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 (1, 2).In addition to helping you live a longer and healthier life, exercise can also be beneficial for weight loss and maintenance (3, 4).
Fortunately, walking is a great form of physical activity that’s free, low risk and accessible to most people (5).
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
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 (6).
Furthermore, people who are more physically active burn more calories (5, 7).
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 (8).
Trying to get more exercise by walking more often can help you burn more calories and reduce these risks (9).
In fact, walking a mile (1.6 km) burns approximately 100 calories, depending on your sex and weight (10).
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 (7).
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 (11).
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 (12, 13, 14, 15).
What’s more, it can reduce age-related muscle loss, helping you retain more of your muscle strength and function (16).
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 (17).
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 (18, 19).
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 (20).
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 (21).
Other studies on the effects of walking briskly for 30–60 minutes per day have observed similar results (22).
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 (23, 24).
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 (25).
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 (26, 27, 28).
People tend to exercise less if they don’t enjoy it, which can be a result of the exercise being too physically demanding (27).
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.