Not every type of workout that promises to be a great belly fat burner is wrong — some types of exercise have been clinically proven to be particularly effective at melting away abdominal fat. But unfortunately, rapid belly fat loss in just one week is a lie — that sort of "infomercial-ready" result doesn't exist in the real world. But you can use that week to get a jump start on the habits that will create a slimmer belly with a bit of time — and if you add a few strategic shifts in your dietary habits, you may see results surprisingly fast.
Although you can't achieve dramatic belly fat losses in just one week, you can make great progress toward healthy lifestyle changes that will help you burn away belly fat quickly.
About That Belly Fat
Your belly fat comes in two varieties: The "pinch an inch" subcutaneous fat that lies just under your skin, and "intra-abdominal" or visceral fat, which pads the space between your internal organs. Although you need some visceral fat, it's actually considered more of a health risk than subcutaneous fat. Happily, both your subcutaneous belly fat and your visceral belly fat respond to the same things that help you lose fat all over your body: increased physical activity and healthy diet choices.
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If you're wondering whether you might have enough visceral fat to be problematic, Harvard Health Publishing offers a couple of simple methods to evaluate your abdominal obesity. That might sound like a scary term, but it's really just telling you what your levels of abdominal fat have to say about your health. Even if you're not worried about your health, if you take a "baseline" measurement before you get started, you can compare it to future measurements and use those to track your progress toward your goals for rapid belly fat loss.
Measuring Your Abdominal Fat
First, measure your waist circumference with a flexible measuring tape. Do the measurement over your bare belly, shoes off and feet together. Measure right across your belly button, and use a mirror to make sure you have the measuring tape level all the way around your body.
Interpreting waist circumference: If your waist measurement is 37 inches or less for men, or 31.5 inches or less for women, you fall into the low-risk category for health problems related to abdominal fat. If your measurement is 40 inches or above for men, or 35 inches or above for women, you're in the high-risk category. Anything between the two measurements is considered intermediate risk.
You can also combine your waist measurement with a measurement of your hips to calculate your waist-to-hip ratio. Measure your hips at their widest point and, again, take the measurement over bare skin. Then divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement; the result is your waist-to-hip ratio. For example, if your waist measurement is 35 inches and your hip measurement is 40 inches, your waist-to-hip ratio is 35 ÷ 40 = 0.875.
Interpreting waist-to-hip ratio: Your risk of heart attack or stroke starts to increase if your waist-to-hip ratio is higher than 0.95 for men, or higher than 0.85 for women. So if the person in the above example is a woman, she's considered to be at increased risk; if the person in the example is a man, he's not.
The Best Belly Fat Burners
Now, put away the measuring tape — you can pick it up in seven days to see how you've done in kick-starting your fat-burning exercises in just one week — and put on your workout clothes. Although you can't spot reduce fat from your belly alone, if you create a calorie deficit — that is, burning more calories than you take in — you'll lose body fat all over, including from your belly. Increasing your physical activity is one of the best ways to make that deficit happen, and studies have shown that these exercises can be particularly effective.
Take a Walk — or Run
Going for a walk is one of the simplest, most accessible types of exercise: All you need is appropriate footwear and a little room to walk. But that simplicity belies its effectiveness for losing abdominal fat; even a few walks a week can have a notable impact. In one small 2014 study published in the Journal of Exercise Nutrition and Biochemistry, researchers followed 20 women, half of whom walked three times a week for 50 to 70 minutes per session, while the other half acted as the control group. By the end of just 12 weeks, the group who walked had seen a significant decrease in both visceral and subcutaneous abdominal fat, whereas the control group did not.
The more intense your workouts, the more calories you'll burn and the more fat will come off. And although it's physically challenging, walking's much more intense cousin, running, is also relatively easy to access: All you need is appropriate footwear, a stretch of road, trail or pathway, and clothes you don't mind sweating in. No need for a gym membership unless you want to run on a treadmill.
And the calorie burn estimates from Harvard Health Publishing are truly impressive: If you weigh 185 pounds and run at 5 mph for half an hour, you can burn about 355 calories. Up that to 6 mph and you're looking at about 444 calories which, when paired with a healthy diet, can help you lose body fat quickly.
Add Some Sprints and Weights
Whatever your choice of cardiovascular workout — it could be cycling, running, inline skating, using a stair stepper and many more — adding some high-intensity sprint intervals, alternated with slower active recovery intervals, can really help torch that belly fat. In a meta-analysis published in 2018 in the journal Sports Medicine, researchers found that high-intensity intervals were an effective, time-efficient means of reducing body fat, including abdominal and visceral fat.
Adding resistance training to your workouts can help you burn through that belly fat even faster. In a study published in a 2014 issue of Obesity, researchers followed a cohort of 10,500 healthy men and found that among weight training, a variety of aerobic activities and daily chores, weight training had the greatest impact on the subjects' waist circumference.
Your Belly Fat Burner Plan
Okay, so you have one week to work with. What does a realistic belly-fat-blasting plan look like? In a perfect world, you'd do three days of full-body weight training using compound exercises such as squats, lunges, bench presses or pushups, and lat pull-downs or pull-ups. On those days, add in about half an hour of high-intensity aerobic intervals. On alternating days between those strength-training days, do longer workouts of your favorite cardiovascular exercise, whether that's walking, running, cycling or something else. Take at least one day to rest before you start the cycle over again.
Unfortunately, in the real world, most people can't leap straight into that type of action without experiencing debilitating soreness — that's part of why it's not realistic to see dramatic results in a week. Instead, start slowly and work up to that level of activity as your goal. You might see some progress in a week, but realistically, you should give yourself about a month of consistent activity to start seeing real results.
Read more: 21 Foods That Sound Healthy, But Are Not!
And don't forget about your diet. If you're careless with what you eat, you could simply be refilling your body with all those calories you burned off. That doesn't necessarily mean you need to count calories. If you focus on making healthy eating choices, such as avoiding highly processed foods and opting for lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein instead, you'll be well on your way to a slimmer tummy.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Abdominal Obesity and Your Health"
- Obesity: "Effect of Exercise Type During Intentional Weight Loss on Body Composition in Older Adults With Obesity"
- Journal of Exercise Nutrition and Biochemistry: "Effect of Walking Exercise on Abdominal Fat, Insulin Resistance, and Serum Cytokines in Obese Women"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- Sports Medicine: "Effect of High-Intensity Interval Training on Total, Abdominal and Visceral Fat Mass: A Meta-Analysis"
- Obesity: "Weight Training, Aerobic Physical Activities, and Long-Term Waist Circumference Change in Men"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Chapter 1. Key Elements of Healthy Eating Patterns"
- ExRx.net: "Spot Reduction Myth"