Does Walking Help You Lose Belly Fat?

Belly fat looks unpleasant, but beyond aesthetic considerations, it also poses a serious risk to your health. According to Harvard Health Publications, belly fat increases your chances of developing heart disease and several other diseases that have a negative impact on your quality of life. Regular brisk walking can prevent or help you lose belly fat.

The Lowdown on Belly Fat

Ninety percent of your body fat is subcutaneous fat -- fat under the skin -- according to Harvard Health Publications. The other 10 percent is visceral fat, which is belly fat that lies under your abdominal wall and between your internal organs. Excess belly fat makes your stomach protrude and waistline bigger. It also raises blood sugar levels, and increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Excessive belly fat is also linked to colorectal cancer, breast cancer, dementia and stroke.

Losing Belly Fat

In contrast to subcutaneous fat on the thighs, hips and butt, belly fat is readily broken down and used as energy by your body, according to Harvard Health Publications. This means that it responds swiftly to cardiovascular and strength-training exercises. Exercises that specifically target your abs such as crunches, reverse crunches or sit-ups, however, won't help you lose belly fat.

Walking Off Your Belly Fat

Brisk walking is a low-impact moderately intense cardiovascular activity. It gently increases your heart and breathing rates and doesn't put excessive stress on your joints. Walking is ideal if you are new to exercise, elderly or infirm. All you need are comfortable walking shoes, particularly if you have arthritic knees. According to a study published in the July 2010 issue of, "Arthritis Care & Research," flat walking shoes place less stress on your knees than clogs or stability shoes. To reduce belly fat, do a 30-minute brisk walk five days a week. This is in line with "The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans," published by the department of Health and Human Services. According to NutriStrategy, if you weigh 155 pounds, a 30-minute brisk walk at 3.5 mph will burn 134 calories. If you weigh 180 pounds, you will burn 156 calories.

Cranking It Up

As you get stronger and your body gets used to your walking routine, increase your intensity to challenge your body, and accelerate reduction of your belly fat. For example, walk briskly for 10 minutes, then do 40 knee lifts by raising your knees as high as you can as you walk for another 10 minutes. Then, skip along for two minutes. Finish by cooling down with a five-minute walk. Another option includes adding hills to your walking route. Walking uphill expends more energy with the added bonus of toning and shaping your thighs, hips and butt. If you weigh 155 pounds, walking uphill at 3.5 mph for 30 minutes will burn 211 calories, according to NutriStrategy. If you weigh 180 pounds, you will burn 245 calories.