Burning Belly Fat: Run or Walk?

You're wondering whether to run or walk to burn off belly fat. The answer: either one. Any exercise that gets your heart pumping and helps you burn calories is going to help you trim away that excess flab around your midsection -- as well as helping you slim down overall. However, there are a number of reasons you may choose one activity over another, including your personal preference, what your body can handle and how many calories you can burn.

Low- vs. High-Impact

If you have joint issues or you're overweight, low-impact exercises such as walking may be the best choice for you. When you walk you have one foot on the ground at all times, and your feet are not landing on the ground with force. When you run, on other hand, your body is in the air as much as 45 percent of the time, according to Harvard Medical School, meaning you have to come down from that "hang time," and you'll absorb about 100 tons of impact force in just one mile. Perhaps for that reason, walkers have a 1 to 5 percent risk of exercise injury, whereas runners have a 20 to 70 percent chance, notes Harvard Medical School.

What Makes You Happy

You're exercising with a certain goal in mind, but with all the hours you're going to need to spend doing that activity to get the results you want, you'd better enjoy it. For some people, running is a form of torture, so for those people, walking may be a more enjoyable, accessible activity. Other people, meanwhile, love running -- perhaps in part due to the "runner's high" they get after going a certain distance. One theory is that running stimulates the brain to produce an opiate-like substance in the brain -- which could lead to that "high" runners experience. The bottom line though: you'll continue to do the type of exercise you actually enjoy doing.

The Calorie Question

If you have no preference over one exercise or another and your body will cooperate with doing either one, the question of calories may help you decide. Running, as you might imagine, burns more calories, so it's going to help you burn off that belly fat faster. If a 155-pound person walks at a moderate 4 mph, she'll burn roughly 167 calories in 30 minutes. If she runs at 5 mph, that same person will burn 298 calories in the same amount of time. With that in mind, it's clear you should choose running to burn belly fat in the shortest amount of time.

Other Factors

Other factors will influence how many calories you burn during your workouts. Burning calories is a matter of time, intensity and frequency. If you can manage to walk for 30 minutes but can only run for 10, the added time you're spending walking is going to help you burn more calories overall. However, if you only have 10 minutes to spare each day, running may be the better choice. How much you eat should also be a factor. To lose one pound of fat, you have to create a calorie deficit of 3,500.