RubmdFitnessGet Fit Quick Walking or Running for Burning Belly Fat?

Get Fit Quick Walking or Running for Burning Belly Fat?

Belly fat, also known as visceral fat, is stored deep inside the abdominal cavity and wraps around vital organs like the liver, pancreas and intestines. This type of fat not only causes belly bulge but also increases the risk of many diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Losing belly fat should be a goal if your waist circumference is over 40 inches as a man or 35 inches as a woman. Fortunately, there are some effective ways to burn belly fat and promote fat loss from the entire body. Getting active with cardiovascular exercise, like walking and running, is one of the most efficient methods.

Walking and running are two accessible, low-cost forms of activity with proven fat burning effects. This article reviews how these exercises can specifically target belly fat and details the pros, cons and required duration for each when it comes to sustainable weight loss.

How Do Walking and Running Burn Belly Fat?

Walking and running are both aerobic exercises, meaning they raise your heart rate and increase calorie burn during the activity.

They help burn overall body fat as well as visceral belly fat through multiple mechanisms:

  • Calorie burn: Walking and running burn calories, forcing your body to tap into fat stores for energy. More intense running burns more calories per minute.
  • Fat cell release: Aerobic activity stimulates fat cells to release stored fatty acids to be burned as fuel. Belly fat cells are included.
  • Higher metabolism: Walking and running both raise your metabolic rate during and after exercise, enhancing fat burning. The longer and more intense the workout, the bigger the metabolic boost.
  • Visceral fat loss: Several studies confirm aerobic exercise preferentially reduces dangerous belly fat located in the abdominal cavity around organs.
  • Reduced appetite: Active people tend to eat less because exercise is proven to reduce appetite hormones like ghrelin while raising satiety hormones like peptide YY and GLP-1. This assists fat loss.
  • Improved insulin sensitivity: Walking and running can lower insulin resistance. This helps the body burn fat stores more efficiently.

Both walking and running are excellent for burning visceral belly fat due to these effects. But which one should you choose? The following sections compare walking versus running for belly fat loss.

Walking to Burn Belly Fat

Walking is an accessible and sustainable aerobic exercise almost anyone can adopt. It provides numerous health and fat burning benefits with minimal injury risk.

Here’s how walking helps eliminate belly fat:

  • Burns visceral belly fat: Several studies confirm walking preferentially reduces dangerous visceral fat located deep inside the abdominal cavity. Adding hills further intensifies the belly fat loss effects.
  • Burns calories: A 155 pound person burns around 167 calories walking at a moderate pace (3.5 mph) for 30 minutes. Heavier people burn more calories per step.
  • Enhances fat burning enzymes: Research shows just 15-20 minutes of walking raises levels of lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme that breaks down fat in the blood.
  • Lowers body fat: Regular walking reduces overall body fat percent according to multiple studies. Belly fat is reduced as part of this process.
  • Suppresses appetite: Walking for an hour can slash levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin while enhancing satiety peptides GLP-1 and peptide YY, promoting weight loss.

For maximum belly fat burning effects, it’s ideal to walk at a brisk 3-4 mph pace with hills, intervals or resistance bands to spike your heart rate. Shoot for 30-60 minutes daily if aiming for major fat loss. Consistency is key.

Running to Burn Belly Fat

Running, like walking, is an accessible way to torch body fat from all areas including dangerous visceral belly fat. It requires no equipment while providing extreme calorie burn and body-wide fat loss if done consistently.

Here’s why running is so effective for targeting belly fat:

  • High calorie burn: Running burns 50-75% more calories per minute than walking at moderate intensities. A 155 lb person running at 6 mph burns around 606 calories in one hour.
  • Burns visceral fat: Studies confirm running reduces dangerous fat encasing abdominal organs. Greater visceral fat loss is tied to longer, faster runs.
  • Enhances fat burning enzymes: Similar to walking, runs as short as 15-20 minutes massively boost lipoprotein lipase activity to break down fat.
  • Lowers body fat percent: Multiple studies find regular running markedly reduces overall body fat percentage in as little as 4 weeks. Belly fat is decreased also.
  • Suppresses appetite strongly: Running elevates satiety hormones GLP-1, PYY and releases endorphin hormones that dull hunger for hours after exercise. This assists fat loss.

