Belly fat exercises for women should include a cardiovascular workout to burn fat, as well as abdominal and strength exercises. Excess belly fat can cause many health issues, but the right exercise routine, along with a healthy diet, will trim and tone your midsection.
The Dangers of Belly Fat
Depending on the stage of your life you are in, it's easy for belly fat to creep in. If you've just had a baby, you may be dealing with postpartum weight gain and now you're feeling ready to start working out to get back in shape. For middle-aged women, the hormonal changes associated with perimenopause or menopause may contribute to belly fat.
Excess weight in your midsection may also result from lifestyle and genetic factors, including lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet.
Regardless of the reason, it is important to get on an exercise and diet program, as excess belly fat can cause health issues. For those who are pear-shaped, the fat accumulated in the lower body lies beneath the skin, notes Harvard Health Publishing. If you have an apple-shaped body, then you're more likely to carry visceral fat, which surrounds the internal organs.
You can pinch subcutaneous fat, whereas visceral fat lies deep in the abdominal cavity and can't be pinched. Where you gain fat depends on both genetics and hormone levels.
Most people don't like the appearance of subcutaneous fat. However, what you should worry about is visceral fat. This type of adipose tissue poses greater health risks than the fat beneath your skin, points out the Mayo Clinic.
A large waistline in women may increase the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Visceral fat is also linked to other health issues, including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, heart disease and breathing problems.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to lose weight in your midsection, starting with physical activity. Simply doing a few sit-ups isn't going to cut it, though.
Belly fat exercises for women should include cardiovascular training, full-body strength training and abdominal work, states Harvard Health Publishing. Furthermore, a healthy diet will help keep your weight in check.
Cardio Exercise: Belly Fat Burner
Whether you need to lose belly fat from menopause or a sedentary lifestyle, cardiovascular exercise can make all the difference.
A healthy rate of weight loss is 1 to 2 pounds per week, states the Cleveland Clinic. If you're trying to get leaner after having a baby, know that it can sometimes take up to a year to return to your pre-baby weight.
Exercise helps reduce belly fat by decreasing insulin levels, notes Johns Hopkins Medicine. Excess insulin signals your body to hold on to fat, especially in the abdominal region. Cardiovascular training also burns calories and fat all over your body, including your midsection.
Now that you know why you should exercise, it's time to find out how much you need to exercise. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week for adults. This breaks down into 30 minutes per day for five days a week. You can also do 75 minutes of vigorous activity or 15 minutes of exercise five days a week.
One of the easiest cardio exercises you can do is walking. Make sure it is at a brisk pace to get your heart pumping. If you're using a step counter, aim for at least 10,000 steps a day to prevent weight gain.
According to the Mayo Clinic, it's necessary to burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat. If you cut 500 calories per day and exercise, you should safely lose the recommended 1 to 2 pounds per week.
Here is an example of how many calories a 150-pound person will torch in 30 minutes, as reported by Harvard Health Publishing:
- Running (5 miles per hour): 298 calories.
- Elliptical machine: 335 calories.
- Stationary bike (vigorous): 391 calories.
- Stair-step machine: 223 calories.
- Water aerobics: 149 calories.
Find a type of exercise that you enjoy to make it part of your lifestyle. Consistency is the key. If you eat clean and stick to your workouts, losing belly fat is just a matter of time.
Crunch Belly Fat Away?
Let's face it, we all want the secret to six-pack abs. According to the American Council on Exercise, having a defined midsection is a combination of toned muscles and low body fat. Following a regular exercise routine along with a healthy diet is essential.
The following exercises will strengthen your abdominal muscles, including the rectus abdominis. This muscle allows you to bend in different directions. It is also responsible for giving you that ripped, six-pack look.
These three exercises will crunch belly fat away — however, you may be surprised to find out that there are no sit-ups or crunches included.
Move 1: The Tension Plank
This exercise goes beyond the basic plank as it requires you to tense different parts of your body to challenge and strengthen your core.
- Start in a plank position, with your shoulders over your hands and your feet straight behind you.
- Start holding tension in different parts of your body simultaneously.
- Without actually moving, imagine you are trying to pull your hands toward your toes and then hold the tension.
- Tense your calf and hamstring muscles, followed by your quad muscles.
- Perform a Kegel squeeze as if you are holding your bladder.
- Tense your abdominal muscles, as you would if someone were about to poke you in the stomach.
