Carrying extra weight around your belly is not only a concern cosmetically, it also increases the risk of many chronic diseases. This includes heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. Excess weight that is carried in the midsection can place a strain on your back muscles and contribute to chronic back pain. There are diet and exercise tips that can help in the battle to lose belly fat. However, the first step is to consult with a physician before starting any new exercise or diet plan.
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Exercise the Entire Body
Many programs, products and gadgets claim to target belly fat by doing a specific exercise for 10 to 15 minutes a day. However, spot reduction does not work, states the American Council on Exercise. Exercise, no matter what type it is, will lead to burning fat all over your body, not just one target area. For example, performing sit-ups may help to burn off some belly fat, but fat will also be lost in other areas of your body as well. In addition, areas that tend to gain weight first tend to be the last areas to become lean and for most, the abdominal area is the toughest spot. Instead of spending time on just one specific exercise, go for a well-rounded program that will tone and strengthen your whole body, because in the long run, it will be more effective. However, exercises for your midsection should be part of that plan, because they strengthen the abdominal muscles, which can take pressure off the back and help to improve your posture.
Do Aerobic-Type Exercises
With age, hormonal changes and a more sedentary lifestyle, fat can begin to accumulate around the midsection. For some, the tendency to carry extra weight in the belly is inherited and can occur without actual changes in weight. The danger is that fat in the midsection, unlike fat in other areas, may be producing hormones that increase your risk of many chronic diseases. MayoClinic.com suggests that the best way to control belly fat is to perform moderate-level aerobic activities. Walking, biking, dancing and swimming will all help you burn calories, which in turn will shrink the midsection. Extra weight carried anywhere in the body is the result of eating more calories than the body burns off. Just doing sit-ups without changing your caloric expenditure will not make your belly smaller. A well-designed exercise program will burn calories, reduce belly fat and reduce the risk factors for disease.
Eat Filling Foods
Starvation diets, quick fixes or programs that eliminate food groups such as carbohydrates are not the most successful when it comes to losing belly fat. Eating too much of any food will lead to weight gain, and restrictive diets can lead to feelings of deprivation. The bottom line is to balance your calorie intake with calorie output, by controlling portion sizes and eating a wide variety of foods. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fiber. These foods are healthy and will create feelings of fullness so that hunger does not lead to binge eating. Eating healthy foods means that more food can be eaten, because these foods contain less calories. Low-fat dairy products can also help your body feel full. You can occasionally have a treat or snack, just make adjustments to control calorie intake at other times, to balance out the indulgence.
Add in Strength Training
Belly fat raises the risk of disease when non-pregnant women have a waist circumference of 35 inches or greater and men have a waist circumference of 40 inches or greater. However, according to Harvard Medical School, a total body strength-training program not only helps to trim the waist, but it also plays a role in helping to avoid weight regain. Muscles need more calories than fat does, so as muscles get stronger, metabolism naturally increases. This, in turn, burns more calories, which can shrink the belly. The goal is to work all the large major muscles in the body and to avoid just targeting the abs.