The Ultimate Guide to Fighting Off the Belly Fat
While it is important to exercise for overall health and well-being, there is often nothing more motivating than hitting the gym with a targeted goal in mind.
And surveys have found that for many Americans, a top fitness goal is to discover how to eliminate belly fat. Regardless of whether the initial motivation is to improve appearance or improve fitness stats, banishing belly fat is a tangible way for gym-goers to remove themselves the growing health concerns associated with having extra wight around the middle.
According to the U.S. News and World Report and the National Library of Health, nearly two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. For reasons that can include the modern diet and lack of movement in the transverse and lower abdominal muscles, much of the excess weight can settle into the body as belly fat.
Fortunately, experts have found that while there is no quick fix to belly fat, there are ways to banish it for good (as long as you are willing to do the work). A look at the top tips to eliminate belly fat can help you transform this “problem area” into one of your best assets.
What is Belly Fat?
Belly fat refers to the amount of excess adipose tissue around the body’s midsection. There are three different types of body fat:
- Intramuscular fat – Intramuscular fat is adipose tissue stored within skeletal muscles. While the body can use intramuscular fat as an energy store for exercise, excess intramuscular fat can have adverse consequences.
- Subcutaneous fat – Subcutaneous fat is the “jiggly” adipose tissue located just beneath the surface of the skin. This is the type of fat that you can “pinch an inch” and see it accumulate.
- Visceral fat – Also known as intra-abdominal fat, this type of fat packs around the organs within the abdominal cavity (such as the stomach, kidney, intestines, and liver). Since it can surround the obliques as well as hang over the belt line like an apron, the colloquial term for visceral fat is belly fat.
Why is Belly Fat “Bad?”
Besides interfering with your desired body shape, belly fat can have adverse health consequences. Studies have shown that increased belly fat can contribute to inflammation and chronic fatigue.
Increased belly fat can also impact the collection of glands that make up the endocrine system. These glands produce the hormones that regulate everything from your metabolism to sleep and mood. Therefore, many scientists believe that excess fat can slow your metabolism (thereby making it harder to lose weight) as well as interfere with sound sleep and positive mood.
Research also associates increased belly fat with higher body mass index (BMI) levels. The body mass index refers to the recommended weight for your body size. You can calculate your own BMI using an official BMI calculator or BMI Index Chart. A BMI of 25.0 to 29.9 is overweight, and a BMI of 30.0 is obese. Since belly fat can impact these numbers, health professionals recommended waist-targeting workouts to keep this area under control.
If you need another example to assess potential belly fat, health officials also recommend the Waist Circumference Test. This consists of using a measuring tape horizontally around your waist (just above your hipbones). The official recommendation is that the adult male waist circumference should be no greater than 40 inches, and the adult (non-pregnant) female waist circumference should be no more than 35 inches. (For additional questions after measuring your waist circumference, ask for a follow-up measurement during your next routine checkup).
What are Tips to Lose Belly Fat?
If you are like many adults who have discovered a few extra inches around the waistline than you would prefer, there is no need to panic. According to the U.S. Library of Medicine, the best way to tackle belly fat is to make a lifestyle change. This lifestyle change can consist of some of the following steps.
Exercise and Physical Activity
Without question, you have to keep it moving. Adipose fat is one way that the body stores energy. To help eliminate it, you have to burn and sweat off the energy in the form of calories. The key is to aim for at least 30 minutes each day and avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Suggested workouts include the following:
- Aerobic exercises and cardio – These moderate-intensity exercises raise the heart rate, and they tend to last long enough to burn calories. The best options include brisk walking, running, jumping rope, swimming, and power yoga. Or, we recommend trying these full body workouts.
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT) – This method refers to short bursts of high energy followed with long periods of lowered energy. The philosophy is to mimic the way the body eliminates fat when it operates under a high metabolism. You can join a HIIT class at your local fitness center or find a number of free HIIT workouts on video-sharing sites like YouTube.
- Strength Training – At first glance, strength training does not “burn fat.” However, the purpose of strength training is to build muscle (thereby boosting your metabolism). Toned muscle can help your burn more calories in the long run.
Evaluate Eating Habits
One of the best ways to evaluate eating habits is to start simple. Consider eliminating excess sugar or adding more antioxidants to your regimen. In fact, studies suggest that lowering sugar intake can modify the high cortisol hormone levels associated with excess belly fat. Furthermore, more antioxidants may reduce inflammation, leading to improved weight loss.
Reduce Stress Levels
Research also suggests that high stress can also activate the cortisol associated excess belly fat. Getting more sunlight and committing to stress-relief exercises can help the body cope and have a positive impact on long-term metabolism.
Get Creative About Staying Active
Remaining sedentary for long periods can have a negative impact on the homo sapien physique. Studies have shown that people who sit for nine hours a day tend to have more belly fat – even if they get the recommended 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. Try to break up long periods of sitting by taking walks during your lunch hour and taking the stairs when possible.
Be Consistent With Sleep
Studies have linked poor or inconsistent sleep with abdominal weight gain. In addition, lack of sleep can also contribute to unhealthy behavior like emotional or stress eating. Remain consistent as possible with the seven hours of nightly sleep recommended for adults.
The Bottom Line
Although banishing belly fat can be a visual fitness goal at first, it can have tangible personal health benefits as well. Even though there is no quick fix to losing belly fat, you can gradually flatten your abs by committing to a lifestyle change. Commit to these abdominal fitness hacks for at least six weeks to develop the fitness regimen that will help you reach your ultimate body goals.