Tummy fat requires intervention, but you don't have to invest in fancy fitness gadgets and club memberships to target it. This deep, visceral fat, which weaves around the internal organs and raises your risk of inflammatory conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, responds to dietary and exercise efforts to reduce it. Stress and poor sleep make you more likely to accumulate excess belly fat, so adopting a regular yoga practice can also help you fight a ballooning belly.
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Yoga's Benefit for Tummy Fat Reduction
You might think abdominal strengthening yoga poses, such as boat or plank, are your target to a slimmer belly, but it's actually the practice of yoga itself and the mindset it induces that are helpful in losing tummy fat. You can't crunch or strengthen belly fat away; your muscles may become stronger, but the fat that covers them will remain.
Yoga increases your mind-body connection, so you're more aware of sensations of hunger and how food makes you feel. Research performed by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in 2009 found that people who regularly practice yoga also eat more mindfully. When you eat mindfully, you're less likely to be obese. A 2012 issue of Menopause published another study as evidence of the benefit of yoga in the battle of the belly bulge. Overweight women who participated in yoga regularly for 16 weeks experienced a decrease in visceral or tummy fat and fat mass compared to women who did no exercise.
How Much and What Type of Yoga to Do at Home
Just an hour of yoga per week for the 10-year duration of the 2009 study improved mindful eating and attenuated weight gain in its participants. The type of yoga seemed less important to its tummy-taming effects than learning to breathe and observe feelings when challenging situations present themselves. Yoga gives you a way to deal with stress and boredom other than snacking.
A 2008 issue of Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders published a small study that found 15 restorative yoga practices done over 10 weeks reduced stress and blood pressure in obese people with metabolic syndrome, a collection of symptoms such as high blood pressure, a large belly and excessive blood lipids. A restorative practice requires holding supported, quieting postures for several minutes at a time.
Ultimately, you should choose a type of yoga you enjoy. If you dislike the practice, then you won't make it a regular part of your home routine and gain its benefits. Borrow a few yoga DVDs from the library or subscribe to an online yoga studio that offers a variety of classes so you can try several different approaches. Attending a series of yoga classes taught by a certified instructor can teach you the proper way to do the poses, so you can safely practice at home.
Dietary Interventions to Reduce Your Tummy
Yoga and stress reduction help mitigate the accumulation of tummy fat, but dietary interventions are essential in keeping the fat at bay. Avoid refined grains, such as white pasta and bread, and opt for whole grains instead. Choose water to drink instead of sugary soft drinks. Refrain from eating a lot of saturated fat-containing foods, such as fatty cuts of meat and full-fat dairy. Instead, go for lean proteins like fish, low-fat milk and unsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil. At snack time, skip the processed foods and reach for fresh fruit, plain yogurt or low-fat cheese.
Manage Your Calorie Burn
Trim your portion sizes to accelerate weight loss. It takes a 500- to 1,000-calorie deficit to lose 1 to 2 pounds of fat per week. Although you can't directly target your tummy, much of the first weight you lose is visceral fat.
Aim to save 250 to 500 calories at meals and add other exercise in addition to yoga to burn another 250 to 500 calories. A daily 30-minute brisk walk or bicycle ride takes care of that burn. Although some yoga practices involve strength training in the form of pushup- and lunge-type poses, you'll benefit from also adding two resistance-training workouts per week that address all the major muscle groups. You can do these at home using dumbbells, resistance tubing or your own body weight.