For best belly fat loss results, run at faster paces for longer durations and include some hills or intervals to spike intensity. Shoot for 30-60 minutes 3-5 days weekly. Watching your runs combined with a healthy diet will lower visceral fat.

Walking vs Running: Which Burns More Belly Fat?

To determine whether walking or running burns more belly fat, it helps to compare them by:

  1. Calories burned
  2. Visceral fat loss ability
  3. Appetite suppression effects

Let’s analyze the evidence for each factor.

Calories Burned Running burns more calories than walking per unit of time at any matched pace or intensity:

  • A 155 lb person walking for 30 minutes at 3.5mph burns around 167 calories. The same person running for 30 minutes at 6mph burns around 303 calories.
  • This indicates running burns around 81% more calories than walking per minute when matched for intensity (vigorous pace).

Over long durations, this superior calorie burn leads to greater fat loss:

  • Someone running 5 days a week for 6 months torches around 28,000 more calories than if they were walking for the same duration according to calculations.
  • A 3,500 calorie deficit burns 1 pound of fat so running burns much more fat overall when matched for duration.

Winner: Running. With vastly superior calorie expenditure, running is the clear winner if burning the highest quantity of calories and body fat is the goal.

Visceral Fat Loss Ability

Both running and walking have been shown in multiple RCTs to reduce dangerous belly visceral fat located deep in the abdomen:

Walking Research

  • Obese adults lost 2.4% visceral fat walking 45 minutes 5x weekly for 5 months with no diet changes in a 2015 RCT.

Running Research

  • Overweight adults lost over 7% visceral fat running 5 days a week for just 6 weeks despite no diet changes in a 2012 study.

While both help cut visceral fat, running promoted over 3x greater visceral fat loss in the shorter 6 week intervention compared to walking.

Longer running distances also drive greater visceral fat loss according to a 2011 study where those running 8 miles weekly lost 50% more visceral fat than those running 3 miles weekly over 6 months despite matched training frequency and intensity.

Winner: Running. Multiple studies indicate running yields visibly greater decreases in dangerous visceral belly fat compared to walking when matched for frequency and duration.

Appetite Suppression Effects

Both walking and running suppress appetite and hunger hormones promoting fat loss. But does one suppress appetite more effectively?

Walking Research

  • 60 minutes of walking lowered ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and raised peptide YY and GLP-1 (satiety peptides) for 1-2 hours post-exercise in overweight adults according to 2017 research.

Running Research

  • Just 30 minutes of running powerfully suppressed acylated ghrelin for 4+ hours post-exercise while raising PYY and GLP-1 for 30-60 minutes in trained runners in 2022 research.

This data indicates running suppresses appetite signaling for 2-3x longer than walking despite half the workout duration.

Winner: Running. With appetite blunting effects lasting up to 4 hours after a 30 minute run, running is the superior exercise for appetite suppression and weight control according to research.

In summary, running appears superior to walking for enhancing all three major factors that promote belly fat loss:

  1. Calorie burn (running burns way more per minute)
  2. Visceral fat loss (running incinerates more visceral fat directly)
  3. Appetite suppression (running suppresses appetite for longer)

This indicates running is the more time efficient exercise if maximizing belly fat and visceral fat loss are the goals. But walking has some key advantages discussed next.

Benefits of Walking Over Running for Fat Loss

Though running likely stimulates greater belly fat loss than walking matched for duration, walking has some key benefits:

Less Overuse Injuries

While offering less fat burning per minute, walking is far less likely to cause the overuse injuries common to running like stress fractures, tendonitis or runner’s knee. Walking is low impact and safer for those carrying excess body weight.

Easier to Sustain Long-Term

Running is certainly time efficient for fat loss but it’s also far more physically demanding than walking. Survey data shows over 50% of runners get injured yearly while up to 90% of new runners get injured in the first 4 months due to factors like poor mechanics, overstriding and rapid mileage buildup.

This makes running more difficult to sustain year-round, especially for beginners. Race data shows over 40% of those who start a marathon training program get injured before race day.

Walking is lower impact, less skill oriented and easier to sustain as a daily habit according to exercise research. This likely makes it the better long term fat burning exercise for many looking to stay active for life.

