Getting rid of your spare tire tummy can not only help your clothes fit better, it can also be great for your health! While you can't spot tone, the best overall approach to a healthier body is to focus on the tried and true approach: healthy diet and consistent exercise.
There’s no way to specifically lose weight in a particular area, however, by watching what you eat and staying consistent with your workouts, you can develop a healthier body.
What’s a Spare Tire Belly?
While the slang term is a spare tire belly, this colloquialism refers to a buildup of fat and excess weight around your abdomen. According to Mayo Clinic, this issue is most common as we get older. This is because we slowly lose muscle mass as we age, which decreases the number of calories we burn throughout the day. At the same time, the amount of fat increases, making it more difficult to maintain a proper weight.
Unfortunately, developing a middle-aged spare tire is more commonly seen in women than men. This occurs as a result of menopause, which causes a decrease in the hormone estrogen as women enter the middle of their lives. This hormonal fluctuation seems to cause the distribution of fat in the body to shift, with much more of it centering in the abdomen.
There may also be a familial link to developing a spare tire tummy. Mayo Clinic also reports that your body type and fat distribution, specifically whether it is more apple shaped or pear shaped, seems to be related to your individual genetic history.
What’s the Harm?
While a spare tire tummy be seem like simply a cosmetic complaint, the truth is an increase in abdominal fat can have significant health effects. As reported by Harvard Health, this is because abdominal fat is visceral in nature.
Unlike subcutaneous (just beneath the skin) fat which can be easily grabbed and pinched, visceral fat is situated deeper within the abdomen and can be seen or measured, but not grabbed. This type of fat fills the areas between our internal organs in your stomach.
The visceral type of fat can cause significant issues like cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. It can also impact your overall metabolism and slow down the rate at which you burn calories. In addition, Harvard Health states that there is some association between increased abdominal fat and a higher risk of breast cancer in females. To add to this, women with a spare tire may also experience an increased rate of gallbladder surgery.
Watch Your Diet
While it may not be particularly exciting, watching what you eat is a tried and true way to reduce your overall weight and get rid of a middle-aged spare tire. While every person's situation is unique, according to the Cleveland Clinic, the ketogenic diet seems to work particularly well for individuals who are trying to reduce the amount they weigh.
This diet focuses on restricting the overall amount of carbohydrates you consume. At the same time, it strives to increase your overall protein intake. As a result of these caloric changes, individuals seem to drop pounds even with only a moderate amount of exercise.
Because the specific recommendations are unique from person to person, it is best to work with your doctor when developing a weight loss program. Not only will they be able to provide you with specifics, but they can also help you keep the weight off after you put in all the hard work to lose it.
Be Consistent With Exercise
In addition to cutting calories, regularly hitting the gym or working out at home is another crucial part of reducing your spare tire belly. Weight loss is all about tipping the scales between the number of calories you consume through your diet and the amount you burn off with activities and exercise throughout the day.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the average adult should strive to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. This could include things like brisk walking or outdoor biking.
You may also choose to do more vigorous exercises like running, swimming or using a stair stepper for a shorter duration (75 minutes per week). Organized sports like pick-up basketball or gym fitness classes such as step aerobics or Zumba may also fit into this category. Try finding an exercise buddy or an accountability partner to keep your workouts consistent and to maximize your chances of success.
Give HIIT a Try
Many different types of exercise can help reduce the size of your middle aged spare tire, and it is important to pick one that you like in order to stay consistent. That said, some types of workouts may be more beneficial than others. According to a February 2018 meta-analysis published in Sports Medicine, incorporating high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts into your exercise routine has been shown to effectively target visceral fat deposits in the abdominal area.
This type of workout mixes shorter periods of high-intensity movements or exercise with longer increments of lower intensity activities or complete rest. The journal found that HIIT-style running is more effective than biking at decreasing deposits of visceral abdominal fat in both normal weight and overweight individuals.
AARP recommends that beginners start by taking their normal cardio exercise and increasing the intensity high enough for you to become too winded to speak. Aim to do this for 20 seconds and then slow the pace down to your normal speed for 1 to 2 minutes. Next, return to the high intensity speed for another 20 seconds, rest for 2 minutes and then try to complete 20 more seconds at the faster pace. Finally, cool down at your normal speed for 2 more minutes.
When to Call Your Doctor
Should your spare tire belly not diminish in size with the strategies listed above, you may want to contact your doctor to speak to them about further treatment options. Initially, your physician may recommend a consultation with a nutritionist or personal trainer to give you more specific guidance on your diet and exercise regimen.
They may also want to take a closer look at any other health conditions you may have, some of which can affect your ability to lose weight. These can include being diabetic or having a thyroid issue. In some instances, they may even recommend prescription medication to assist in the fat burning process.
More extreme cases may even warrant bariatric surgery, which alters the amount of food that your stomach can contain or changes the way that nutrients are absorbed by the stomach in an effort to stimulate weight loss. Your doctor can give you proper guidance on which of these, if any, is right for you.
- Mayo Clinic: “Belly Fat in Women: Taking — and Keeping — It Off”
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It”
- Cleveland Clinic: “Want Weight Loss Without Surgery?”
- Department of Health and Human Services: “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: 2nd Edition”
- American Association for Retired Persons: “High-Intensity Interval Training: Why It Just May Be a ‘Miracle’ Workout”
- American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery: “Bariatric Surgery Procedures”
- Sports Medicine:"Effect of High-Intensity Interval Training on Total, Abdominal and Visceral Fat Mass: A Meta-Analysis"