Reducing belly fat is a fitness goal for many people. A stronger, flatter belly leads to improved posture and reduced risk of some diseases. The most effective way to fight belly fat is by engaging in cardiovascular activity and resistance exercises. Together these types of exercise will burn calories and strengthen muscles, which will result in a toned belly, stronger core and improved health.
Cardiovascular exercise is necessary to burn calories and reduce fat around the belly area. Activities that use large muscle groups of the legs will produce the most calorie burn. Choose exercises, such as jogging, circuit training, elliptical training and indoor group cycling classes. These activities are also higher intensity, which means that you can burn more calories during your exercise session. If lower intensity activities are more ideal for your fitness level, adding hills to walking routines or incorporating fast and slow intervals are two ways to boost calorie burn and reduce belly fat. In addition to cardiovascular exercise, resistance training, which focuses on the abdominal muscles, is ideal for strengthening the stomach. The American Council on Exercise provides a list of the most effective abdominal exercises. Some of them include the bicycle maneuver, knee raises in a Captain’s chair, crunches on an exercise ball and reverse crunches. Try those along with the Plank, mountain climbers and leg raises.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that 200 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity is necessary for long-term weight loss in overweight and obese individuals. This total translates to about 30 to 43 minutes of activity each day, or you may choose to do longer workouts one day to incorporate a rest day throughout the week. Your goal should be to perform sessions of jogging, indoor cycling, walking or elliptical training each day which will total 200 to 300 minutes by week’s end. According to ACE, select some of the most effective abdominal exercises which feel comfortable and achievable for you and complete a five-minute abdominal workout with these exercises each day. With regular exercise, results, such as belly fat loss and toning of the abdominal area, will be seen within four to six weeks, often sooner.
According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, excess abdominal fat increases risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers making exercise which specifically burns belly fat important for overall health and wellness. In addition to burning belly fat and reducing the risk of chronic disease, this type of exercise will also tone the muscles of the whole body and when weight-bearing in nature such as jogging will improve bone health. Exercise enhances mental health as well, improving mood and self-esteem. Regularly engaging in exercise also leads to more restful sleep and increased energy levels.
When burning belly fat is the main focus of exercise, other muscle groups should not be ignored completely. For example, the lower back muscles work hand-in-hand with abdominal muscles to keep a strong, flexible core. When belly muscles are strengthened without also training the back, lower back pain can result. Be sure to also include exercises, such as back extensions, and alternating arm and leg lifts when training your abdominal muscles.
In addition to cardiovascular exercise that burns belly fat and resistance training exercise focused on the abdominals, consider incorporating other activities that tone the stomach. These types of exercise can be incorporated one or two days a week or they may become the focus of your fitness routine if you enjoy them. Those activities that fall into the category of mind/body, such as yoga and Pilates, strengthen core muscles through exercises and holding challenging poses. In addition, activities, such as martial arts and dance, tone the abdominals while burning calories to reduce belly fat.
- American Council on Exercise: New Study Puts the Crunch on Ineffective Ab Exercises
- American College of Sports Medicine: Appropriate Physical Activity Intervention Strategies for Weight Loss and Prevention of Weight Regain for Adults
- Harvard Health Publications: Abdominal Fat and What to do About It