Doing 100 sit-ups every day isn't exactly our idea of a good time. And it isn't exactly the key to weight loss, either.
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Although ab exercises, like sit-ups, will help increase your overall calorie burn, doing sit-ups alone won't lead to significant weight loss. You'll need to pair some diet tweaks with a regular exercise routine to shed pounds and keep them off.
Instead of Sit-Ups, Try Cutting Calories
Banging out 100 sit-ups every day for a week isn't a proven way to shed belly fat. If weight loss (especially around the middle) is your goal, you'll first want to look at your daily diet. To see the scale move in the right direction, you need to burn more calories than you take in, creating what's known as a calorie deficit.
Start by determining how many calories you eat each day to stay at your current weight — aka your maintenance calories. To find this value, use a food diary or app to track what you eat over a few days. Given you don't gain or lose any weight, this value will be your maintenance calories.
From there, gradually cut calories to create a deficit. It's generally safe to cut around 500 calories a day from your diet, according to the Mayo Clinic. One of the easiest ways to do this is by eliminating high-calorie processed foods.
Fill your plate with plenty of vegetables and fruits of all different colors. Plants are low in calories but high in vitamins and nutrients, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Leafy greens, like spinach and kale, are especially high in fiber, a nutrient that digests slowly so keeps you feeling full for longer.
Get your carbs from whole grains — like brown rice, oats or quinoa — rather than refined sources like bread or pasta. Choose lean sources of protein like poultry and fish; because they're low in fat, they're lower in calories, too.
How to Exercise for Weight Loss (With or Without Sit-Ups)
Sit-ups can be a part of your workout routine, but they shouldn't be your only exercise for weight loss. Schedule at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio, like walking or hiking, each week to not only shed fat but strengthen your heart, too, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If you like more intense cardio, consider high-intensity interval training or HIIT. By alternating between harder intervals and periods of recovery, you spike your heart rate and torch calories. Plus, you can incorporate those sit-ups into a HIIT workout.
You'll also want to aim for at least two strength-training sessions each week to increase lean muscle mass, which improves your metabolism and helps your body burn more calories, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
When you hit the gym to strength train, prioritize compound movements, recommends the American Council on Exercise. These exercises — like deadlifts, squats and chest presses — activate several muscles at once, building your cardio, muscle and flexibility.
Hundreds of sit-ups each week will definitely burn calories, but doing a single exercise too regularly can lead to overuse and injury (not to mention, it's bound to get boring). Instead, stay consistent with your healthy diet and broader exercise routine and you'll begin to see the pounds drop.
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Back to Basics for Healthy Weight Loss"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?"
- American Council on Exercise: "5 Benefits of Compound Exercises"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Add Strength Training to Your Fitness Plan"