Nothing ruins a great outfit like a bulge of belly fat around your mid-section. But there's an even more important reason to lose the bulge: Deep abdominal fat is related to serious health problems including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
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If you're serious about getting slimmer and healthier, you're going to have to get serious about cardio exercise. Hopping on the elliptical machine at your gym is a great place to start. Exercising often enough and at the right intensity — combined with a healthy diet — will help you banish the bulge.
The Skinny on Fat Loss
Although your tendency to put on weight and where you're likely to put it on have a lot to do with genetics, the main reason your midsection is expanding has to do with calories in versus calories out. When you eat more calories than you burn each day, your body stores the excess calories as fat — often right around your midsection.
To lose fat, you have to create a calorie deficit so that your body starts to burn some of the stored fat for energy. Your diet plays a major role in creating that deficit, and so does cardiovascular exercise.
Combined, you'll be able to lose the belly fat; however, it may not be the first place you notice fat loss. You can't target a particular part of your body for fat loss. You have to lose total body fat, some of which will come from your belly.
Benefits of Elliptical Machines
If you've never stepped on one, an elliptical machine can be a bit daunting. Figuring out where to put your hands and feet and how to move your arms and legs together is enough to send you running for the good old treadmill.
But in many ways the elliptical is better for burning belly fat than the old standby. Working out on an elliptical works both your upper and lower body; when more of your muscles are working at once, you'll burn more calories.
And, if you have joint problems or you're currently overweight, the non-impact nature of elliptical training will allow you to work out longer and harder without causing pain.
How to Use an Elliptical
Correct body positioning is key to getting a good workout on an elliptical machine. Step on to the machine placing your feet on the pedals. The pedals will be larger than your footprint, so place them squarely in the middle, with the inside of your foot parallel with the inside of the pedal.
You will typically have two choices for handlebars: static and moving. Grab the static handlebars to get yourself settled and use them until you feel comfortable with the foot movements. Using the moving handlebars will increase the intensity of your workout when you push them away and pull them toward you as you pedal.
Start moving your feet forward. Keep your knees slightly bent; locking them will make it awkward and uncomfortable to pedal. As you pedal, your feet will follow an oval-shaped track. You can also pedal backwards by reversing your foot movement.
Push and pull the handlebars in time with your legs but opposite them. As you push your right arm forward, your left leg will come forward and vice versa. Remember to keep an upright posture with your chest out and your shoulders pulled back and down.
Speed, Resistance and Duration
Once you feel comfortable on the machine, start to increase your pace. The faster you pedal, the more calories you'll burn to blast that belly fat.
You can also increase the resistance to up the challenge. The harder your leg muscles have to work against resistance, the more oxygen and energy — in the form of calories — your body has to use. Some machines will also let you increase the incline, which is another way of adding resistance.
Losing belly fat takes time, but the more calories you can burn the faster you'll lose the belly fat. Plan to get some sort of cardio workout — on the elliptical or another cross-training method — most days of the week for 30 to 60 minutes a session.
Intensity is important when it comes to burning belly fat. If your workout is too easy, you're not going to make much progress or get the results you want. As your fitness level increases, gradually increase the intensity of your elliptical workout. To get the most bang for your buck, you should be sweating, breathing hard and not able to easily carry on a conversation.
One way to up your intensity in a sustainable way is to do interval training. Contrary to steady-state cardio in which you maintain an almost constant heart rate throughout, interval training varies your heart rate.
Alternating between periods of intense effort and periods of recovery, you are able to get your heart rate higher and burn more calories than you would be able to in a steady-state workout. The best part is that you may be able to burn more calories in less time doing interval training.
After warming up for five to 10 minutes, pedal as hard as you can at a moderate resistance. Sustain this intensity for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, then reduce your pace. Recover at this slower pace for the same amount of time you sprinted, then increase your pace again.
Continue to alternate between high intensity and recovery for the duration of your workout. Remember to end your workout with a five to 10-minute cool down.
Read more: The Best Exercises for Fat Loss