September 03, 2019 2 min read
By Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD
There is nothing simpler than walking for exercise. You can walk pretty much anywhere, at any time; all you need is a pair of comfortable shoes. But if your concern is weight loss, particularly around the middle, you will want to structure your walking program a bit. Here is how walking can help you reach your goals and how you can create a plan to get there.
A casual stroll may be relaxing, but won’t do much for your waistline. However, a brisk walk for at least 45 minutes or longer has been found to help burn calories, specifically visceral or abdominal fat. This is the type of fat that increases your risk for various chronic diseases.
Walking at a brisk pace burns about 90 calories per mile, only 23 calories less than running, and these calories may come primarily from belly fat. You don’t have to run to burn calories. One study found that women who walked for about an hour three times a week for 12 weeks reduced waist circumference by 1.1 inches and lost 1.5% of their body fat.
The key is to walk fast enough and long enough to increase your heart rate into the fat burning zone. The optimal fat-burning zone is reached when your heart rate is at 60% to 70% of your maximum. This is when the body is burning 85% of calories from fat. To track your heart rate, check your pulse while you exercise, or you can use a monitor or smart watch.
Reaching a higher heart rate by walking can be achieved by walking faster, swinging your arms or going uphill. The amount you need to challenge yourself will depend on your fitness level. The goal is to start to breathe heavier, feel tired and sweat a bit. You should still be able to carry on a conversation. You want to stay at this pace for at least 45 minutes to maximize fat burning.
If you are not used to exercising, start gradually. During the first 10 minutes, warm up at a slower pace. This will allow your body to burn off blood sugar so you can start tapping into fat stores sooner.
Start with just a 20-minute walk, five times per week. Increase your pace and distance as you feel ready. If you can’t commit to 45-60 minutes in one session, you can do three 20 minute sessions instead.
A few additional tips to incorporate in your walking plan:
Adding walking to your exercise routine is a simple way to burn calories and trim your waistline. Be sure to wear a comfortable pair of shoes, map out your course and get moving.
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