BY MARC LINDSAY
Walking might not be the most strenuous form of exercise, but it is an effective way to get in shape and burn fat. While you can’t spot-reduce fat, walking can help reduce overall fat (including belly fat), which, despite being one of the most dangerous types of fat, is also one of the easiest to lose. The key, though, is staying consistent and walking in the right heart rate zone to maximize calorie and fat burn.
TARGETING BELLY FAT
Losing weight (including belly fat) is all about burning more calories than you’re consuming. Once you have a healthy, well-balanced diet in place and are upping your step count consistently, you’ll begin to notice overall weight loss. For some people, belly fat might be the last area of the body where you’ll notice results, while for others it’ll be the first.
That said, some methods of losing fat and trimming your waistline are more effective than others. Below are three ways you can focus your workouts to burn as much fat as possible, so you can get fit and achieve your weight-loss goals.
AIM FOR THE FAT-BURNING ZONE
To burn as many calories as possible and maximize your weight loss, you’ll need to walk in the correct heart rate zone. The fat-burning zone is roughly 60–70% of your maximum heart rate and burns about 7–12 calories per minute depending on the person. You can calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. Then, multiply that number by 0.6. For example, a 30-year-old will have a maximum heart rate of 190 beats per minute (bpm). To achieve an intensity that’s equivalent to 60%, aim to hover around 114 bpm.
When you exercise in this fat-burning zone, keep in mind duration is key. Since the intensity is low to moderate, you’ll want to make sure your workouts are long enough (work your way up to 45 minutes to an hour) so the body burns fat instead of stored carbohydrates. In the beginning of your workouts, sugars and stored carbs are burned first. When these are depleted, the body becomes more efficient at burning fat as the workout duration increases.
TRY FASTED CARDIO
Completing your walking workouts in a fasted state in the morning before you eat or drink anything can also help teach your body to use your fat as an energy source for your workouts instead of relying on those carbohydrates you’ve just consumed for breakfast.
Again, aim to walk in the fat-burning zone for at least 45 minutes to an hour. Once you can do this comfortably, increase the duration as long as you can tolerate for maximum fat burn. As you get more fit you’ll start to see the waistline results you’re seeking.
Try this sample workout: Begin with an easy 10-minute walk to warm up your muscles and get loose. For the main set, walk for either 45 minutes in zone 2 or do two sets of 22 minutes, taking a break, if needed, at the halfway point. You can also do a few exercises like squats, lunges or pushups to break things up before you begin the second half of your workout. Once you’ve completed 45 minutes, end your walk with another 10 minutes of easy walking to cool down.
MIX IT UP
If you do the exact same workout all the time, the body eventually adapts and calorie burn will be less significant. While you’ll want to do a majority of your workouts in the fat-burning zone, if weight-loss is your primary concern, upping the intensity 1–2 times per week can give you an extra boost.
In fact, this study shows increasing the intensity with interval training can be even more effective at reducing subcutaneous and abdominal body fat than lower-intensity exercise. Keep in mind higher-intensity exercise places more stress on your joints and requires plenty of recovery between sessions to avoid injury, which is why no more than two sessions per week is recommended.
Including a couple higher-intensity workouts during your week can also be helpful for days when you don’t have as much time to workout. For these sessions, you’ll only need about 30 minutes to get some of the same benefits as your longer zone 2 sessions.
Try this sample workout: Begin with a 10-minute warmup, gradually increasing your pace. For the main set, alternate 2 minutes of walking at a moderate pace with 1 minute at the fastest walking pace you can tolerate. Open your stride, pump your arms and raise your heart rate as much as possible to burn the most calories. Alternate the 2 minutes easy, 1 minute hard for 20 minutes. Cool down for 10 minutes after your 20-minute block is completed. To make this workout more difficult, try jogging or light running for your 1-minute periods instead.