Lower abdominal fat, which often includes deep visceral fat that surrounds your vital organs, can be tough to get rid of. Simply doing crunches and sit-ups will tone the underlying muscle, but those exercises are not effective for fat reduction. Consistent cardiovascular exercise performed at appropriate intensities, combined with healthy nutrition, can help you reduce and eliminate unwanted stomach fat.
Do high-intensity cardio training at your peak effort three to five times per week. Choose rhythmic activities such as walking, running, cycling and swimming performed at an intensity that you perceive to be "very challenging" for at least 20 minutes per session. A 2008 study of middle-aged obese women published in "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise" found that high intensity exercise training had a significant impact on reducing total body fat and visceral fat in test subjects.
Work high-intensity intervals into your moderate-intensity cardio sessions. Walk at a brisk pace for three minutes, then run all-out for 30 seconds. Repeat this cycle seven to 10 times. Gradually shorten the lower intensity intervals and lengthen the higher intensity intervals. A 2011 article published in the "Journal of Obesity" found that regular interval training significantly increased fat burning.
Embrace healthy whole-food nutrition. Choose unrefined fruits and vegetables and lean proteins. Steer clear of simple carbohydrates such as white bread, refined-grain pasta and sugary drinks as they can result in increased fat storage.
If you can't start out doing high-intensity cardio, work up to it gradually. Begin by aiming for a moderate intensity -- you should be able to talk, but not sing while exercising.
In addition to cardiovascular exercise, include abdominal exercises and resistance training two to three times per week to tone up underlying muscle, to increase your strength and lean muscle mass, and to improve your bone mineral density.
Always do a five- to 10-minutes warmup prior to engaging in any kind of exercise. Cool down for at least five minutes to safely return to your resting heart rate.
Before you embark on a high-intensity exercise program, be sure you are healthy and fit enough, and consult your health care provider with any concerns. When exercising, drink plenty of fresh water to stay hydrated.
- DukeHealth.org: Aerobic Exercise Bests Resistance Training at Burning Belly Fat
- Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
- Journal of Obesity: High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Effect of Exercise Training Intensity on Visceral Abdominal Fat and Body Composition