In addition to wreaking havoc on your appearance, excess fat around your midsection increases your risk of obesity-related medical conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Solely slimming down your midsection isn't possible; you can't pick and choose the areas where you lose fat. You can, however, lose total body fat, which will also take inches off your middle. To accomplish this, a sensible diet and regular exercise routine should become part of your lifestyle.
Engage in moderate cardiovascular exercise on most days of the week to burn calories. The American Council on Exercise suggests gradually working your way up to one hour of cardio on most days. If desired, divide your workout into 10-minute sessions over the day. Ride a bike, climb stairs, jog, walk briskly, use a rowing machine, or pedal on an elliptical machine with moving handles.
Alternate between short bursts of vigorous-intensity and longer stretches of moderate-intensity cardio exercise on one or two days. According to ACE, these high-intensity intervals can effectively burn body and belly fat. Speed up your exercise pace so you're working at a high intensity for one minute. Then slow down your pace to recover for two minutes. Start with three to four speed intervals, and as your cardiovascular fitness improves, work your way up to eight to 10 speed intervals.
Perform compound and combination strength-training exercises on two to three nonconsecutive days a week. Strength training increases lean muscle tissue, which is metabolically active, meaning that it burns calories even when you're at rest; your resting metabolism gets a boost. Target your large muscle groups with exercises such as squats with shoulder presses, pushups, deadlifts, bent-over rows, and lunges with lateral raises.
Work abdominal-strengthening exercise into your strength-training routine. Although just doing abdominal exercises won't get rid of belly fat, as part of your core, strong abs help prevent injuries, ease back pain, and improve your posture and athletic performance. Additionally, when your belly fat reduces, these exercises provide that often desired muscle tone. Consider doing reverse crunches, bicycle crunches, exercises in a captain's chair, crunches on a stability ball, and vertical-leg crunches, since these were proven most effective according to an ACE-sponsored study.
Reduce your portion sizes so you consume fewer calories. Consider eating from smaller plates to accomplish this. Also, replace high-calorie foods with healthy, low-calorie alternatives. For instance, choose frozen yogurt over ice cream, and eat white turkey meat instead of dark turkey meat.
Limit simple carbohydrates and saturated and trans fats, since these are directly linked to increased belly fat. Avoid foods such as cookies, white bread, candy, butter and fatty meats. Instead, emphasize whole grains, veggies, fruits and healthy fats, including polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which are present in nuts, fish, olive oil and flaxseed.
Minimize stress in your life to prevent stimulation of cortisol in your body. According to experts at the University of New Mexico, this stress hormone is linked to the increase of abdominal fat, due to the cravings it triggers for unhealthy, weight loss-sabotaging foods and its ability to relocate fat to your midsection. Get enough sleep every night and consider meditating, practicing deep breathing techniques, or participating in yoga classes to manage stress.
Lose weight at a rate of one to two pounds per week, as suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Create a daily deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories through diet and exercise to achieve this.
See your physician before attempting to lose weight through diet and exercise, especially if you've been inactive, have an injury or suffer from a health condition.
- Harvard Health Publications: Fight Fat to Help Your Heart
- American Council on Exercise: How Can I Get Rid of Belly Fat?
- American Council on Exercise: High-Intensity Interval Training
- Ask the Trainer: Exercises for Losing Weight
- American Council on Exercise: ACE-Sponsored Study Reveals Best and Worst Abdominal Exercises
- University of New Mexico: Cortisol Connection: Tips on Managing Stress and Weight
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Losing Weight