If you're doing crunches every day in hopes of getting six-pack abs, it may be time to reassess your approach. While crunches can be part of a well-rounded exercise routine, even 50 crunches a day or more won't get you a flat belly without additional habits.
Whether you want to lose belly fat in order to reduce your risk for several diseases, fit better in your clothes or show off your abs in a swimsuit, you'll need to eat healthily and complete balanced workouts.
While crunches can be part of a balanced workout routine, you cannot get washboard abs from crunches alone.
Spot Reducing Doesn't Work
Spot reduction is the idea that exercising one small area of the body will reduce body fat in that area. While it sounds like a great idea and may even make some intuitive sense, the body doesn't burn fat in this way.
As the American Council on Exercise explains, the body does not use the closest fat available to fuel any particular muscle. Instead, when your body needs energy from fat stores, it takes it from all over. Furthermore, abdominal muscles are relatively small and thus use less energy than larger muscles, such as thighs.
Although you cannot reduce fat in any specific area of the body, you can increase muscle tone. Targeted exercises can help build and define muscles. However, the fat that is over these muscles may make them harder to see.
Benefits of Daily Sit-Ups
Just because doing crunches every day won't give you washboard abs doesn't mean you should give up your abdominal exercises. According to the Mayo Clinic, core-strengthening exercises can give you several benefits, including better balance and stability. This can help you perform better in any sport that you enjoy.
Core exercises can also give you the strength to carry out daily activities without getting injured. For example, you may be able to pick up heavy items or fix things around the house with more ease than before. You may also improve your posture.
Another thing to love about abdominal exercises is that almost anyone can do them. If you are completely new to exercise and do not have a gym membership, daily sit-ups can be a great part of your routine.
No matter your fitness level, there are abdominal exercise modifications to meet your needs. You can add supports to help you get started or resistance to make you feel the burn just a little more.
How to Lose Belly Fat
Because spot-reducing does not work, you must focus on full-body weight loss in order to flatten your midsection. To understand how to reduce belly fat, you must first know about its two types: subcutaneous and visceral.
Subcutaneous fat rests just below the skin and is generally the less harmful type of fat in the abdomen. Visceral fat, which is also known as intra-abdominal fat, surrounds the organs and is more dangerous to your health.
A 2019 study in the National Center for Biotechnology Information compared abdominal fat loss results from two groups of postmenopausal women: those who cut calories with diet alone and those who exercised and reduced their caloric intake. The studies showed that both groups reduced both types of fat. However, those who exercised burned more subcutaneous fat.
While this study suggests that you can lose abdominal fat with a caloric deficit regardless of exercise habits, more research needs to be done. In the meantime, try these tips to help you slim your belly:
- Ditch sugary drinks
- Get enough exercise that involves the full body
- Choose a balanced diet
- Quit or abstain from smoking cigarettes
- Get plenty of rest
- The Mayo Clinic: "Belly Fat in Men: Why Weight Loss Matters"
- American Council on Exercise: "3 Fat Loss Myths to Stop Believing Now"
- American Council on Exercise: "Myths and Misconceptions: Spot Reduction and Feeling the Burn"
- Northwestern Medicine: "Women Who Lift"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The Real-World Benefits of Strengthening Your Core"
- The Mayo Clinic: "Core Exercises: Why You Should Strengthen Your Core Muscles"
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: "Effect of Diet With or Without Exercise on Abdominal Fat in Postmenopausal Women - a Randomised Trial"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It"
- The Mayo Clinic: "Belly Fat in Women: Taking — and Keeping — It Off"