When it comes to health, one of the most widespread health concerns in the UK and the US is Obesity. I personally don’t like to use weight alone as a metric for health but it is often touted by medical experts as an important contributor to health complications later in life.
It’s not the number on the scale that is at fault however, it is merely a side effect of the real problem which is the dreaded belly fat. Belly fat is the enemy of many, it can lead to dangerous health conditions such as strokes, high blood pressure, and diabetes, and more importantly to some, it can make us feel unsightly in a bathing suit.
At Forty Thousand Footsteps, walking is our healthy ally, so if belly fat is also our unhealthy enemy then we are going to need to answer the question; Does walking burn belly fat?
Know Your Enemy – What Is Belly Fat?
While we can store fat all over our body, the two most common types of fat are subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat is the stuff you can pinch, it sits above the muscle and is essentially the third layer of skin. While too much Subcutaneous fat may be dangerous, it is essential for storing energy, hosting nerves and blood vessels, and protecting our muscles and bones.
Know your fats: Excess subcutaneous fats can lead to health complications, but visceral fat is much more dangerous. Any actions we take to tackle visceral fat may also help reduce our subcutaneous fat levels.
When we are talking about belly fat, we are usually referring to the fat under the abdominal wall which creates a visible protruding belly in men and women. This is called visceral fat and it surrounds our internal organs.
What Causes Belly Fat?
What we eat – The number one cause of excess belly fat is poor diet. It’s widely accepted that we will lose weight if we burn more calories than we consume. However, the information that weight loss programs seem to leave out of their clever marketing is that it is not as simple as if we eat a set amount of calories every day and we exercise to burn a bit more we will lose weight. What we eat affects our body’s calorie burn rate, so while an avocado might have the same calories as your favorite chocolate bar, the fats and fibers in avocado are part of a natural balance that your body loves and will help you absorb nutrients and burn more calories.
Stress – When we are stressed, our bodies will release a chemical called cortisol to calm us down, however, it also slows down our metabolism. This can have a particularly negative impact if, like me, you reach for comfort foods when you are feeling a bit down in the dumps.
Alcohol – The timeless beer belly. Your body will treat all foods you consume as fats, proteins, or carbs and will sort each differently as appropriate. Alcohol is effectively poison and your body will be inefficient at processing the food you eat while it processes the poisons. This is especially prevalent if you drink beer or wine due to the calorie contents, or if you are a junk food fiend after alcohol… I am.
Whether or not you smoke, are getting poor sleep, and even your genetics can also contribute to belly fat, not to mention lack of exercise (insert a plug about walking here).
Why Belly Fat Is So Bad?
Diabetes is possibly the most common health complication we link to being overweight and this is partly because visceral fat secretes more of a protein in our body called RBP4 which increases insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs naturally as we get older and makes our pancreas have to work harder every time we eat. If we are not careful we can effectively wear out our pancreas leading to type 2 diabetes.
Heart problems are probably the next big thing on the list of risks associated with excess belly fat. Studies show that excessive belly fat can not only increase the risk of a first heart attack, but ongoing abdominal obesity can also cause repeated heart attacks.
If that is not enough reason for you to take action against your belly fat, remember it can also increase the risk of hypertension, osteoarthritis, dementia, asthma breast cancer, colorectal cancer, or having a stroke. I guess I will place looking unsightly in my bathing suit lower on my list of priorities.
Walking To Burn Belly Fat
If you are new to raising your walking game, you might be thinking “wait, I walk every day and I still have a belly”. The truth is walking can and will burn belly fat if we actively do it in the right way. However, there are other contributing factors. The good news is that walking is a great form of exercise so you can use it to help reduce your stress levels, improve your quality of sleep and burn some excess calories. Just remember, if you maintain a bad diet or if there are other things affecting your sleep or stress levels, your results may be affected.
How can we ensure walking burns belly fat:
- Walk more – Try and aim for 10000 steps per day or more. Try to incorporate more walking into your daily routine, track your number of footsteps and beat or match it each day. You can walk on the spot while watching TV if the weather is bad.
- Timing of your walk – In my article about walking to aid digestion, I explain how the benefits of walking for 15 minutes after a meal can also help manage your blood sugar spikes. You can walk the dog, pop to the shop or even walk on the spot while watching TV.
- Increase the speed of your walk – Ideally, you need to be getting a little bit breathless for about 45 minutes a day
- Raise your altitude – Take the stairs, or find some uneven ground. Walking uphill increases the effort spent while also engaging more muscles.
You should be mindful that walking is not a fix-all for an unhealthy lifestyle, however, you can use walking as a workout to make a significant impact, improve your health and your confidence and burn away some of that belly fat.
If you found this article useful, or you have any questions, I would love to hear your comments below