Walk in the Fat-Burning Zone to Blast Belly Fat

Marc Lindsay
by Marc Lindsay
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Walk in the Fat-Burning Zone to Blast Belly Fat

Walking is low-impact cardio that can aid in weight loss and improve body composition. Specifically, walking in the fat-burning zone can help target visceral fat (referred to as the most dangerous kind), which typically accumulates around the waistline. Here, three steps to help you shed belly weight.

1

 CHECK YOUR HEART RATE

The first step to begin losing weight from your midline is to elevate your heart rate during your walking workout to a level that begins using fat as its primary energy source. To reach this specific intensity, your heart rate needs to be between 60–70% of your maximum heart rate.

A basic calculation you can use to find your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age. Once you have this number, you can use a fitness app to determine your five heart rate zones. The zone for fat burning is Zone 2. Using a fitness tracker app along with a heart rate monitor is the easiest way to make sure you stay in the correct zone while you workout.

Keep in mind that as your heart rate rises, you will burn more calories. However, burning more calories and raising your heart into Zone 3, 4 or 5 won’t necessarily burn more fat. In these zones, you use more of your storage of sugars and carbohydrates as energy. By staying in this more moderate range, about 85% of the calories you burn comes from your fat stores, with the other 15% coming from carbohydrates and protein.

If you’re having a hard time maintaining a walking speed that allows you to stay in Zone 2, try power walking, hand weights, Nordic walking poles or walking on an inclined treadmill or trail to raise the intensity.

2

INCREASE THE DURATION

Shorter workouts of 30 minutes or less will use mostly sugar and carbohydrates for energy. But because these energy stores are relatively small, as your workout progresses you will begin to use fat for energy instead.

The key is to aim for longer duration workouts, ideally 45 minutes or longer. It’s OK to start small if you’re just beginning and each week, try to add 5–10 minutes to your walking workouts until you’ve reached a duration that begins to use fat as your primary fuel source. Since it takes more time, use the weekend or other days when more free time is available to increase your duration to around 90 minutes.

3

CHANGE YOUR WORKOUTS

Since this type of workout is at a low-to-moderate intensity, you won’t risk injury by completing these workouts on consecutive days like you would with a higher intensity workout.

However, doing the same type of workout day after day can result in mental fatigue, burnout and a plateau in your overall fitness level. For this reason, if losing weight is your primary goal, it is recommended that you complete long-distance workouts in Zone 2 for 3–4 of your weekly workouts.

You can occasionally alternate your fat-burning workouts with higher intensity efforts that are shorter in duration. These efforts in Zone 3, 4 and 5 help you improve your walking speed, build muscle and still burn a good amount of calories in a shorter period of time. Higher intensity workouts may also be ideal on those days when you don’t have as much time to exercise.

TOOLS TO HELP YOU SUCCEED

For walking, you just need a good pair of shoes and the time to make it happen. That being said, there are a few other things that can make your workout easier and more efficient.

Here are a few items to help you achieve your weight-loss goals:

  1. heart rate monitor: This makes staying in the desired heart rate zone much easier to manage.
  2. Nordic walking poles: These help you improve walking form and posture.
  3. Pedometer: Counting your steps can be a good way to keep track of daily goals and challenge yourself during workouts.
  4. Hand weights: They can help tone the upper body and raise your heart rate without having to walk at a faster speed.
  5. Fitness apps: An activity tracker helps you keep track of things like mileage, time, cadence and heart rate.

About the Author

Marc Lindsay
Marc Lindsay

Marc is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and is a certified physical therapy assistant. An avid cyclist and runner of over 20 years, Marc contributes to LAVA, Competitor and Phoenix Outdoor magazines. He is the former cycling editor for Active.com.

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6 responses to “Walk in the Fat-Burning Zone to Blast Belly Fat”

  1. Avatar Evan says:

    Can we not keep the foolish idea that the “fat burning zone” is effective going? While walking is a great tool to burn calories without fatigue you saying that higher intensity activity won’t burn as much fat because it predominately utilizes a different energy system is absurd. Although with walking you’ll directly be targeting fat you’ll also be burning calories at a much slower rate than any higher intensity activity. You can’t tell me, assuming daily caloric intake remains the same, that 400 calories burned from walking will rid your body of more fat than 400 calories burned from any other higher intensity activity. If you burn up muscle glycogen or blood glucose your body will rely on it’s fat stores through gluconeogenesis to restore what was lost.

    • Avatar Lois Martin says:

      I agree with you. This article also feeds the myth that you can “spot reduce” which we all know is not true.

      • Avatar Jason Langdon says:

        My thoughts exactly. This article feeds the myth of spot reduction.

        • Avatar Nick Fergadis Giannakopoulos says:

          I agree for the most part, but spot reduction is not that simple.
          While it’s true you can’t target/spot reduce subcutaneous fat, it’s a different story for visceral fat (which sits in/around organs). This type of fat does ‘respond’ well both to diet and aerobic exercise, so it is possible to ‘spot reduce’ at least part of your stomach/belly with just about any combination of calorie restriction and/or cardio. Again, when it comes to subcutaneous fat, I agree that spot reducing does not apply.

    • Avatar Anonymous Is A Woman says:

      It’s actually not bad advice if you follow all the suggestions, especially the one about variety. Low impact, lower intensity, longer walks are a great tool on a weekend. It is good to sometimes get out and walk at a more sustainable pace for an hour. Especially on a beautiful fall day or a crisp, sunny winter day. It clears your head, gives you mild exercise, increases endurance – because the only way to increase the amount of time you can workout is to work out longer – and yes it burns more fat (but not more calories). But this type of exercise should certainly not be your base exercise or your mainstay, unless you are seriously overweight, out of shape and just starting out. Then, it’s the safest way to begin a program. For everybody else, this is active resting after more intense workouts.

      But for most people it’s not adequate as their main exercise. A shorter (30 minute) brisk walk in the cardio zone five times a week is much better. Indeed, that’s what’s necessary as a minimum to maintain fitness. Shorter, more intense HIIT workouts are even better a few times a week. And strength training a couple of times a week.

      In addition, everybody’s objection that it’s more important to work out harder to burn more calories is correct. To lose weight, or maintain weight loss, you need to either be in a calorie deficit (for weight loss) or calorie balance to keep it off. If you eat more than you burn, you gain weight, including more fat. If you want body re-composition (i.e., less body fat), you need resistance training to build muscle and cardio to burn calories.

      For a well-rounded program, you need variety. So, mix it up. Faster, shorter some days, strength training some days, and slower, longer walks a day or two.

  2. Avatar Jagan Kumaravelu says:

    I have found out that the fat burning zone is NOT a myth. It works well for certain people. For e.g. working out at higher intensities and for longer periods, makes me very hungry and considering my below average self control over food, I find that I overcompensate on food to dampen my hunger. An hour of activity a day at fat burning zone and Intermittent Fasting along with calorie control should really work for a lot of people who are aiming for weight loss. Those aiming to avoid a skinny look, can incorporate strength/resistance training for 2-3 days a week with rest in between

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