If you're doing abdominal crunches exclusively in the hope of quickly reducing belly fat, you're setting yourself up for a disappointment. Abdominal exercises don't reduce the fat around your midsection. They only tone and strengthen the muscles under the fat. To swiftly reduce belly fat, focus on losing weight and reducing fat from your entire body. You can do this by integrating a healthy diet and an exercise routine that includes aerobic exercise and strength training.
Perform moderate aerobic exercise for 150 to 300 minutes a week to burn calories, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Engage in enjoyable activities that activate your upper and lower body for optimal caloric burn. Use an elliptical machine with moving handles or a rowing machine. Walk fast or jog on a treadmill while swinging your arms back and forth. Move your muscles and joints though the full range of motion of the exercise that you're doing.
Incorporate short, vigorous bursts into your cardio routine on one or two days. For example, speed up to an intense pace for 30 seconds to one minute before returning to a moderate pace for one to two minutes. Alternate the intensities eight to 10 times to finish your workout. These high-intensity intervals effectively reduce body fat, including belly fat, according to the American Council on Exercise.
Schedule resistance training on at least two nonconsecutive days a week to build muscle mass, which -- compared to fat -- burns more calories. Target your large muscle groups with compound and combination exercises for optimal muscle stimulation and caloric burn. Include exercises such as dead lifts, squats, bench presses, push-ups, pull-ups, squats with lateral raises and lunges with front raises.
Intensify your resistance-training routine by minimizing the rest you take in between exercises. By going quickly from one exercise to the next, your workout turns into a circuit-training session, keeping your heart rate up and burning more calories. Work opposing muscle groups. For example, perform leg extensions for your quadriceps, followed by leg curls for your hamstrings, or do bent-over rows for your back followed by bench-presses for your chest.
Adjust your eating habits to promote weight loss. Reduce your serving sizes by 10 to 15 percent so you eat fewer calories. Limit sugar, salt, transfats and alcohol. Swap out high-calorie foods for low-calorie alternatives. Get your nutrients from lean protein, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and reduced-fat dairy products.
Start slowly if you're new to exercise. For example, do only 15 minutes of cardio on three days of the week and one set per strength-training exercise. As you get stronger, gradually increase your exercise duration and add another weight-lifting set.
Lose a maximum of 2 pounds per week, which -- according to the American Council on Exercise -- is realistic and maintainable.
Consult your doctor before committing to a diet and exercise routine, especially if you're plagued with a medical condition or an injury.
- Weight Training for Life, 10th edition; James L. Hesson
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- Ask the Trainer: Exercises for Losing Weight
- American Council on Exercise: High-Intensity Interval Training
- American Council on Exercise: Trimming Off the Fat