metabolism. Walking increases your metabolic rate and heart rate, which in turn increases oxygen and burns calories. If you walk to lose belly fat, you need to walk at a steady speed fast enough so your heart beats faster and causes you to breathe harder and deeper. The only way to lose body fat, especially belly fat, is by burning more calories than you consume. A well-balanced diet, along with a regular walking routine, will help you lose belly fat within a few weeks.
The speed at which you walk is important for weight loss. However, the distance you walk is equally important in losing belly fat. A regular, slow walk will burn about three quarters of a calorie per kilogram of body weight. This would be about 70 calories a mile if you weigh 200 pounds. A fast, brisk walk will burn about 125 calories a mile if you weigh 200 pounds. Research has shown that walking 10,000 steps each day will help you lose around 500 calories per day. If you do this every day without changing your diet, you will lose one pound of body weight per week. If you want to lose belly fat quicker, you must cover a longer distance or increase your speed to lose more calories.
How often you walk plays a big role in how much belly fat you lose. Aim toward walking a minimum of 30 to 60 minutes per day, four to six days a week. A pedometer can help you track the number of steps you take to ensure you walk the recommended 10,000 steps per day. After a while, you should be able to estimate how much belly fat and total weight loss progress you have been making.
The best time to walk to lose belly fat is early in the morning before eating breakfast. You were fasting through the night while sleeping. So when you walk right before breakfast, you will burn up the extra fats stored in your body since there is no food in your stomach. Eat foods high in protein after your walk to replenish energy and build more muscle.
So how do you make all this science work for you? Start with our 8-week progressive walking plan, which includes both shorter, high-intensity workouts and longer, moderate-paced ones. Add in the Flat Belly sculpting moves to firm your ever-shrinking middle. In just 2 months, you could walk off 1 or 2 sizes—without dieting!
Not to shy away from a challenge. The training has given me more self-discipline and convinced me that other things in life probably aren’t as bad as they first seem, either. It also reminded me that I actually like being outside; how good it feels to breathe deep, relaxed breaths; and that sweating is quite nice when accompanied by a feeling of accomplishment.
Walkers are athletes, too! Sometimes I felt silly mentioning what I was working toward, especially around ‘real’ athletes, because I was only doing half of the marathon and only walking it. But when I crossed the finish line and received my medal and blanket just like the runners, I knew I deserved to be there, too. Next year, I plan to walk the half again—only faster!
Doing something for myself is good for my family! The guilt I felt over not spending all my time with my family was completely unfounded. My 5-year-old son, Jacob, told his class that I was in a race and was going to win a gold medal. When I showed him my medal, he held it as if it were the most precious thing in the world and said, ‘I love you, Mom. You’re my hero.
I want to be fit, not skinny. I am in the best shape of my life, even though I am still overweight. I’ve lost 48 pounds so far, I’ve increased my endurance, and I look more toned than ever before.
You’re never too old. “Walking marathons keeps my fitness program fresh–turns out I can do a lot more than I thought I could. I did my first marathon at age 73 and completed my third last November on my 75th birthday, each with one of my three children.