Walking is one of the easiest forms of exercise with low risks to incorporate into your day-to-day life. Although it is not the most strenuous form of exercise, it is an effective way to shape up and burn fat, especially burning internal belly fat (also known as visceral fat). This type of fat is harmful to your body as it not only contributes to your waistline, it also increases your risk for diabetes and heart diseases.
You will start to notice overall weight loss by following a healthy, well-balanced diet and increasing your step count consistently. However, it is important to know that losing weight differs for individuals. Some might notice results in losing belly fat first, while some might see that belly fat is the last area of the body that they lose.
Are you walking in the fat-burning zone?
It is recommended to work out at a low to moderate intensity in order to burn fat as our body stores fat as fuel compared to high-intensity workouts which rely on carbohydrates.
The American Heart Association (AHA) categorizes brisk walking at a pace of 2.5 miles/hour as a moderate-intensity aerobic activity. The targeted heart rate for exercising at this level should be 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate.
*Refer to this chart to understand the right heart rate zone for your age
When we are exercising in this zone, our breathing gets heavier, and a feeling of increased exertion when the body converts fat into fuel. For starters, it is good to start with 15 minutes of brisk walk, five days per week and build up the walking time and speed gradually.
Is brisk walking as good as running?
A US study that compared runners and walkers over a span of 6 years observed that a moderate-intensity brisk walk offers a similar risk reduction in high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and coronary heart disease.
The Health Promotion Board (HPB) launched the National Steps Challenge in 2015 to encourage Singaporeans to walk more by taking 10,000 steps daily to improve health, a guideline advocated by international health organisations like World Health Organisation, AHA, and National Heart Foundation of Australia.
5 ways to boost intensity
Adding distance & time
Walk a longer distance to keep your body working harder and keeping your pace at a brisk. By walking the additional minutes, you are encouraging your body to burn more stored fat.
Picking up the pace
Practice walking faster with good posture, arm motion, and regular strides. Even if the distance is short, aim to complete it a little faster than normal. Tip: set a walking route, and challenge yourself to complete it a bit faster every time you do it!
A 2006 study conducted by the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that walkers burned 25% more calories when their walking speed was increased from 3.6mph to 4.1mph.
Adding intervals by doing power walks
By incorporating intervals, it helps to add intensity and increase overall pace in your walks. You can rev up your speed for a set distance or time, and alternate it with a slower pace to keep your momentum. Research has shown that people with diabetes who did interval walk workout lost six times of weight, and noticed a reduced amount of belly fat, as compared to those who walked at a steady pace.
Adding hills or stairs
Make your walks more challenging by including hills or stair-climbings! If hilly outdoor route or stairs are not accessible for you, consider using a treadmill with a slight incline and work up to a steeper one, or even a stair-stepping machine will work really well for your exercise regime too. Aim walking hills, stairs or inclines 2 to 3 times weekly to achieve sustainable results.
Aiming for more steps each day
As mentioned earlier, it is ideal to take 10,000 steps per day, which works out to roughly 5 miles of walking. Fitness trackers are an excellent incentive to help people monitor their daily steps. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t clock the 10,000 steps, a reasonable step goal should still be set as a guide for your achievement.
Some movement patterns that you can consider to increase your daily steps includes:
- Climbing the stairs instead of taking the lift
- Park further away from the designated entrances
- Walk to get your lunch, work, school, or other activities when possible
- Take walking breaks at work instead of sitting
The importance and benefits of walking can sometimes be overlooked. However, anything is better than nothing. Walking might also be more of a suitable choice since it involves low to moderate intensity for those starting a fitness journey.
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