Unsightly belly fat can ruin your look, especially if you're happy with the rest of your body. Clothes that otherwise fit you are tight around the waistline, creating belly bulge and muffin tops that are hard to hide. But belly fat, sometimes called visceral abdominal fat, can also be dangerous for your health, increasing your risk for diabetes and heart disease, according to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. The good news is that belly fat is highly responsive to exercise when performed at the right intensity. Adding resistance training will help you maintain your weight while losing fat.
Perform moderate to high-intensity cardio five to seven days per week, for 30 to 60 minutes per session. A 2008 study of middle-aged obese women, published in "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise," compared the effects of low-intensity and moderate-to-high-intensity aerobic exercise on abdominal visceral fat. Participants exercised five days per week for 16 weeks. The moderate-to-high-intensity group, which alternated between walking and running, realized signifiant reductions in abdominal fat, while the low-intensity group saw no significant changes, even though both groups burned the same amount of calories per session.
Intersperse short bursts of all-out intensity with longer bouts of moderate intensity. Interval training can lead to visceral abdominal fat loss over a shorter period of time. A 2011 review published in the "Journal of Obesity" found that high-intensity interval exercise had significant positive effects on reducing abdominal fat. Most of the studies reviewed used a stationary cycle with subjects exercising at moderate intensity for four minutes, then sprinting all-out for 30 seconds at a higher resistance. The bouts were typically repeated four to six times for a total of approximately 20 to 30 minutes.
Engage in total-body resistance training on two to three non-consecutive days per week. Resistance exercise will help you maintain your weight while losing fat. In a 2012 study of young, overweight adults published in the "Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness," subjects who performed one weight training set of nine different exercises three times per week for six months increased their lean muscle mass and lowered their body fat percentage without losing weight.
Eat a healthy diet. There is a saying that you can't out-train a bad diet, and it holds a lot of weight. Get rid of junk food, sugary drinks and snacks, and processed foods. Eat plenty of whole fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats. Stay hydrated by drinking plain fresh water.
Things You'll Need
Supportive athletic shoes
Resistance training equipment
A convenient way to monitor your exercise intensity is to use a 10-point rating of perceived exertion, or RPE scale. The Cleveland Clinic explains that RPE ranks your level of effort on a zero-to-10 scale, with zero being no effort at all and 10 being extremely difficult. On this scale, moderate intensity would rate a three to four, while high intensity would be rated higher than five.
If you are a novice exerciser, begin slowly and gradually work your way up to higher intensity levels. To learn to use weights safely and correctly, seek guidance from a fitness professional.
- Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
- Journal of Obesity: High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss
- Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness: One Set Resistance Training: Effect on Body Composition in Overweight Young Adults
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Effect of Exercise Training Intensity on Abdominal Visceral Fat and Body Composition
- Cleveland Clinic: Rated Perceived Exertion Scale