Enhanced Mental Health Benefits

While running may stimulate greater physiological fat loss, research gives walking the edge for enhancing markers of mental health like mood, relaxation and sleep quality in multiple studies. The slower pace and lower exertion of walking may promote greater psychological stress relief compared to more intense running.

For those where emotional health, not fat loss, is the chief goal, walking appears the superior choice according to scientific data.

In summary, while running likely stimulates greater belly fat and visceral fat loss matched for duration, walking has some tangible benefits:

  1. Lower injury risk
  2. Easier long term adherence
  3. Enhanced mental health perks

These factors make walking the preferred exercise approach for some populations like absolute beginners, the severely overweight and those primarily using activity to ease anxiety and depression rather than lose weight.

Optimizing Walking and Running to Burn More Belly Fat

While running likely burns modestly more belly fat than walking when matched for duration and intensity, both elicit meaningful fat loss over months of sustained training.

Here are some key tips to optimize walking or running routines for greater belly and visceral fat loss:

Optimize Walking for Fat Loss

  • Speed up pace to 3.5+mph
  • Include hills or simulated incline
  • Add intervals (higher intensity bursts)
  • Consider adding a weighted vest
  • Work towards 60 minute session lengths
  • Maintain heart rate 65-80% max the majority of the session
  • Add 2-3 sessions weekly of strength training
  • Follow a whole food, Mediterranean style diet

Optimize Running for Fat Loss

  • Increase weekly running mileage
  • Run at faster paces (8min miles or quicker)
  • Include sprint intervals 1x weekly
  • Include hilly routes
  • Maintain heart rate 70-85% max the majority of runs
  • Run for longer single session durations
  • Gradually progress long runs up to 90+ minutes
  • Add 2-3 days a week of strength training
  • Follow a whole food Mediterranean style diet

Following an exercise routine with your doctor’s approval focused on long duration aerobic activity tailored to your current fitness level, combined with a nutritious, high protein diet focused on vegetables and lean meats is likely the fastest way to maximize belly fat loss results from either walking or running. But the most important factor is consistency over many months.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is it better to walk or run to lose belly fat faster?

Run if your goal is pure fat loss speed. Running burns more calories and stimulates greater visceral fat loss than walking matched for duration according to multiple studies. But walking has a lower injury risk and might be easier to stick to long term.

How quickly can you lose belly fat walking?

While weight loss varies based on factors like genetics, diet and starting weight, research shows walking programs with durations from 60-90 minutes daily at a brisk pace result in belly fat loss of 2-3% over 12-26 week periods on average when combined with a moderate calorie deficit from diet.

Should you run every day to lose belly fat?

Running every day, especially as a beginner, dramatically raises injury risk according to multiple studies. It’s best to run no more than 4-5 days weekly for fat loss, taking at least 1-2 rest days to allow muscle recovery and prevent overuse injuries. Gradual mileage progression is also key.

Should you run or walk if you are beginner?

Walking is best for total beginners starting an exercise regimen, especially those over 40 years old or carrying excess body weight greater than 30% body fat according to NSCA exercise guidelines. Walking has a far lower injury risk and it’s vitally important to build an aerobic base for 3-6+ months before progressing to running intervals or mileage.


Running likely stimulates slightly greater belly and visceral abdominal fat loss compared to walking when matched for frequency and duration. However, walking has fewer injury risks and might be easier to sustain lifelong. So walking remains an exceptional exercise option, especially for total beginners to exercise looking to cut belly fat and get into better shape. Aim for workouts of 30-60+ minutes daily to maximize fat burning from either running or walking. And be sure to progress mileage or intensity gradually over many weeks to prevent overuse injuries.

Combining aerobic walking or running 4-5 days weekly with a nutritious Mediterranean style diet focused on vegetables, fiber and lean protein gives you an excellent chance to target and torch belly fat over time for better health. Just remember consistency over many months, not exercise intensity, is always the most important factor when trying to burn abdominal fat through walking or running programs according to the best scientific research.

Dr. Preeti (Fitness Geek)
Dr. Preeti (Fitness Geek)
M.Sc. - Home Science (Food & Nutrition), Therapist, Dietitian and Weight Management consultant, actively practicing for 17 years.

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