- Push your palms on the floor to separate the shoulder blades and squeeze your triceps.
- Create a double chin by retracting your neck.
- Hold in this tensed state for 15 to 20 seconds.
Move 2: The Bear Crawl
- Get down on all fours, with your shoulders over your hands.
- Place a cone or another small object (like a hairbrush or toilet paper roll) on the lumbar area.
- Move your right arm and left knee forward at the same time.
- Don't allow your hips to shift. Try to keep the object balanced on your back.
- Continue crawling forward, keeping your knees about 2 inches off the floor at all times.
- Repeat for 20 to 30 seconds.
Move 3: Stability Ball Rollout
The following abdominal exercise uses a stability ball to target the rectus abdominis muscle.
- Kneel on the floor with your stability ball in front of you.
- Place your fists on the upper side of the ball and straighten your hips.
- As you lean forward, roll your arms out and over the ball.
- Roll as far forward as you can, while keeping your back straight and core tight.
- If you feel your hips drop, don't roll out that far. Work your way toward rolling out further as your core strength improves.
- Return to neutral position by using your core to pull yourself back, as your arms roll back over the top of the ball.
- Repeat 2 sets of 15.
Belly Fat Exercises for Women
Along with cardiovascular exercise and core work, belly fat exercises for women should also include a total body-strengthening routine.
Lean muscle mass diminishes as you age, says the Mayo Clinic. Lean muscle mass allows you to burn calories more efficiently, which helps maintain a healthy weight. A strength-training routine will increase lean muscle mass and help you burn fat all over, including in the abdominal area.
The HHS recommends performing strength exercises that involve all of the major muscle groups at least twice a week.
If you have just had a baby, talk to your doctor to make sure you are clear to lift weights. You may have to wait six to eight weeks after a C-section to lift anything heavier than a baby (6 to 10 pounds), notes the Cleveland Clinic.
This total body-strengthening workout from the American Council on Exercise targets your lower body, upper body and core. You can do it at home as it only requires a set of dumbbells. Choose a load that feels challenging after 10 to 15 repetitions. Move up in weight as you get stronger.
Move 1: Lateral Lunge With Shoulder Raise
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand.
- Lunge out to the right side, keeping your left leg straight and bending your right leg.
- Push off your right heel and return to standing.
- Once standing, raise the dumbbells out to each side to shoulder height, palms facing the floor. Lower back down.
- Repeat the lunge on the left leg and return to the center.
- Raise your arms straight out in front of you instead of to the side.
- Repeat the sequence 10 to 12 times per leg.
Move 2: Forward Lunge With Biceps Curl
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand.
- Lunge forward with your right leg, stepping far enough so that your right shin is vertical.
- Keep the dumbbells down at your sides.
- Push off your right heel and return to standing.
- As you return to standing, perform a biceps curl with both arms.
- Repeat with your left leg, lunging forward and lowering your arms down.
- As you push back to standing, bring your arms up in a biceps curl.
- Repeat 10 to 12 times per leg.
Move 3: Reverse Lunge With Shoulder Press
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with your arms bent at the elbows and your palms forward.
- Lunge back with your right leg, bending your left knee for a reverse lunge.
- Push off your back leg to return to a standing position.
- As you stand up straight, straighten your arms up overhead into a shoulder press.
- Repeat this sequence on each leg, alternating legs, 10 to 12 times on each side.
Move 4: Squat to Upright Row
- Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your body.
- Squat down as you push your hips back like you are sitting in a chair.
- Lower the dumbbells between your knees as you squat down.
- As you stand back up straight, lift your elbows up and out in an upright row.
- Keep your elbows higher than your hands.
- Lower the dumbbells back down as you go into your next squat.
- Repeat 10 to 12 times.
You may also incorporate a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout into your routine. This workout method is a combination of cardiovascular and strength training, making it ideal for burning stomach fat.
Aim to do cardiovascular exercises for 30 minutes, five times a week. Perform strength exercises on the same day when you do cardio or on different days.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It"
- Mayo Clinic: "Women’s Wellness: Stop the Middle-Aged Menopause Spread"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Exercise After Delivery"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "8 Ways to Lose Belly Fat and Live a Healthier Life"
- Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- American Council on Exercise: "3 Ab Exercises You Are Not Doing (But Should)"
- American Council on Exercise: "Total-Body Dumbbell Workout"
- ExRx.net: "Stability Ball Rollout"