They say that age brings wisdom — unfortunately, it also brings more stomach fat. This "middle-age spread" is the common shift in the proportion of fat to bodyweight that most adults go through, especially women, according to Harvard Health Publishing. But that doesn't mean you're doomed. With the right workout routine for 55-year-old men and women, you can combat the changes that lead to increased stomach fat.
The best workouts for 55-year-old women and men include a mix of aerobic exercise and strength training.
Losing Fat at 55
Trimming your tummy at 55 isn't drastically different than it was at 35. At its foundation, belly fat gain and loss is a matter of calories in vs. calories out. When you consume more calories than you need, you gain weight. Consume fewer calories than you need — and you'll lose weight.
OK, it's true — it's not that simple. Age does play a role because metabolism naturally slows as you get older. You put on weight easier and it comes off more slowly. But it can come off as long as you create a calorie deficit and stick with it.
The decision to lose belly fat is a smart one. Not only will it help you look and feel better, but it may also help reduce your risk of chronic disease.
Deep abdominal fat, or visceral fat, surrounds your organs and can affect your hormones and raise your cholesterol levels. Increased amounts of abdominal fat have been linked to type II diabetes, breast cancer and heart disease.
Start With Walking
If you're just getting into fitness or you've been out of the game for a while, there's no need to go crazy at first. In the beginning, the best exercise for 55-year-old women and men is easy and accessible and will help you create an exercise habit. That builds consistency, which is the key to belly fat loss.
Walking is a form of aerobic exercise that burns calories while building muscle and bone strength. Just make sure that you're walking at a good clip to get the most out of your belly fat burning workout. Walking at a pace of 4 miles per hour burns 135 to 200 calories in 60 minutes, depending on your weight, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
According to guidelines from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS), adults should aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, each week.
For even greater benefits, set your sights on 300 minutes weekly. That's five, hour-long walks or seven 42-minute walks each week.
Up the Intensity
The more intensity you can add to your workouts, the more calories and stomach fat you'll burn. Once you've made walking a regular thing, gradually increase your pace. At first, you can add in intervals of jogging, then progress to jogging the whole way. Eventually, you may be ready to run — or even sprint!
You can expect to burn significantly more calories jogging and running than walking. According to Harvard Health Publishing, in 30 minutes a 155-pound person burns:
- 223 calories jogging
- 298 calories running at a pace of 5 miles per hour
- 372 calories running at a pace of 6 miles per hour
- 465 calories running at a pace of 7.5 miles per hour
The good news is, if you exercise at a higher intensity, you don't have to exercise as much to get the same calorie-burning benefits as lower intensity workouts. According to the HHS, people who do vigorous exercises like jogging and running should get at least 75 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each week. If you want to aim higher, shoot for 150 minutes.
If walking and jogging aren't your thing, you have plenty of other options for burning calories. The number of calories a person of average weight doing moderate-intensity activities for 30 minutes will burn depends on the activity.
- Low-impact aerobics burn about 205 calories
- Elliptical machines burn about 186 calories
- Stationary bikes burn about 260 calories
- Rowing machines burn about 260 calories
- Kayaking burns about 186 calories
- Ballroom dancing burns about 205 calories
- Swimming burns about 223 calories
The same person, doing vigorous activities for 30 minutes will torch more calories.
- High-impact step aerobics burn about 372 calories
- Rowing machines burn about 316 calories
- Stationary bikes burn about 391 calories
- Cycling (14 - 15.9 mph) burns about 372 calories
- Cycling (16 - 19 mph) burns about 446 calories
- Swimming laps burns about 372 calories
Include Strength Training
Cardio exercise is important for burning belly fat, but it's not the only part of a well-rounded weight loss program. The HSS recommends that all adults strength train all the major muscle groups twice a week.
When it comes to losing belly fat, regular strength training can greatly increase your potential for success because it raises your resting metabolism. Muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat — up to three times more, according to Paige Kinucan and Len Kravitz, PhD, of the University of New Mexico. So, building muscle mass increases the rate at which you burn calories and belly fat.
You should definitely include some core exercises in your routine because they will increase your core strength and stability, but don't fall into the trap of doing endless crunches each day. They won't help you burn belly fat.
You can save time and burn more calories by choosing compound exercises that work more than one muscle group at a time. Because they engage multiple muscles simultaneously, they are more metabolically stimulating than isolation exercises, such as biceps curls.
You don't need to get complicated with your workouts. Whether you choose to work out at home or at the gym, you can target all your major muscle groups with basic exercises, including:
- Chest presses
- Military presses
Choose one or two exercises to hit each muscle group and do two to four sets of enough reps to fatigue your muscles with your chosen weight. If you use free weights or gym machines, you can aim for eight to 12 reps. For bodyweight exercises, you may need to do 12 to 20 reps to feel the burn.
- CDC: "Finding a Balance"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- U.S. Health and Human Services Department: "Physical Activity Guidelines, 2nd Edition"
- Mayo Clinic: "Belly Fat in Women: Taking — and Keeping — It Off"
- University of New Mexico: "Controversies in Metabolism"
- ACE: "5 Benefits of Compound Exercises"