The Impact of Walking on Body Composition

By Erin Palinski-Wade

Not only can walking help you to shed pounds, but it can also make sure you lose the right type of weight. Changing your diet to lose weight without adding any exercise can result in losing muscle mass as well as fat. Muscle is what makes up the majority of your metabolism.

So if you lose muscle, you burn fewer calories throughout the day. You may reach your goal weight but actually burn less calories than you did before you started losing weight.

To see what this could mean for you, take a look at research conducted on seniors following a weight‐loss program. One group of seniors exercised while dieting, and another group followed only a diet program. Although both groups lost similar amounts of weight, the group that did not exercise lost three times more muscle mass.

In addition, the exercising group was found to increase their fat‐burning ability by twice as much as the non‐exercisers. A loss in muscle like the one found in this study can make keeping weight off very difficult. This is one of the main reasons why adding exercise, such as walking, is so critical not just to losing weight, but also to maintaining that weight loss.

One of the most dangerous types of fat in your body is visceral fat, otherwise known as belly fat. Having a wide waistline is the main criteria used to determine whether you have too much of this deadly fat. Having excess belly fat is not just damaging to your silhouette in clothing, but it can also increase your risk for a number of diseases. For instance, having excess belly fat has been associated with an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and even certain cancers!

Diet can certainly help you to shed this unwanted fat, but exercise, such as walking, helps you to lose this weight more quickly and keep it off.

To see the dramatic impact walking can have on belly fat, take a look at one study conducted at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. This study looked at two groups of women: one group who dieted for weight loss without walking and one group that walked one to two miles just three times per week. Even though both groups were able to lose weight, the group that walked a few times per week shrank their belly fat cells by 18 percent over a four‐month period.

And what happened to the nonwalking group? Their belly fat cells remained unchanged! So even though weight came off, the most dangerous source of body fat remained unchanged without walking.

Even if you make no change to your diet at all, walking can help improve your body composition for the better. By walking briskly for one hour per day without changing eating habits, research found a 20 percent reduction in belly fat over a three‐month period. So regardless of whether or not you’re changing your diet to lose weight, adding walking to your regular routine helps you to gain muscle, shed belly fat, and lose those stubborn inches and pounds for good.