If you look more like Santa Claus in the belly area than you’d care to admit, you’re definitely not alone. Excess weight often seems to settle in the midsection, especially as you age, but the good news is that effective ways exist to get rid of it. For the best results, focus on exercises that emphasize calorie burning rather than muscle isolation.
For the pure value of calorie burn, few exercises can beat running. An hour of running at 8 mph burns close to 1,000 calories for a 160 lb. person and nearly 1,500 for a 240 lb. person. Running is a high-impact, vigorous exercise, however, and not everyone can keep it up for extended periods of time. To ease into it, practice with jogging or alternate intervals of walking with short bursts of running.
Even though it doesn’t directly target the belly area, kickboxing is a great workout for the midsection because almost every move forces core muscles to work to ensure balance, stability and power. It’s also a significant calorie burner, torching more than 700 calories per hour for a 160 lb. person.
Sometimes known as jump training, plyometrics is an intense type of exercise that involves “loading” a muscle, then releasing the tension in an explosion of force. According to Washington State University’s recreation department, plyometrics “allows a muscle to reach maximal force in the shortest possible time,” making it an excellent combination of strength training and cardio. The best plyo movements for the midsection are those that join ab work with aerobics, such as mountain climbing, plank jumping jacks and plank moguls.
You can certainly do crunches, situps and other core exercises to strengthen and build the muscles in your midsection. However, the American Council on Exercise points out that such moves won’t work to “spot reduce” fat on the belly because they simply don’t burn enough calories. Once you do lose the bulge, however, it can be helpful to sculpt and define your midsection with exercises such as the quadruped, plank and abdominal bridge, which CNN.com and MayoClinic.com recommend due to their ability to work many core muscles at once.
No exercise routine brings a guarantee of weight loss, as genetic factors, metabolic rate and body size all contribute to determining how many calories you burn in a workout. To slim down in the stomach, it’s best to cut calories in your daily diet and exercise five or six times per week for at least 45 minutes at a time. If you still don’t notice positive results within four to six weeks of starting a new fitness plan, speak with your doctor.