Walking is a useful tool in your arsenal if you are looking to improve your general health. You can walk for a healthier heart, walk to manage your blood sugar, and prevent diabetes or you can even be hacking your walk for better mental health. However, lest we forget those of us who are aiming at a smaller waistline by walking to burn fat. walking to burn fat

What Is Body Fat?

To understand how walking burns body fat, you need to understand body fat. Every time you eat, your stomach and your small intestine will break down all of the carbohydrates, turn them into glucose and then send that glucose into your bloodstream. Your Pancreas can sense the heightened blood sugar and sends insulin to the bloodstream to extract the glucose and convert it to energy.

All of your organs and your muscles use energy so the insulin will replenish them as a priority. However, you will continue to release insulin until the blood sugar is significantly reduced to between 70 and 120 milligrams per deciliter. Your insulin will continue to convert the glucose into the energy it does not need so it will be stored for later.

The first energy stores will be deposited in the form of glycogen (a more concentrated form of glucose) into your liver and muscles and can be converted quickly into energy when you exercise.Walking to burn fat

Once you have fully replenished your energy and deposited enough glycogen, the body will start turning the excess into fat. It is important to have somebody fat as it protects our nerves but the reason the body keeps storing fat is to prepare for a potential famine.

In this day and age, many of us are fortunate enough to never be without food so it makes it more difficult for us to get rid of excess body fat.

Will Any Exercise Burn Body Fat?

Eating fewer calories than we burn will lead to the body burning fat so, in that respect, any exercise can be leveraged for weight loss. However, your body will react differently depending on how you exert your efforts. Overall, a workout routine should be varied to include some high-intensity workouts and some moderate-intensity cardio-based activities.

High-intensity (anaerobic) workouts such as resistance training and HIIT, utilize the glucose still in your bloodstream and the glycogen in your liver and muscles first. The two main benefits of anaerobic activities if fat burning is your goal are as follows

  • You will strengthen your muscles and make them more efficient at using energy when you do your cardio workouts
  • Your body will process the food you have eaten more efficiently meaning you will store less body fat (if any)

If you are walking to burn fat, there are obvious benefits to walking in a higher intensity interval format or hill walking, but we are going to focus on cardio walking. 

Cardio walking is great as it uses aerobic energy, which basically means it uses oxygen to process the required energy. As you exert more effort you will breathe more deeply to get more oxygen into your body this oxygen reaches special parts of your cells called mitochondria to release the energy. Aerobic exercise allows your body to target the energy stored in your body fat. It is this key nugget that we are going to leverage as we walk to burn excess body fat.

Walking To Burn Fat – A Hollistic Cardio Workout

So now you know which type of walking workouts are optimal for burning excess body fat, how do you do it. If you take the holistic approach, you need to gauge what moderate intensity is naturally.

Your default gait will generally be easy for you, you won’t wear out your muscles, you will not raise your heart rate by very much, and thus, you will not feel a shortness of breath. This sounds great but you also will not target body fat. You need to step up your intensity so you start to breathe more heavily but feel like you can moderate. The trick is to keep this intensity up for around 45 minutes or more.

Repeating this 2 or 3 times a week while also getting in a few anaerobic sessions should give you some noticeable results.

Walking To Burn Fat – A Scientific Cardio Workout

If you want to be a bot more scientific, you will need a heart monitor either as a standalone device, on your smartwatch, or if you are using a treadmill, it may have one equipped.

I prefer the heart monitor on my watch as it records my heart rate directly into my Garmin Connect app with my other fitness data.

The first data you need is your maximum heart rate. A rule of thumb that seems to have withstood the test of time, is that your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age. At 35, my maximum heart rate is 185 bpm.

Next, you need to work out 60% of your maximum heart rate and 70% of your maximum heart rate to give you your optimal fat burning heart rate range. My range is between 111 bpm and 129 bpm. If you would like a broader range to work to, this article suggests a range between 50% and 70% is considered moderate.

Even though my watch frequently tells me my heart rate, I do not necessarily target my heart rate while I am out. I use the holistic approach while I am walking and I check my watch data when I return. If my heart rate is too low, I have to push harder next time, if it is too high I have to take it a little easier.

Walk to burn fat - heartrate zones

Today I went out for 3 hours and my watch tells me I spent 100 minutes in Zone 1 which is below my optimal fat-burning range (I stopped to take a lot of pictures), and 64 minutes in zone 2 which is my optimal range. The remaining time (about 5 minutes) was spent above my optimal range.

How To Walk To Increase Your Heart Rate

My go-to is to walk a little faster, I finish my walking quicker and can get on with my day. However, today I achieved my best fat burning heart rate during the uphill parts of my walk. If you take a look at these charts, you will see after 1:13:43 on the elevation chart, most of my route is uphill until 2:29:46, the same time period on my heart rate chart shows the majority of my time spent in my optimal fat-burning heart rate zone.

Walking to burn fat - elevation chart

I personally prefer to use hills for my high-intensity walks, and you can see my heart rate spike the highest while I am climbing the hill, however, this data proves that hills can be utilized for cardio walking as well.

Get Walking To Burn Fat

Now you know why you have body fat, that you can attack it directly with cardio walking, and ways you can optimize your cardio walk. However, do remember that the best results will come if you combine a varied routine with a balanced diet.

If you have a go-to walking workout for burning fat or you have an opinion on the information in this article, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.