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Effects of Walking Speed on Total and Regional Body Fat in Healthy Postmenopausal Women

This study had two aims with the first to confirm the efficacy of exercise speed and impulse (session duration at a given speed) to produce total and abdominal fat loss in postmenopausal women, and secondly to compare the exercise speed and impulse necessary for the stimulation of fat loss to the suppression of bone mineral loss.

Of special interest was to compare these parameters of exercise on fat loss in the same study and with the same subjects where they were found to suppress bone mineral loss.

The authors hypothesized that the more total fat will be lost with slow walking and a longer impulse than with fast speed and shorter impulse, and more abdominal subcutaneous (SC) and visceral fat (VF) will be lost with fast walking speed.

Fat loss and suppression of bone mineral loss were measured in the same 25 subjects after 15 weeks, and fat measurements were also taken after 30 weeks in 16 residual subjects. Study parameters were walking a 4.8 km distance 4 days/week at either 6.6 km/h (120% of ventilatory threshold (VT)) or at 5.5 km/h (101.6% of VT) and expending 300 kcal/session. Body composition (fat and lean body mass, LBM) was measured with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and anthropometric methods.

The results showed slow walkers in the residual group progressively lost a significant percent of total body fat over 30 weeks while no such loss occurred after 15 weeks in fast walkers in either group, supporting the first hypothesis. However, the 20% higher starting body fat in 16 residual slow relative to fast subjects suggests that exercise fat loss is greater in overweight than in lean subjects.

In fast walkers, fat loss occurred after 30 weeks of training. 

The second hypothesis was not supported as both speeds led to equal VF loss in 30-week group as estimated by waist circumference (CF) confirming that VF responds to the magnitude of energy expenditure and not the walking speed.

It seems that total body fat is lost through walking at all speeds, but the change is more rapid, clear, and initially greater with slow walking in overweight subjects. A longer exercise impulse at a lower speed in the study initially produced greater total fat loss than a shorter one with fast walking speed.

This was reversed in comparison to how the same exercise in the same subjects suppressed bone mineral loss.

Data from other studies indicate that longer impulses may promote greater fat loss at both slow and high exercise speeds, and this study providing only a 4.8 km walking distance may have limited the walking impulse and the magnitude of fat loss.

Increased exercise energy expenditure at either walking speed produces equivalent declines in visceral fat in postmenopausal women, and with sufficiently long impulses, should reduce disabilities associated with central obesity.


Jacquelyn M. La New and Katarina T. Borer*. Effects of Walking Speed on Total and Regional Body Fat in Healthy Postmenopausal Women. Nutrients. 2022 Feb; 14(3): 627. Published online 2022 Jan 31. doi: 10.3390/nu14030627
Content created September 2022

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